Nutrition and Integrative Health
“The most exciting experiences are when my patients recognize the impact of their food choices and how it contributes to them feeling better or worse. When they share their “aha” moment, it brings joy to my day listening to their healing journey.”
What drew you to study nutrition as your healing discipline?
For the past 11 years, the field of public health has offered great personal and professional fulfillment – working toward improving people’s health and well-being has always been a meaningful day’s work. The biggest challenge in public health is finding novel ways to address health disparities and chronic disease in our communities. Research has increasingly pointed to a link between the nutritional status of Americans and the chronic diseases that plague them. Between the growing list of diet-related diseases and a burgeoning obesity epidemic, the most important public health measure for any of us to take may well be watching what we eat. This is why I decided to study nutrition and become a nutritionist. Day in, and day out, it bothered me to see and hear so many people struggling with how to prevent or control diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and obesity. While working in the public health field, it was evident that there was a lack of patient-centered, culturally-sensitive health education and nutrition information among the underserved populations. This is what drew me to study nutrition at MUIH. I wanted to learn how to use lifestyle interventions to treat and prevent lifestyle-related diseases in a clinical setting.
Why did you choose MUIH for your academic program?
MUIH offered an innovative approach to the study of nutrition. The program stressed the interdisciplinary and scientific nature of nutrition and food. Areas of study focus on enhancing knowledge and skills in nutrition assessment, lifestyle management, and chronic disease prevention and intervention. In addition to courses in the biological aspects of nutrition, students are expected to take courses that recognize the social, psychological, cultural, agricultural, economic, clinical, and public health policy determinants of nutrition and health, as well as courses that provide them with expertise in the analytic and conceptual methods used to describe and understand these issues. Lastly, the Master of Science in Nutrition and Integrative Health program is the only program in the United States that offered and required whole food cooking classes that covered everything from basic knife skills to preparation of organ meats and bone broths and raw food preparation. MUIH’s whole food cooking curriculum truly emphasized the importance of food as our medicine.
Describe your path since graduating:
Upon graduation, I moved from Maryland to New Jersey for a community nutritionist position with a nonprofit community health center providing primary care services to the underserved population of Jersey City. In June 2016, I took the Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS) exam and successfully passed leading to CNS licensure in September 2016. For the last nine months, I’ve been working collaboratively with four family medicine, two pediatric, and four Ob-Gyn physicians offering individualized nutrition assessment, evaluation, intervention and monitoring, as well as health education classes with a focus on uncontrolled diabetes and hypertension, gestational diabetes, hyperlipidemia, heart and kidney disease, food allergies, Metabolic Syndrome, and obesity.
What have you accomplished that is a result of the education and skills you received here?
MUIH and my nutrition practicum well-prepared me for the licensure exam. Additionally, I gained the knowledge and skills to be seen as a peer among the medical providers I work with who routinely rely on my clinical feedback and evaluation. Since my arrival, the clinical staff has welcomed my perspective and integrative approach in managing our patients’ chronic disease and health outcomes.
What has been your most exciting or fulfilling professional experience to date?
Honestly, the most exciting experiences are when my patients recognize the impact of their food choices and how it contributes to them feeling better or worse. When they share their “aha” moment, it brings joy to my day listening to their healing journey.
Are you achieving your professional goals?
Yes, at the moment I am. Working with the underserved is challenging while extremely rewarding. My patients are my teachers. Currently, I don’t have much room in my schedule besides pursuing the Certified Diabetes Educator credential and attending seminars and workshops for continuing education units. In about two years, I plan to pursue a doctorate and then teach both public health and nutrition courses.
What would you like to do next, professionally speaking?
Currently, I am pursuing a Certified Diabetes Educator credential to develop a diabetes management education program for our patients and the community of Jersey City. Additionally, the medical director and I are interested in collaborating with MUIH and Rutgers to offer potential internship opportunities.