Food: The Universal Language by: Krystal Wright
Submitted by: Krystal Wright
Deborah Gillespie, MS, RD/LD
In the field of dietetics, it is difficult to be all knowing in the ever-changing and expanding science of nutrition. Toss into the mix a military family and recreation and one may find it even harder to find a good balance. I had the opportunity of interviewing Ms. Deborah Gillespie to pick her brain about her experiences as a Registered and Licensed Dietitian. Everything from the pathway she has taken to become a dietitian, to the mentors who have inspired her and guided her under their wings, to the most rewarding aspect in her work.
“Providence moves when you follow your passion.”- Byron Davis, former Olympic swimmer
Ms. Deborah Gillespie is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian and has been for over 20 years. Following her passion as a formally trained dancer, Deborah originally had intended to study Communication and Music at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. It wasn’t until a family member was diagnosed with Type II Diabetes that she realized her true interest in nutrition and decided to change her focus to Home Economics and Consumer Sciences- Dietetics earning her bachelor’s degree and continuing on the earn her master’s in Medical Dietetics from Saint Louis University.
“You cannot buy your health; you must earn it through healthy living.”- Joel Fuhrman, M.D., board-certified family physician, author of Eat to Live, and nutritional researcher
Deborah’s education fully prepared her to take on her role as a dietitian. She was a teacher’s assistant during her graduate studies at Saint Louis University and began working in an oncology research lab thereafter. She has be able to expand her dietetics portfolio by working and specializing in public health, women’s health focusing mainly on weight management and gestational diabetes, community clinics, research labs and even consulting. Deborah believes that health begins with what is put on your plate, which she has shown through her involvement in food education, health-risk research, and experiences ranging from food preparation to clinical work.
With the field of dietetics having such endless possibilities and countless focuses, Deborah mentioned that staying proficient in every aspect of nutrition is one of that hardest parts of her job. Due to the fact, there is a large umbrella that covers dietetics; there is always so much to learn. With the employment trends emerging in dietetics she believes that nutrigenomics- the study of the effects of foods and food constituents on gene expression, the focus and shift of using more functional food groups and superfoods, and the merging of the food service industry with clinical nutrition will open up the doors for new dietitians entering the field.
“Find something you’re passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it.”- Julia Childs, American chef, author, and television personality
Having the fortune and flexibility to work part-time as a Registered Dietitian has been a major benefit for Deborah. Being a military wife, the flexibility has played in her favor when her family has relocated to several places in the United States and even overseas. Although it requires a lot of time and planning to balance her family and work, she has had amazing opportunities to travel and enjoy food cultures around the world and even took classes at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, Acquolina in Venice and Cucina Italiana in Soignies. She admits that her favorite foods include almost anything with pesto. Along with expanding her culinary knowledge, she also serves in local food banks throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex with a helping hand and educational insight to those less fortunate. Helping people and being fully engaged in the present is how she continues to keep balance and find reward in her work. Seeing people change their health and change their lives by reducing or eliminating medicines is also a great reward, in her opinion.
“Food is our common ground, a universal experience.”- James Beard, American chef and food writer
To put it simply: Food is universal and touches everyone. Although our foods may look different and be prepared differently, it’s the common link to every living thing. In addition to learning something new practically every day, Deborah’s passion for nutrition, food, and dietetics comes down the fact that it links us all together, even stating that it’s our “common ground.” A mentor she met during her previous work was Dr. Nixon. He was one of the first nutrition advocates she met during her work. She respected the fact that he would exhaust all nutrition solutions prior to offering a prescription to his patients.
The field of dietetics can be very rewarding to those who enjoy flexibility, creativity, and most importantly serving others. With the increasing knowledge and research in nutrition, in addition to the role it plays with healthcare, those with an open-mind and increasingly thirst for knowledge are more likely to succeed in this profession. Taking advantage of opportunities before graduation, such as volunteering at a local food bank, women’s center, and gaining hands-on experience yield the best chances for excelling in the field. Having “people skills” such as being a good communicator, empathic, and organized are also very helpful.
From my interview with Deborah, I have realized that a dietitian is really a profession based on serving the needs of others. The reward of having healthy clients exceeds monetary reward. There are several career paths you can take when you become a dietitian- from research to consulting to clinical work. The possibilities are really endless. I enjoyed getting to hear about what dietetics has to offer for me in the future.
Beard, James. (1974) Beard on Food: The Best Recipes and Kitchen Wisdoms from the Dean of American
Cooking. New York City, New York: Knopf.
Childs, Julia. (1975) From Julia Child’s Kitchen. New York City, New York: Gramercy.
Fuhrman, M.D., Joel. (2003, 2011) Eat to Live. New York City, New York: Hachette Book Group.
Roll, Rich. (Producer). (2013, February 1). RRP# 14: Byron Davis: The Rich roll Podcast. [Audio podcast]. Retrieved from http://www.richroll.com/podcast/14-byron-davis/