Dietetic Career Spotlight: Bonnie Y. Modugno, MS, RD in Private Practice and Consulting
By SARAH KOSZYK, MA RDN on OCTOBER 20, 2011
Private Practice doesn’t just mean your typical office job. Bonnie Y. Modugno, MS, RD, is a consultant, spokesperson, and writer. NutritionJobs got the scoop on her career success.
NutritionJobs: What attracted you to the field of nutrition and dietetics?
Bonnie Y. Modugno, MS, RD: Mostly, it was my personal struggle with weight coupled with watching my father die at 44 years of age from heart disease. He suffered 5 strokes before 36 years of age. He was mostly a shadow of himself for his last 5 years and spent at least half of the year at the VA hospital. The dietary restrictions put on him actually made everything worse. I think even then I knew that there must be a better way to manage his condition.
After I earned my degree and started my private practice, I learned first-hand that there is no one right way to eat. I am grateful for this insight. It allows me to be of real service to my clients and gives me a unique perspective, overall.
Your Job Title:
Company you are with now:
I work in two modes, my private practice with individual clients and families which is NutritionWorks Nutrition Counseling and More Than Food, Inc., my consulting business that includes research, writing, speaking and a variety of other endeavors.
A typical (or not so typical) day-in-the-work-life for you:
There is not much that is typical. I do see private clients three days a week and two Saturday mornings a month. My practice is much smaller today as I spend more time with the other aspects of my work. I spend a great deal of time writing, preparing for lectures and special projects.
I have consulted with the McDonald’s Owners of Southern California for almost 20 years. The work has allowed me an opportunity to address some of my most critical concerns, especially the public health and medical community’s preoccupation with fast food, weight and the energy balance equation.
I have said for years that there is no one right way to eat. There are a multitude of factors influencing energy metabolism. Pretending obesity is a fast food issue only serves to distract us from addressing the larger issues. I also believe that if obesity were merely a math problem many of my very bright clients would have been able to solve the problem on their own. Lastly, the sooner we focus on behavior and health instead of weight, the better.
How did you get your current job in dietetics?
I left public health in 1985 and put out my shingle. I was teaching at Santa Monica College at the time and I learned the hard way how to grow my own business. I watch younger dietitians do this in a much more efficient manner, and I often speak to that learning curve when I am asked to share my story. There are better ways.
What skills were you born with and what skills have you learned along the way?
I have always been a good listener and someone with a urge to help. I had to learn how to effectively support clients without trying to help too much, learning about boundaries was pivotal. In time I honed effective counseling skills and coupled that with what I learned from my Master’s degree in education and psychology. I am extremely indebted to the psychologists I share space with. They have taught me many valuable lessons.
What advice do you have for others wanting to be just as successful and fulfilled as you?
Two things are important. I am glad I learned early on that it was more important to do what I loved and felt passionate about than what earned me the most money. Secondly, I made sure that I always did my best and stayed open to learning more. I am still learning.
If you could be paid for your job with something other than a paycheck, what would it be?
Recognition. I find private practice to be immensely rewarding, but often a very solitary experience. I maintain a network of colleagues and referral resources, but my body of work is only really known to me. Thankfully I enjoy the time and the creative freedom to pursue what inspires me. I am proud of and passionate about my work.