From Fashion to Dietitian - My Story

My two great loves (before I met my husband) were fashion and the brain. It sounds funny, I know, but I’ve actually met a lot of people along the way who share similarly disparate passions (especially those of us who did not start out in dietetics). Even though my family had been in the fashion business, they convinced me to pursue science. I was the great hope of the family, an only child in Jewish family. My parents were really hoping for me to be a doctor.

After finishing a degree in neuroscience at the Massachusetts Institute for Technology, I went to work in the fashion industry. I don’t think anyone was shocked with this career choice, but they were perhaps disappointed. I had a great time during those years but I still had the itch for science. I liked being able to read journals to use evidence to make predictions, and in fashion I didn’t get to do this; we just had the previous year’s sales numbers to inform our decisions. I embarked on a road trip when I realized it was time for a change.

I can’t say that I really “found myself” out there on the open road, but I did come to a few conclusions about how I wanted my future to shape up. I came to realize during this journey that fashion and science really weren’t so different. There were a few common threads: decision making and behavioral change, that I really wanted to explore. The more people I met the more I wanted to understand what drove people to make decisions and what motivated them. Ultimately, I decided, that I wanted to find out how I could use my discoveries to help people.

Pathways It turns out that the research I had done as an undergraduate at MIT under the brilliant Dr. Judith Wurtman combined science and behavior in a way I was now ready to revisit in my professional life. With Dr. Wurtman I learned how carbohydrates are the precursor to serotonin in the brain, that there is a way to truly address mood through food. To be completely honest, I didn’t know that there was even a profession for registered dietitians until I was involved in this research. MIT did not have an RD program, so I started to investigate how I could do it after college.

Skipping Town I am not going to lie. Figuring out how to become an RD was almost as hard as studying neuroscience. For the first year I was in Boston, I was driving around to three different schools because that was the only way I could get the classes I needed in the same semester (though Simmons College was my home base). During that first year, I decided I wanted to get a master’s degree as well. At the time, my now husband and I thought he would be heading to Washington, DC for a job after finishing his education at Harvard, so I applied to a combined program at Johns Hopkins. I was thrilled when I was accepted.

As soon as I decided to move to Baltimore, my husband took a job in New York, so I was on my own. I was the oldest person in my class by 6 or 7 years, alone in a new city, and missed my fiancé. Now I was even more determined to make the most of graduate school because I was sacrificing a lot to be there. I immediately sought out Dr. Gerard Mullin, a gastroenterologist at Johns Hopkins, and built up a relationship that eventually turned into the capstone of my internship (they won’t let me call it a dietetic internship because it was technically part of a combined program). More to come on my work with Dr. Mullin in future posts (I recognize that many people are interested in his work, and I was so fortunate to have the opportunity to work for him).

Age Doesn’t Define Us It was very difficult to figure out how to satisfy the AND requirements, but it was also difficult to go back to school and be the oldest person in my entire class. It reminded me of the days when I wanted to be a dancer at 13, and the other beginners were 8. Even then I sucked it up and took the risk anyway. Age doesn’t define us; when I was able acknowledge that I might be in a different place in life, but actually had a lot to learn from my fellow students, it all went well.

Living the Dream I am now pursuing the dream that I have worked so hard for, the dream that I sacrificed so much for during my time at Johns Hopkins. My dream of having my own private practice in New York City, writing for the media, and hopefully doing some consulting and product development, is coming to life in ways I never before could have thought possible. As I continue to learn, I find that if you break everything up into edible pieces and chew well, eventually you will be satisfied.

As published on the American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition website here