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Member spotlight: Mary Pittaway on public health, bone health, and the Special Olympics

Posted on: January 23, 2014   by  Vitamin D Council


Each month we publish a blog highlighting a member, putting them in the spotlight. We discuss their background and why they’re interested in vitamin D. To see all member spotlight articles, click here.

This month we’re featuring member Mary Pittaway. Mary is a nutritionist from Missoula, Montana, who has been deeply involved in public health and bone health for many years.

Mary began her career in 1974 as a public health nutritionist. After seeing some of her family members being effected by osteoporosis, Mary became interested in bone health in the late 1990’s.

Around that time she was introduced to the use of ultrasound as a screening tool to estimate fracture risk in adults. After some advanced coursework in the complexities of bone health throughout the life cycle, she became more focused on community education, screening and working with the medical community to improve specific small populations and reduce their fracture risks.

Mary Pittaway member spotlightAt that time, she kept coming across literature examining the increased fracture risk of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. This prompted her to move forward with promoting bone health and education for those with disabilities. She began offering screening services at medical clinics throughout Montana. Soon after, the public health agency where she worked agreed to develop a bone health agenda for the community.

While teaching at the University of Montana, Mary became the Global Clinical Advisor for the Special Olympics Healthy Athletes event program. In her first few days volunteering at the Special Olympics, Mary began offering bone screening services to the athletes, their parents and coaches and found many to have low bone density at younger ages than expected. This screening program is now formalized and has expanded into Special Olympics programs throughout the United States and in some countries throughout the world.

Since the role of public health involves translating science into actions and behaviors, Mary and her staff and students are continually seeking research and information on the importance of vitamin D. She says, “It’s gratifying to share information from the Vitamin D Council and GrassrootsHealth, because it’s timely and is presented in language that reaches more than the research community.”

Mary has been a member of the Council for 2 years now, and loves to be a part of a community of like-minded people who all want to make the world a better place. “I firmly believe that helping people to achieve vitamin D adequacy is a realistic and simple solution to so many health problems.”

Mary is honored to work with Dr. William Grant, Philip May, MD, and others on a task force of the American Academy of Developmental Medicine and Dentistry (AADMD) to develop vitamin D recommendations for medically complex individuals and intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Mary hopes that there will one day be a quick low cost test so that anyone can be aware of their vitamin D levels and associated health information.

“I’m happy when I walk into a co-worker’s office and see them popping a vitamin D supplement when they see me coming.”

We want to thank Mary for participating in our member spotlight blog series, her work in public health and for spreading awareness of vitamin D in her community.

If you are interested in becoming involved in Special Olympics Healthy Athletes Program, contact Mary Pittaway at [email protected].

4 Responses to Member spotlight: Mary Pittaway on public health, bone health, and the Special Olympics

  1. Rita and Misty

    I truly love reading these inspiring stories. Mary, I wish you much success in your daily outreach.

    It would be fun for me to bring individuals like you, Mary, into broader acknowledgement at (at least) the university which employs me via a Skype interview set up.

    There is way too much good stuff happening here to keep our collective sunshine hidden under the barrel of mainstream medicine.

    Mary: Missoula, Montana doesn’t strike me as having a very tropical climate….I wish you a short vitamin D winter this year.

    Be well,

  2. Mary Pittaway

    Hi Rita, Thanks for your note. I know what you mean about “too much good stuff happening” around Vitamin D, and way too much about the debate over IOM recommendsand what the observational literature shows. Lets visit over Skype some time! I’d lobe to hear about yourr work. Thanks, Mary

  3. Rita and Misty

    Mary, we will Skype. Perhaps we can touch base right after March 1st. Be well and stay vitamin D strong. Rita

  4. Heidi Moretti, MS, RD

    Small, world, Mary! Keep up the great work!

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