Dietetic Career Spotlight on Leah M. Firestone, DTR, House of Delegates
By SARAH KOSZYK, MA RDN on JULY 30, 2015
Leah Firestone has combined her passion for cooking, her love of food, and her desire to help others in her jobs as a dietary director and an At-Large DTR Delegate with the House of Delegates for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Read on to learn more about Leah’s exciting career path. – Sarah
What attracted you to the field of nutrition and dietetics?
Growing up, I always loved being around food. My Bubba was a dietitian and taught me so much about cooking and the love of food. My original interest was baking and pastry and this is what my focus was all through high school. When I started working as a cook in a long-term care facility, I met a DTR. She explained what it meant to be a DTR and she had so much enthusiasm for the job that I knew it was what I wanted to do. I looked into a local program and it changed my life.
Your Job Title:
Dietary Director; I also just got hired as a Personal Enrichment Educator at my local community college and my first class will be this summer. I will be teaching Healthy Cooking. I was just elected by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics for the At-Large DTR Delegate for the House of Delegates. My term begins June 2015. I have been a ServSafe Certified Instructor and Proctor for over 5 years now.
Company you are with now:
Grane Healthcare, Greensburg Care Center
A typical (or not so typical) day-in-the-work-life for you:
My overall job is the oversight of basic operations at my facility. I am in charge of 16 employees, the budget, staff training and education, hiring, menu, production, food ordering and inventory, and meal satisfaction. I also provide clinical nutrition services to the resident’s at the facility which includes nutrition assessments, care planning, diet education, and facility events. My typical day encompasses all the above with of course a few more duties depending from day-to-day functions.
How did you get your current job in dietetics?
I actually was at my prior job for 5 1/2 years doing the same work and a friend of mine that was working there prior got me into this job. She is also working for this company and called me when the position was open. I was interviewed that week and hired.
What skills were you born with and what skills have you learned along the way?
I believe that I was born with cooking skills, people skills, and leadership skills. I remember cooking as early as 5 years old and from what my family tells me, even earlier. I always just had it when it came to food and recipes. It just seems natural to me to know how to prepare certain foods without even looking at a recipe. I think that my people skills are high due to my outgoing personality. I love meeting new people and connecting with them. I also always liked to take lead of everything that I have done and I feel that I am a very strong person and can make well-rounded decisions. I would say the most important thing that I have learned along the way is “growing thick skin.” This is the only way I can describe it. Since I am a very outgoing people person, I am very friendly. This is not always best in management fields. Not saying that you have to be “mean” but you need to be stern, strict, and straight forward. It took me a while to realize this since for a long time I took a lot of things personal, and you can’t with this type of work. I have also learned to deal with difficult personalities and bring out the best in everyone.
What advice do you have for others wanting to be just as successful and fulfilled as you?
I have found that networking is the key. You really need to get your name out there and meet people. I have met many RD’s and DTR’s around the globe and I believe this is why I am continuing to grow in my field. I also believe that you truly need to love your work. I absolutely love being a diet tech and love working with people, food, and nutrition. If you do not love what you do, you will not be successful or feel fulfilled in your work.
If you could be paid for your job with something other than a paycheck, what would it be?
I love this question. So, my answer would be coffee, chocolate, and the ability to wear sweat pants to work! Ha!