An Interview with Gita Patel, MS RD CDE LD
By NUTRITIONJOBS on JANUARY 11, 2010
NutritionJobs: You own a very successful private nutrition counseling practice in New Hampshire and are very involved with many dietetic organizations. But this wasn’t your first career. How did you get your start?
Gita Patel: At the age of 45 I suddenly, and unexpectedly, needed to be financially independent. I decided to go back to do my internship to become a Registered Dietitian. This involved doing post graduate course work.
How did you build your successful private practice?
I worked in a hospital setting for 3 years to fulfill my 2000 hours of working with diabetes patients to become eligible to take the exam to be a Certified Diabetes Educator. I was able to develop strong relationships with referring physicians while at the hospital. In fact, I now only receive business from word-of-mouth and physician referrals. I don’t do any formal advertising of my services. I have developed a unique referral relationship with the hospital endocrinologists. And I receive first-party payment (out of pocket) from my patients as well as being an insurance provider.
Would you consider your private practice non-traditional?
My private practice could be considered traditional but I run my business in a non-traditional way, which has made it very successful. For example, I actually see my patients in my home at my kitchen table! I also offer niche expertise to my patients and their referring physicians. I help my patients translate medical nutrition therapy into the art of cooking and eating.
Tell us about your niche areas of expertise.
I specialize in diabetes but I became versed in Functional Medicine after attending a Food as Medicine Conference. I was able to understand how Functional Medicine could help me treat my diabetic patients in a different light. I am trained to look at the inflammatory effect food can have on disease. I’m LEAP Certified. And I specialize women’s health and in vegetarian cooking. Your success has been on a continuous uphill trajectory since you became an RD.
Did you always know what you wanted to achieve?
I knew that I was very committed to getting somewhere with my career! I also learned to integrate everything that I know. I grew up in the traditional Indian environment but have lived in the USA since I was 23 years old. I integrate the best of both worlds and enjoy seeing the results in my patients.
Have you had any mentors along the way?
I sought out a fellow dietitian to coach me in enhancing my public speaking and writing skills. How did networking help advance your career? I’m a member of 11 practice groups and 4 health organizations! It helps me stay in touch with others in the dietetic, diabetes and medical profession.
What advice do you have for others hoping to pave a new career path?
When life hands you a curve ball, try not to feel stuck. Know that you have choices. I recommend continuing to learn no matter where you are in your career. I hope my story can be an inspiration to all new graduates or those unexpectedly forced back into the work force.