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Neva Cochran

Neva Cochran

Originally published on the OU Foundation website

Foundation Feature: Neva Cochran

If there's one thing OU alumna Neva Cochran wants the world to know, it's that proper nutrition is about eating beyond the headlines.

Cochran is an award-winning registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) who works as a nutrition communications consultant in Dallas, Texas. In a world of fad diets and misleading internet articles, healthy eating can seem more confusing than ever. Cochran works to demystify nutrition by focusing on the facts of nutrition research, and her $1 million bequest to the OU College of Allied Health's Nutritional Science program paves the way for other RDNs to do the same.

Cochran's mother grew up in the fourth generation of a farming/ranching family. While Cochran grew up cooking meals with her and taking four years of home economics in high school, she originally majored in math. But after taking a philosophy class called Elementary Logic, she realized that it wasn't necessarily math that she loved - it was the logical problem-solving process used in both math and science.

"I discovered one of my sorority sisters was majoring in nutrition," Cochran said. "I looked into it and learned it required a lot of science courses like physiology, chemistry and microbiology, but it related to something that is important for everybody: food and nutrition for good health."

After graduating from OU with a degree in dietetics and nutrition, completing her dietetic internship, working in a hospital setting and teaching nutrition to dietetics and nursing students, she found her niche when she accepted a position at a local Dairy Council in the Dallas area. She soon realized that nutrition education was her passion, sparking a career of nutrition consulting and media appearances.

Cochran's passion for nutrition education spurred her to establish the Mary Green Lovelace Scholarship, to which half of her $1 million bequest is going. The scholarship assists students in OU's Department of Nutritional Science who aim to become registered dietitian nutritionists.

"My aunt, Mary Green Lovelace, died in 2016 at 95 years old," Cochran said. "To honor her, my family's five-generation farming and ranching legacy and the valuable role that farmers play in providing an abundant, safe and nutritious food supply, I named the scholarship after her."

Each scholarship applicant must demonstrate their ability to communicate nutritional facts through a written essay, with a focus on the role of modern agriculture in providing a safe and nutrient-rich food supply. Cochran stays in touch with her scholarship recipients, and she has even precepted some of them as interns.

Cochran is also creating a research endowment for OU's Nutritional Science Department. When it comes to healthy eating, it's important to listen to the research-proven facts, and a research endowment can pave the way for new nutrition breakthroughs.

"The 2017 Global Burden of Disease Study of dietary consumption patterns in 195 countries, funded by the Gates Foundation, found that poor diet was responsible for 11 million deaths, with heart disease the leading cause, followed by cancer and diabetes," Cochran said. "Nutrition and diet are essential components in the prevention of and treatment of these diseases. More registered dietitian nutritionists are needed to help patients, clients and consumers in a variety of settings to understand and implement dietary habits that will promote health."

Neva encourages readers to give, even if the gifts are small. "Several years ago I heard a longtime dietitian leader and past Chair of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Foundation say, 'Give until it feels good' and 'Give until you feel proud,'" Neva said. "Sometimes people believe if they can't give 'big' then they shouldn't give at all. Nothing could be further from the truth."