Dietetic Career Spotlight: Margaret Furtado, MS, RD, LDN
By SARAH KOSZYK, MA RDN on FEBRUARY 21, 2012
This week from Stacey:
Our own Sarah Koszyk, RD, interviews Margaret Furtado, MS, RD, LDN, an expert dietitian in bariatric surgery and weight management. She shares candid answers to our questions. Enjoy.
Vote. Please. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Elections plus your State District. Here’s the link: http://elections.groupxm.com/elections/vote.cfm. I’ll say it again; I was shocked to learn that for the past years, the overall voting percentage for the Academy has hovered at 14%. What?? Unacceptable. Let’s change that this year. There are just a few more days to vote.
Cheers to you and your career!
Meet the passionate expert dietitian in bariatric surgery and weight management, Margaret Furtado. Her renowned expertise has brought her international speaking engagements and book deals.
Sarah Koszyk, RD: What attracted you to the field of nutrition and dietetics?
Margaret Furtado, MS, RD, LDN: I grew up always struggling with my weight, and around the age of 14 was given a 1-page, 1,000-calorie diet menu by a local primary care doctor. Although I lost a good amount of weight that summer, I knew this wasn’t the ideal way to go about it, especially at that age. I was a freshman in high school that fall and chose to study the effects of liquid protein diets on mice. I knew I needed to study nutrition formally and learn more about how to best nourish my body, as well as the healthiest way to lose weight.
What is your Job Title and the Company you are with now?
Clinical Dietitian Specialist with Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center/The Johns Hopkins Center for Bariatric Surgery.
Describe a typical (or not so typical) day-in-the-work-life for you.
See my first patient around 8 am (either pre- or post-op bariatric surgery patient), and then see several pre- and post-op patients throughout the day, teach a bariatric weight loss class, precept dietetic interns, plan upcoming bariatric support group sessions, return voicemail messages and emails from pre- and post-op bariatric surgery patients with questions or concerns.
How did you get your current job in dietetics?
Johns Hopkins is my third bariatric center of excellence in the decade I’ve been working in obesity medicine (previously at Massachusetts General Hospital’s Weight Center and Tufts University), and I learned about the opening at Hopkins by chance. I was looking through the job postings on the Maryland Dietetic Association web site, and noticed the opening for a full-time outpatient dietitian at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center to work with The Johns Hopkins Center for Bariatric Surgery patients and team. The position had been open for over 2 months, so it was fortuitous that I happened to apply just in time before it was filled. I was in the process of moving from Boston to Baltimore for personal reasons, so it was one of those serendipitous moments where things just fell into place very easily.
What skills were you born with and what skills have you learned along the way?
I was born with the skills of really listening to patients and intuiting what they may be feeling or needing from our consultations and classes. Patients often remark “how did you know to ask me that question?” and they tell me they really needed to examine whatever it was I inquired about.
Skills I’ve learned along the way include time management, which sometimes can be challenging where you have a really busy day, writing projects, meetings, and conferences to speak at. However, if you plan ahead and regularly reassess your commitments, it really helps to streamline things.
Additionally, although I’ve always loved counseling, motivational interviewing is something I’ve become quite adept at over the years, and I enjoy working with different clients to help them reach their own answers to their most pressing questions.
What advice do you have for others wanting to be just as successful and fulfilled as you?
It may sound trite, but I’d say “follow your passion, and the rest will follow.” I was a renal dietitian for 6 years in Boston, and although I loved it, I felt ready to do something a bit more positive. I fell in love with bariatric surgery while I was working with the bariatric RD at Boston University to assist my hemodialysis patients in preparing for gastric bypass surgery in order to lose enough weight to qualify for a renal transplant. I became so intrigued with it that I took a substantial pay cut to leave renal and join the bariatric surgery team at Tufts Medical Center. However, the difference in pay was quickly recouped, and books and speaking engagements also followed. Johns Hopkins has been a wonderful opportunity in many ways, including my 3-year Yahoo! Health blog via my Hopkins affiliation where I write on nutrition and healthy weight. I’m told, by patients, colleagues and mentors alike, that my passion for bariatric surgery and nutrition is evident. I feel it sustains me and inspires me to keep learning and growing.
If you could be paid for your job with something other than a paycheck, what would it be?
Travel all around the world, attending and speaking at bariatric surgery conferences! I’ve spoken in Brazil, Portugal, and Paris, and it’s always so exciting to meet interesting people from all over the world. I return with a newfound sense of passion for the field and aspirations for future projects.