Saluting Mark Allison, Johnson & Wales Charlotte Campus Dean of Culinary Education

Posted: July 1, 2009 in Ordinary People/Extraordinary Things
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What does a parent do when they receive devastating news that their 14-month-old child is diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes? You find a way to save your child’s life! When Mark Allison and his wife were living in Alaska on a one year teachers exchange program and received this diagnosis from the doctors about their son Matthew, he didn’t wait for the medical profession to come up with a cure or away to help Matthew live a fulfilling life. Mark began to research and learn more about diabetes and how to control it until a cure is found. At that time, Matthew was the youngest patient to be diagnosed with diabetes in the state of Alaska.

Mark is the Charlotte Campus Dean of Culinary Education for the renowned Culinary Arts College at Johnson & Wales University. He is originally from North East England and moved to the United States with his family five years ago. He was hired by Johnson & Wales while living in England.

Mark shared some interesting statistics about diabetes:

  • Right now, diabetes is the #3 death related disease and it is estimated that in about 10 years, it will rise to #1.
  • Type 1 – There is no one cause of diabetes, but scientists believe that Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease of the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas and the cause may be a virus that triggers the immune system to attack the cells and permanently destroy them. Approximately 5%-10% of the people diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes fall into this category. The people in this category need insulin because their pancreas stops producing.
  • Type 2 – Approximately 80% of the 90%-95% of those diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes become diabetic because of diet. Studies show that people in this category are usually overweight, are ingesting too much food and are not sufficiently exercising. Here the pancreas produces insulin, but the insulin cannot penetrate through the fat cells.

Mark is very humble when asked about the many awards and honors he received, most notably his recent 2009 Johnson & Wales University Community Service Award for his involvement with diabetes and fundraising. Among his noteworthy accolades, he was recently selected as one of the newest members of the Board of Directors for the Juvenile Diabetes Association. It is evident that he is remarkably passionate about his involvement with his charity work for diabetic research. “I wouldn’t change anything and still be committed with my work for the diabetes association, with or without my awards,” says Mark. He is currently writing a diabetic book, but offers the following valuable common sense advice that we can adhere to right now:

  • Eat in moderation. Portion size is a problem and we need to cut back on the amount of food we eat.
  • Have a decent breakfast, which is the most important meal of the day. Try taking something for lunch to work and eat more fruit as a snack.
  • Build up your exercise regimen. Try to exercise about 5 times a week. Start at 10 minutes, then build up to 20, and then 30-minute intervals.
  • Long-term prevention through lifestyle changes (e.g. by cutting back on portion sizes and by exercising more) could inevitably help to save your life!

“If you don’t control your blood sugars, it can be deadly. It’s all about education and putting things in the proper order,” echoes Mark. “I’m not a doctor and what works for Matthew might not work for someone else.”

Mark also conducts a Diabetic Chef’s Choice Class, which is open to the general public. It runs once in the fall, winter and spring. Details can be found on the Johnson & Wales University web site under chef’s choice, Healthy Eating/Diabetic Cooking ( Dates for this class will be advertised on this website at the end of the summer. For more information about diabetes, Mark suggests the following websites:

American Diabetes Association     
Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International .

As a footnote, always be sure to consult with your doctor first. Favorite Things for a CAUSE salutes Mark Allison, educator, humanitarian, chef and advocate for his work in the community, to academia and to his family.


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