Dietetic Career Spotlight on Lori Auerbach Sullivan, Private Practice
By SARAH KOSZYK, MA RDN on FEBRUARY 4, 2019
Meet Lori Auerbach Sullivan, MS, RD, who has had so much incredible experience during her 40+ years in the dietetic industry. She started her passion as far back as 7 or 8 years old and continues to enjoy her work. Read on to learn more. – Sarah
What attracted you to the field of nutrition and dietetics?
I took a cooking class at a local community center as early as 7 or 8 years old. Then I took Home Economics in High School where our teacher was having us conduct food science experiments instead of just making recipes. One I remember most is making a sponge cake using fresh egg whites verses previously frozen egg whites and seeing the difference (which I don’t remember!!) The teacher noticed my interest and spoke to me about a career in dietetics. So I was one of my few friends who had a major going into undergrad.
Your Job Title?
Registered Dietitian in Private Practice
Company you are with now?
My own, Lori Sullivan Nutrition
Describe a typical (or not so typical) day-in-the-work-life for you?
I have had the luxury of working my current practice part time. Though at times, over these 8 years, I have had other part time jobs on top of my practice. For three years, I was an Adjunct Nutrition Professor for the Physical Therapy PhD program in at University of Hartford. Now, I often work 2-3 full days a week, so about 8-14 hours per day can be the norm, because I get much more done in my office, such as billing and doing emails, when I stay after my last client. I see between 4 to 8 clients per day.
How did you get your current job in dietetics?
We used to move quite often, mainly for my husband’s job. So I had a wealth of nutrition employment and volunteer experiences: research, writing, consulting, contract jobs…..you name it, I may have done it! From these, I drew on for private counseling practice. I also was in private practice a few times along the way before landing in central Connecticut for the last 20 years. I worked at several hospitals which I think really provided me a solid background in both dietetics and working with medical staff. Our field was finally getting respect from doctors and it was a good time to be coming up through the ranks. In Chicago, I was thrilled to land a “plum job” as the solo Dietitian for the 4 Chicago area, Medical Weight Management Clinics. The original branch was in Boston. It was the brainchild for VLCD from Dr. George Blackburn, now we would call it a Ketogenic animal protein diet! I traveled between 4 locations in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs. The company was way ahead of its time, as we had a Psychiatrist, Nurse, Social Worker/Therapist, Exercise Physiologist with an exercise room (we all loved!), and MD. I learned loads of skills for counseling, selling, therapy, writing, client retention, teaching patients and clinicians, coordinator…..basically jack of many trades during the few years before it closed. We also began treatment for Eating Disorders, so I was able to begin my training in ED.
In Connecticut, after a few part time gigs, I landed a job as Nutrition Education & Resource Professional for Nestle Nutrition USA in New England. The learning curve and experience was great. There I fine-tuned being positive even with very small wins, understand push-back and respond to resistance, how to bring back a conversation, and methods for time management.
I draw upon almost each job I have held during my 40-year tenure along with being a mother and wife. I’ve always considered myself a scientist first and really try to practice evidence-based nutrition. Even dealing with my own health issues and helping family members has enabled me to counsel and coach clients better. I don’t think I could be successful or as fulfilled in my current private practice without having many of the other positions, opportunities, and life challenges.
What skills were you born with and what skills have you learned along the way?
I have learned better listening skills and interviewing skills along the way. I often can find something that was a success for my client and help them understand moving forward can mean lots of things.
What advice do you have for others wanting to be just as successful and fulfilled as you?
Unless you really find your niche is private practice, I would do other nutrition jobs first. Plus, having someone else pay your “sure” salary, your health care, and sick and vacation benefits, is a smart move at the start of a career. I would not get 2 degrees in nutrition, which is a mistake I made. Though at the time, I went for my Master’s there were not the options out there as there are today.
If you could be paid for your job with something other than a paycheck, what
would it be?
I appreciate the feedback from clients, those who recover from eating disorders, those who conquer their weight challenges (does not always mean losing weight), and those who get clarity from my explaining the science behind the studies and discussing the pros and cons with them. Plus, when my 2 great kids came home during a college break and both were eating a bunch more vegetables, I realized they were getting a healthier foundation as well! (I was a pretty picky eater until a teen, and always tried to give my dog my vegetables!) Now my most widely used phrase is: “Vegetables don’t have to be served Naked”.