“Margot, you need to get on the bus and get to Cape Cod Hospital”
When I heard these words come through my iPhone speaker my stomach dropped. My dad suffered from an unexpected heart attack in the fall of 2016. After several dreadful days in the hospital awaiting surgery, he underwent triple bypass surgery to clear three blockages, and is now almost fully recovered.
Sadly, for many this isn’t the case. But, why did this happen to my dad who is in his early 60’s, logs his FitBit tracked 10,000 steps per day, and eats relatively healthy? Well, perhaps he doesn’t eat as healthy as I thought. Or maybe there’s some hidden component of his diet that made him sick? It could also have to do with the multiple years of smoking cigarettes? Perhaps, genetics? While I might never find the answer to what caused my dad’s sudden heart attack I did figure out one thing. I wanted to know more about diet and its effect on chronic disease. It was something I couldn’t stop thinking about to the point where I knew that my career trajectory was heading down the wrong road.
Registering that a Registered Dietician is What I Want to Become
While I’ve always been fascinated by nutrition and running I never considered it a legitimate money-making career path until I stumbled upon becoming a Registered Dietician Nutritionist (RDN). As I began to research the profession I became enthused at the idea of helping people with their diets. An RDN felt like a legitimate career path rather than just trying to Instagram pictures of food and give uninformed diet advice. Whether it be helping an overweight individual lose weight and avoid becoming obese, assisting a patient with a chronic disease adjust their dietary patterns to slow the progression of the condition, or working through an eating disorder with a malnourished teen, I realized there are endless opportunities in the field, and so many of them interest me.
Then I started to review the steps I would need to take in order to become an RDN and the stress began to ensue. Four chemistry courses (including organic chemistry!), microbiology, biostatistics, seriously??? The long list of undergraduate coursework that I needed, and had not completed from earning my bachelors at Fairfield University was overwhelming to say the least. While I’ve always been a good student, science and math were never my strong suit. I always leaned towards more creative courses like photography and writing. How could I possibly take on these science courses?
Rethinking the RDN Route
Maybe this just isn’t feasible, I thought. It would take me at least two years to complete just the prerequisite work. So, I decided to take a step back and talk to people in the field. First, I spoke with a family friend who decided to go the unconventional route to become a holistic health coach. She underwent various online programs to get her certifications, has a beautiful SquareSpace hosted website, and her own practice, as well as a more steady full-time job working for a well-respected company in the space. I admired and respected her path, but I also knew that mine would be much different. As I searched for “health coach” professions online and did more research about the profession in Boston, I kept finding myself coming back to the opportunities that would lie ahead if I earned my RDN credentials.
Next I talked with a few local RDN’s, and after my conversations with these accomplished women I knew what I had to go for the gold. In fact, both of them convinced me that earning my Masters degree, as well as my RDN is the best path forward. So, I took the GRE, applied to Framingham State and Simmons and got into both!
In August of 2017 I quit my full-time job at a successful Account Manager at a fast-paced tech company with delightful benefits (including an office dog), started working part-time in a previous position, and attended graduate orientation at Framingham State. Why Framingham over Simmons? For me this simply came down to money. I knew if I attended Simmons while I would be able to stay in the city I would also drive myself into years of debt. At the age of twenty-eight with the strong desire to own a house and raise a family one day this was not appealing to me. I also learned from many others in the field that Framingham State has a well-respected nutrition program so I knew it was the right choice for me.
Walking into a chemistry course full of undergraduate students who are all close to ten years younger than me was not the easiest thing to do, and the work that lay ahead was even harder. On my first chemistry test I got a 64!!! I may have shed a few tears in the bathroom and doubted that this was something I could actually do, but I pushed forward and ended up with an A in the course. With three lab courses out of the way I am now full steam ahead enjoying my winter break, preparing for next semester, and knowing that taking some big risks to follow my passion has been the right decision for me.