Dietetic Career Spotlight on Dr. Larissa Farnam, Clinical Nutrition Manager, Lactation Consultant, Professor
By SARAH KOSZYK, MA RDN on MAY 22, 2017
Meet Dr. Larissa Farnam, DHSc, RD, LD, IBCLC, who is a Clinical Nutrition Manager, a Lactation Consultant, and a Professor. Dr. Farnam demonstrates how one can juggle multiple jobs within the dietetic field while continuing to follow her dreams and do what she loves most. – Sarah
What attracted you to the field of nutrition and dietetics?
When I first started college, I was a pre-med major, but after taking an introductory nutrition course, I was immediately drawn to the preventative side of medicine. I started dancing at the age of 3 and I had seen some of the unhealthy sides to the dance world, but it wasn’t until I started studying nutrition and I interned at the Boston Ballet where I saw firsthand the importance of nutrition education. During my doctoral program in Health Sciences, I was able to work with various facets of the world of health, from psychologists to nurse practitioners, and I was able to see how a nutrition point of view can fit into all of those aspects. Also…I love food and eating, but I’m health-conscious. It seemed only natural I would enter a field that incorporated food and well-being.
Your Job Title?
The diversity of the dietetics field allows me to play different roles in the clinical world, academia world, and as an entrepreneur. My titles include:
– Regional Clinical Nutrition Manager
– Owner and Lactation Consultant of Lull-a-Baby Lactation Consultants
– Professor of Nutrition in Public Health
Company you are with now?
– Morrison Healthcare
– Lull-a-baby Lactation Consultants
– Coastal Carolina University
– Facebook: www.facebook.com/lullababyLC
Describe a typical (or not so typical) day-in-the-work-life for you?
A typical day for me is not so typical by most others’ standards. Much of my day is spent working at a community hospital, managing the clinical nutrition department. I directly care for patients in the critical care unit, and supervise the nutrition teams of acute and long-term care. In my regional manager role, I oversee the clinical managers at several hospitals and nursing homes in the Southeast, help them prepare for national accreditation surveys, and support any of their clinical nutrition needs.
During the evenings and on weekends, I put on my lactation consultant hat and provide breastfeeding support to moms in the comfort of their own homes. As the owner of Lull-a-Baby Lactation Consultants, I have flexibility with hours. Most of my clients are from coastal South Carolina, but because there are so few lactation consultants in the area, especially who also speak Spanish, my job sometimes involves traveling into North Carolina too.
One evening a week, I teach a 3-hour nutrition course at Coastal Carolina University. It is an introductory nutrition course in the Public Health department. Most of my students are nursing or exercise physiology majors so it’s exciting to educate them about how nutrition will fit into their future professional roles, as well as in their personal lives.
How did you get your current job in dietetics?
My clinical position I got through networking with interns who graduated from Boston internship programs the year before I did. One had started working at the hospital I currently work at and when an opening came up, she asked if I would be interested when I finished my dietetic internship. I started as an entry level dietitian and worked my way up within the company.
I got my job as a lactation consultant by creating the private practice from the ground up. After my first son was born, I struggled through breastfeeding in the beginning. I was so frustrated and assumed it would come naturally, especially since I was a dietitian. There was no lactation consultant on staff at the hospital where he was born, so I had to figure out how to do it on my own. From that point, I had a personal mission to become an Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultant so that I could provide support to new moms and babies.
What skills were you born with and what skills have you learned along the way?
I am naturally a patient person. This comes in particularly useful when working with patients who may still only be in the pre-contemplative stage of making lifestyle changes, and of course, when working with babies—they have their own agenda (and it usually involves a lot of napping).
Public speaking is a skill I learned throughout the years. I was a very shy and introverted child. Through public speaking classes and practice, I have become much more confident in speaking in front of others. Now, I stand in front of a classroom every week to teach college students, I am interviewed on local television news channels regularly, and I speak at special events.
What advice do you have for others wanting to be just as successful and fulfilled as you?
Do what you love. The field of dietetics has so many pathways. Find what you have a passion for and set goals for yourself. I have a passion for maternal and child health, so I worked with mentors, found educational programs to expand my knowledge, and set a goal to own a private practice as a lactation consultant. Challenges are exciting when they are toward a goal of doing something you love.
If you could be paid for your job with something other than a paycheck, what
would it be?
Exotic ingredients. I love baking and cooking and I would love to test my palate with new and exciting ingredients from around the world.