I grew up in a large, extended family. One that always had (or made) a reason to celebrate and get together. And whether I was decorating cookies at age two or taking salad duty as a teen, I loved helping my mom in the kitchen when she hosted. When it came time to choose a college major, I had no questions. I was going to study food.
As I learned more about the dietetics profession during my undergrad years at Florida State, I didn’t feel a strong pull to any sub-specialty of the field. While some of my peers forged ahead and involved themselves in sports nutrition or food science opportunities on campus, I questioned my path. And then my university presented the opportunity to study international food insecurity and hunger which left me with a broader understanding of the food and nutrition landscape and a new passion. I became actively involved in our student dietetic association, volunteered at the local hospital and shadowed private practice dietitians.
When it came time for the next step of my education, I chose to attend the coordinated internship program at the University of Mississippi for the opportunity to research food insecurity in America. In addition to the research and lecture components of the coordinated program, I completed a series of prescribed internships, including patient-facing work at WIC (the special supplemental nutrition program for women, infants and children), inpatient and outpatient clinicals and school food service support. The program also gave me the flexibility to set up elective work in other areas of interest.
FoodMinds was the last stop on my journey to becoming an RD. After completing a short internship here, I knew nutrition communications was exactly what I wanted to do. I applied to FoodMinds’ summer internship and was promoted to a full-time position six months later. I’m so fortunate – it really is my dream career because I’m able to work with food and nutrition at a macro-level.
I still have a lot to experience in my career. But through my journey, I’ve learned it takes a village of nutrition experts to promote good food to all people. In honor of registered dietitian day, I’m raising my glass to celebrate my RD colleagues.
A special message to all RDs2Be: hang in there! Soon enough, you’ll forget about matching, passing the RD exam and that afternoon you spent washing dishes during food service. Trust the process, take risks and, most importantly, believe in yourself.
To my RD peers, thank you for being study buddies and a steady support system. Through long nights in the library, navigating internship applications and transitioning to the professional world, you’ve become my lifelong friends.
And to the RDs that have paved the way, thank you for your smart work and patient mentorship. Your courage and leadership has propelled our profession forward.
Haley Hickman, MS, RD is an account executive at FoodMinds, a division of Padilla, in Chicago.