Recently, I had the opportunity to chat with Friedman alum, Renee Reynolds.
By Alisha Mehta
Renee graduated in 2011 from the Combined Dietetic Internship/Masters Degree Program at the Frances Stern Nutrition Center. During her time at Friedman, Renee was Communications Officer for Jumbo’s Kitchen, Social Co-Chair for Student Council, and ran the Boston Marathon as part of the President’s Marathon Challenge. She is now working as a clinical dietitian at Massachusetts General Hospital.
How did you become interested in nutrition?
I gave a speech on nutrition in 7th grade that first peaked my interest, but then I became more interested after I started running. Throughout high school, I was always involved with cross-country and track, so I paid a lot of attention to nutrition and how I ate.
Have you always wanted to work as a dietitian?
I was really unsure when I started undergrad. After my freshmen year, my mom phoned me with all these nutrition questions, and I got really excited explaining things to her. I realized I needed to figure out if I wanted to do nutrition, and I decided before my sophomore year that I wanted to become a dietitian.
I heard that you interned with Chobani during your dietetic internship. What did you do there, and why Chobani?
I picked Chobani because I LOVE their yogurt. I talk about it when I’m educating patients, and I don’t even know how many people I’ve converted to Chobani yogurt.
I also wanted an experience in a less clinical atmosphere. When I interned with the dietitian at Chobani, it was a lot of fun! It was a valuable experience because I realized that the dietitian’s role included a lot of behind the scenes work, conference calls, and Excel spreadsheets. I did miss the one-on-one in person interactions and clinical aspects of nutrition care, which made me more certain of my desire to work in an inpatient/outpatient setting, at least initially.
During your Friedman days, you ran your first marathon—the Boston Marathon! What is your favorite memory from the Tufts Marathon Team?
I ran and trained with my roommate Kelly. It was our first winter in Massachusetts and we’re both from California, so we were not used to cold weather. One morning, it started snowing. I was wearing long pants that got absolutely soaked and were dragging down. I could barely talk and we were covered in ice and snow. It was dedication to the max.
Still running? Any future marathons planned?
Yes! Kelly and I would like to run the SF Marathon sometime within the next 5 years.
Last year, you were Communications Officer for Jumbo’s Kitchen. How did this prepare you for your position at MGH?
Jumbo’s Kitchen gave me a real experience that made an impact on the children. We would make budget-friendly recipes that were simple enough for them to prepare at home. We showed them that “nutritious and delicious” are not mutually exclusive. When interviewing for MGH, I think they liked that I could translate nutrition recommendations to children.
How did your position as Social Co-Chair for Student Council contribute to your experience at Friedman?
I was friends with a lot of people in different programs and that allowed me to see nutrition through a different lens.
I tried my best to build a bridge between the Frances Stern interns and the rest of the student body. After the first semester, you don’t see the other students much because you’re interning in a hospital sixty hours a week and taking classes. I tried to help by scheduling events at times that worked for both Friedman students and interns.
How did you get your job at MGH?
Coming from the Friedman School, having the MS in nutrition, the strong clinical background from the Frances Stern Nutrition Center, and winning the Excellence in Clinical Nutrition and Dietetics Award are some of the strengths MGH really liked.
Describe your typical day as a Registered Dietitian at MGH.
My day goes from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and I tend to stay late. I’m on a cardiac step-down unit floor; some of the surgeries include mitral valve replacements, aortic valve replacements, coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgeries, and pacemaker placements. It’s protocol to see all patients who have had a CABG surgery to discuss a “heart healthy” diet and lifestyle, so I check to see who has been transferred from the cardiac ICU first. Then I do my consults and see other patients who have had significant unintentional weight loss prior to/following surgery, prolonged inadequate food intake, or who may need tube feeding initiation. For critically ill surgical patients already on tube feeding, I monitor their tube feeding and food intake throughout the day, and make adjustments accordingly.
After lunch, I document all the patients I saw on the cardiac floor, and then go to the general medicine floor. I do my consults there and then go back to the office.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
Communicating with the medical team. I’m exposed to so many different medical issues, and nutrition plays a role, but I have to understand the entire picture. It’s important to be able to explain the rationale of my recommendations if needed and have the doctors trust my input and expertise.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Knowing I’m making an impact on people’s lives, and that patients appreciate my interventions. I’ve had several people on my general medicine floor say, “You helped so much. I’m so thankful you came in and spoke to me.” I’ve seen a lot of patients brighten up when I came in the room.
Where do you see yourself in five years? In ten years?
Right now, I will stay in the clinical setting. I really like teaching the patients and all the medical aspects. I could also see myself doing outpatient.
In ten years, I can see myself doing something with the National Dairy Council because they do a lot of expos and food demos. I can see myself going into sales and marketing or consumer outreach or even a supermarket dietitian. Just as long as they don’t put me behind a desk!
Just for fun, one food you couldn’t live without?
Renee: Oh gosh, Ok peanut butter!
Alisha: I was waiting for you to say oatmeal!
Renee: Well, its oatmeal too! It’s both! But, if I had to say one thing, it would have to be peanut butter.
Any final advice for current Friedman students?
Having a balance is really important—so not only focusing on academics, but having a social life too.
*This interview was summarized and edited.
Alisha is in her second year at the Friedman School as a dual Nutrition Communications/DPD student and is excited to soon become a Double Jumbo. She is a true California girl, enjoys traveling, trying different types of fitness classes, and attempting to create healthier versions of recipes. Alisha records her recipes she finds blog-worthy at SavortheFlavour.