PSU Leads Battle Against America’s Silent Health Crisis

November 13th, 2007 by Adam

Eating disorders have been called America’s unknown health crisis. In the United States, as many as 11 million people, most of them women, are fighting a silent life and death battle with an eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia. Millions more are struggling with binge eating disorder. Americans spend more than $40 billion a year on dieting and diet-related products. Obviously, weight loss issues affect many people, and Plymouth State University, through its College of Graduate Studies, is one of a handful of institutions nationwide offering coursework for health professionals to get specialized graduate-level training in eating disorders treatment, counseling and developing outreach programs. Founded in 2004, PSU’s Eating Disorders Institute (EDI) offers the only graduate-level eating disorders training in the Northeastern United States.

Mardie Burckes-Miller, the founder and director of the EDI, believes the training is essential in saving lives.

“Eating disorders are such a huge problem–there’s a lack of professionals with any type of specialization in eating disorders, a lack of treatment facilities and insurance coverage, yet we have millions of people in our country with anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa and millions more suffer from binge eating,” Burckes- Miller said.

Burckes-Miller believes the overwhelming success of the EDI program lies in society’s need to educate the public and professionals about this illness which causes mores deaths than any other mental illness in our country today, according to an American Journal of Psychiatry study.

“We have become a model of training for eating disorder professionals in the country, I hope that other academic institutions, colleges, and universities can take our model and replicate it to train professionals to specialize in eating disorders,” Burckes-Miller said.

Dr. Craig Johnson, founder and director of the nationally acclaimed Eating Disorders Program at Laureate Clinic and Hospital and professor of psychiatry at the University Of Oklahoma Medical School, is impressed with PSU’s EDI.

“There are very few training opportunities for professionals seeking specialization in the treatment of Eating Disorders,” said Dr. Johnson. “The Eating Disorders Institute offers a unique, multidisciplinary training program. I hope this becomes a model program that other universities will adopt.”

“We’re known all over the country, we have applicants from all over the United States, although most are from New England,” said Burckes-Miller, who started the Institute because of the lack of professional training for eating disorders.

“Many health and mental health professionals have less than an hour in their academic training addressing eating disorders in individuals.” Burckes- Miller said. “Research has shown that eating disorders are not recognized in 50 percent of clinical visits to medical professionals. Professionals often don’t know what to look for in patients who enter their offices, or are not aware of the biological and genetic link to eating disorders. There is an apparent lack of knowledge and skills of professionals in the medical area, counseling and education.”

PSU’s College of Graduate Studies offers the EDI as a 15-credit graduate certificate training program to mental health and health professionals, including dieticians, nurses, therapists, educators and other school professionals in the area of eating disorders.

“Our institute program can be completed in as little as 14 months to two years,” noted Burckes-Miller. “Many students go on to complete a master’s degree in health education or counselor education.”

    The Eating Disorders Institute program provides:
  • Advanced knowledge and skills in eating disorders counseling, education and outreach.
  • An increased understanding of the changing face of eating disorders.
    Small classes in intensive weekend/institute format for working professionals.
  • Experienced faculty who are current practitioners in the field of eating disorders.
  • The ability to incorporate the EDI into a self-designed M.Ed.

      Candidates for the graduate program must complete the education core courses which focus on diversity, philosophy and research. Students completing the 15-credit EDI graduate certificate program or the M.Ed. with a focus on the EDI will receive a certificate of completion. Mental health professionals, dieticians, and other approved professionals who demonstrate clinical expertise through education, experience and a rigorous examination may be eligible to seek a national certification after completing the Plymouth State EDI program.


      The EDI program can be completed in approximately one year by taking two courses during the fall and spring terms and completing a 120-hour clinical experience. The program may be completed in two years through enrollment in one course per term and completing the clinical experience. There are nearly 30 students currently participating in the EDI program.

      For more information about this release, contact Bruce Lyndes, PSU Media Relations Mgr., (603) 535-2775 or