What does a day in the life of Kelly look like?
I am currently managing an amazing interdisciplinary team of dietitians, diabetes educators, psychologists, nurse practitioners, surgeons, and support staff at Legacy Weight and Diabetes Institute. Due to the diverse mix of professionals in my clinic, no two days are alike, but most days include meetings of some sort; the focus is always different but endlessly interesting. Meetings might include a discussion of the psychological measure that best assesses a patient for bariatric surgery, how do we best improve peri-operative and post-operative glucose control, or how do we meaningfully produce outcomes of diabetes self-management education. My clinical background always helps me understand and facilitate the discussion but operationalizing ideas has meant constant learning.
If you could give one piece of advice to a dietetic intern, or someone who is interested in becoming an RD, what would it be?
Never stop learning. An important piece of advice given to me early in my dietetic education, I would not be in the position I am in if I did not regularly find ways to learn about my next job. In rural areas and even in specialties dietitian’s don’t always have a mentor that can teach them the ropes. A dietitian’s education prepares them to have a broad understanding of nutrition in different settings but does not prepare one to work in specialty fields per se. Continuing to learn may come in many forms and does not always need to be in the classroom or a conference. When I started in bariatric surgery there were no courses or conferences for dietitians and my learning came from literature searches, attending journal clubs with other disciplines and asking colleagues questions.
What would you consider to be the best part of your job?
The team that I manage – the creativity, passion, innovation, work ethic, and near obsession they have for helping people overcome enormous challenges is ever-rewarding. It is a fascinating time to work in health care, especially within Oregon, chronic disease, and health care reform. I am fascinated with the current confluence of efforts to improve the cost, equality, and quality of health care, and there is no better lens to view this change than working in a clinic that supports people with complex and costly chronic diseases.
What books have shaped you and your practice the most?
Most of my books come from the library so some influential books are not pictured. I have also been hugely influenced by my current colleagues and am constantly exposed to great articles and films within our office chats.
When I first started in bariatric surgery, the books Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD and Elyse Resch, MS, RD, FADA, and Moving Away From Diets by Karin Kratina, PhD,RD, Nancy L. King, MS,RD,CDE, and Dayle Hayes, MS,RD were so helpful in giving patients new tools beyond the nutrition education they had received in the past. Most people showed a visible sign of relief once they practiced some of the principles from these books.
The End of Overeating by David Kessler, MD and The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan broadened my perspective on personal choice versus environmental and policy influences in nutrition. While my decision to return to school for an MPH was hugely inspired by Paul Farmer, both Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder about his work, and Pathologies of Power written by him were important to me.
Most recently The Textbook of International Health, utilized in my last public health course, has me really reconsidering how the world works, particularly when improving health around the globe is your goal.
What is your favorite travel spot?
I have many favorite travel spots but one that has always remained at the top is Nepal. I had the good fortune of traveling there when I finished college, I spent a month trekking around the Himalayan mountain, Anapurna. I was fascinated by the scenery, the people and their way of life and the influence of so many western travelers.
What do you do to de-stress or find balance in your life?
Coping with stress is an ever present issue for me right now as I am still fairly new at managing, I am commuting to Corvallis for my graduate program, and remodeling my house with my husband. About a year ago I took a Behavior Change Theory class from a specialist in stress at PSU and my perspective on coping was forever changed. I am now so much more aware of others responses to stress, and I am attentive to what I can learn from them. I would not say that I truly “de-stress or find balance in my life” but I know that laughter, social support, nutrition, nature, and physical activity are key to my health, managing stress, and so much more. I am fortunate to have friends and family that make me laugh but also engage me in interesting conversation. Friends and family will join me for pilates, yoga, hikes, snowboarding, swimming, biking, rafting, and any number of other exhilarating activities. I find peace in nature and look for opportunities to enjoy what it provides, whether it’s a walk to a park at lunch, gardening in my yard, or a bike ride near the river. Sometimes I even get away for a weekend in the woods, mountains or near the ocean.
How did you end up in Portland?
For a little over a year I had the great fortune of working as a dietitian in New Zealand, and I felt as though I learned more in that year than I did in the entire 4 years in school. In addition, I had fallen in love with rainy but green winters, bug-free summers and mountains and the ocean for convenient recreation. The expiration date on my visa and a return to Wisconsin led to a careful consideration of the next step. My husband and I took a close look at lifestyle, climate, community values, outdoor recreation, and job options. After an interview with Legacy I was offered a job as a bariatric dietitian, so that sealed our fate in Portland. This is not somewhere I “ended up” but somewhere I chose to be and I am so pleased that I did. This community has provided such a positive influence, both personally and professionally.
What is your favorite local Portland business and why?
Cistus Nursery on Sauvie’s Island; they have some of the most unique plants, and whether I am planning a new landscape or just want something beautiful to look at, they never disappoint.
What’s on your bucket list?
- Work internationally again: The focus of my MPH is international health and I hope to blend that with my dietetics degree to help those with malnutrition or diabetes. I am willing to go just about anywhere!
- Become a pilot: I started a pilot’s license several years ago but could not afford to finish, one day I will.
- Learn at least 1 other language.
….And so many others, but these are the things I keep thinking about as of right now.