I chose to leave my career in cosmetics to stay at home full time with my two young children. This time in my life was incredibly fulfilling and memorable. I threw myself into the “stay at home” mom role – carpooling, planning playdates, and taking on volunteer positions in the community.
My daughter was diagnosed with a life threatening allergy to nuts, asthma and gastrointestinal issues when only 2 years old. I naturally wanted to know as much as I could about her condition. I began to educate myself about the physiology of her illnesses and found that I had an unquenchable curiosity about the ways that food and supplements may work to alleviate her symptoms. My husband as well as my good friend, Jean, suggested that I pursue a degree in nutrition. However, when I saw the required courses and time commitment, I immediately dismissed the idea. How could I get through a course like organic chemistry?
The idea nagged at me, so after my daughter’s 13th birthday, I decided to take Nutrition 101 at Westchester Community College. I have to say that I am still friends with my professor and that the course convinced me to take the leap. Getting through the program would take about 5 years which would correspond with my youngest leaving for college. Many long conversations with Dr. Lora Sporny of Teachers College, Columbia University convinced me apply for the MS/RD program in nutrition.
I found that there were many steps to complete before I could apply: several science prerequisites (yes, organic chemistry was one), and the GRE (I reviewed with one my kid’s geometry teachers). It took 2 years to complete, but I finally was accepted into the program!
The journey to becoming a registered dietitian is one that I’ll never forget. In retrospect, I really don’t know how I was able to get through the rigorous program at TC, which covers everything from the fat cell to the farm bill. I still had my family to attend to which required some serious multitasking. I also was taking classes with students half my age, which was intimidating at times. There was so much work that I had to scale back my social life – a hiatus from my book club and many Saturday nights at home reading.
In addition to completing the courses for my MS, a 1200 hour unpaid internship is required of all RD candidates with limited spots available every year. I was very fortunate to match with the Sodexo dietetic internship program that placed me at Westchester Medical Center/Maria Ferari Children’s Hospital – the only trauma center in my area and a great place to train. My experience at the medical center was probably the most difficult part of my journey, but also the most interesting. With 20 dietitians on staff, I completed rotations in areas such as heart transplant, the burn unit, oncology, the ICU and a great pediatric rotation at the children’s hospital. My internship also required me to spend time in the community at food banks, local schools and shadowing outpatient dietitians.
I have to say that by the time this all ended and I was about to graduate, I thought to myself that I might just want to retire!
However, before I took the RD exam (I was considered “RD eligible”), I happened to see an ad for a dietitian at a local pediatrician’s office. It was exactly the kind of job I had hoped for. After at least a month of persistent follow-up, I got my dream job.
I’ve now been working with pediatric patients for Boston Children’s Health Physicians as well as the Armond V. Mascia Cystic Fibrosis Center for 2 years. I love my new career and have a newfound drive and motivation that I never imagined. For me, becoming a nutritionist has opened up a fantastic new chapter in my life.
My advice to relaunchers is that you may find changing and returning to the work force a challenge at first. I definitely had many difficult, uncomfortable times on the way. My biggest surprise is the great passion and motivation that I feel for my new profession.
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