Bringing Back the Order of the Chocolate Fish: Casey MacDermod

by Cynthia Bulik, PhD

The Order of the Chocolate Fish was established in 2003 by what was then called the UNC Eating Disorders Program to recognize individuals who go beyond the call of duty in service of the Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders (CEED). We recognize people from within CEED as well as people outside the center who demonstrate extraordinary dedication to our mission.

Chocolate Fish 2It has been far too long since a Chocolate Fish has been awarded, but I am thrilled to bestow the Order of the Chocolate Fish on our fantastic Research Assistant Casey MacDermod! Casey came to us after serving as Director of Operations at Casa Materna in Guatemala. She graduated from Duke with a BA in Cultural Anthropology and minors in Global Health and History in 2018.

Casey has not been with us for that long, but she hit the ground running. I can’t even do justice to all of the things that she has accomplished—especially under the current COVID conditions!

She is being recognized for her outstanding work with the Eating Disorders Genetics Initiative (EDGI) (although she is involved in many more projects). Casey is in charge of the entire social media recruitment strategy (development of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter campaigns including graphic design), interfacing with NCTraCs about community engagement and recruitment diversity, and has led development and deployment of the EDGI website. Casey is also the contact person for the study.


Ms. Casey MacDermod

But here’s the amazing thing!  We gave her an impossible task. We opened recruitment for EDGI on June 12th in the United States. When you get a grant from the National Institutes of Health, they set milestones that you have to reach. Our milestone for enrolling EDGI participants for August 1st was 500! Plus, we were completely constrained—no media launches, no brochures plastered around the Triangle, many of the usual avenues were closed to us due to the pandemic. But, the numbers of people enrolling in EDGI kept going up…280…300…400. At that point I was happy as could be and let her know that I would be thrilled with 400. But on July 30, we were on a Zoom call and I heard a, “Woop, Woop, we hit 500!” And by the time the official report went in to the NIH today, 530 people had enrolled! Woop Woop indeed!

In her spare time, Casey has developed and produced our EDGITalk series (you can see our first three episodes with psychology PhD student and Olympian Rachael Flatt, author and advocate Brian Cuban, and founder of Project Parachute and psychologist Dr. Stephanie Zerwas on our FB page ). She also developed our Instagram EDGI Self-Care Series that is just in time for going back to college and school and the challenges that the season will bring.

But I’m not done yet. Casey just happens to be fluent in Spanish as well and she has (behind the scenes) been working on our roll out of EDGI Español that will be live later in the fall!

Occasionally you are fortunate enough to hire someone and all you have to do is wind them up and they are off and running. Casey’s takes it one step further, she is self-winding!

On behalf of the entire CEED team and everyone around the world who is grateful for your work supporting our research into genetic and environmental causes of eating disorders, Thank-You Casey and welcome to the OCF!

If you are interested in the origins of the chocolate fish as a reward, see