Food For Thought: My path to becoming a dietitian
I think I surprised everyone—even myself maybe—when after only a single semester at Hamilton, I confidently decided to be a biology major. In high school, I worried because I had no idea if I had “a calling” or even a particular field I wanted to dedicate my life to. Sitting at my kitchen table the summer after graduating from high school, I scrolled through the lists of classes, overwhelmed by the many decisions that felt like they were determining my whole future. How could I choose the classes that would lead me to my major? How could I even decide on a major when I wasn’t even set on one career path? So, true to my indecisive nature, during my freshman fall I filled my schedule with a diverse range of intro courses that would allow me to go in any direction.
I am glad Hamilton gave me the opportunity to explore. I did not necessarily have an “aha!” moment that changed my life, but rather continued to ask myself questions about what I cared about and what motivated me to learn. As an athlete for basically my entire life continuing through my time at Hamilton, I was always very aware of and interested in food and heard a lot about the “best” ways to fuel my body. I discovered in my intro bio course that I was most interested in how nutrients break down in the body and how nutrition can be used not only to optimize athletic performance but to prevent degenerative diseases and speed up recovery as well.
It wasn’t until my first career center workshop during my freshman spring that I actually said out loud that I thought I wanted to be a dietician. From here, I was able to create a more tangible plan as I gained the skills to connect with professionals already in the nutrition field. I discovered that I would want to attend graduate school for nutrition before applying to a dietetic internship and taking the exam to become a registered dietician (RD). I also determined that I should become a biology major. One of the best things I did was reach out to the Hamilton dietician. After meeting with her to hear about her career path and what opportunities existed in the field, I continued to reach out to other dieticians and professors who could offer me advice. By my senior fall, I also realized that I wanted to gain some first-hand experience before I committed to a graduate program.
Now, I am working as a clinical research coordinator for the Endocrine Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. I even found this position through the help of another Hamilton alum! This role is essentially a two to three-year position filled with recent graduates preparing for either medical school or some other higher degree. Clinical research coordinators work for a principal investigator who is typically either a Ph.D., M.D. or both. I work for an M.D. on clinical trials that treat patients undergoing bariatric weight loss surgery with osteoporosis medications to prevent bone loss post-surgery. I am excited about this position because it gives me the opportunity to work in a hospital setting where I not only take part in clinical trials from start to finish but also am able to learn what other opportunities there are in the medical and research fields. I am able to attend lectures by doctors both in my own department, as well as from hospitals across the country on all topics imaginable relating to medicine. I even get to work with nutritionists from various departments of the hospital.
Since I am still only on my very first job out of Hamilton, limitless unknowns remain in front of me. Thinking back to my time as a recent high school graduate sitting at the kitchen table and feeling like I was making a decision that would impact my whole future, I realize that nothing is as permanent as it feels, and even if you feel stuck, there is something new around the corner. More classes to take. More people to offer advice. More jobs to apply to. You do not need to have everything figured out immediately, but rather focus on finding experiences and opportunities that will teach you more about what the world has to offer.