Dietetic Career Spotlight: Tricia M. O’Keefe, RD of DishByTrish.com
By SARAH KOSZYK, MA RDN on AUGUST 21, 2012
Tricia O’Keefe, nationally recognized food blogger, explains how her passion for food, science, and nutrition helped pave her way towards working for Stanford University while also teaching cooking classes and writing food blogs. – Sarah
What attracted you to the field of nutrition and dietetics?
I chose dietetics as my career path because it bridged my three passions: food, science and wellness. I have always had an affinity for food; I love the experience of cooking, tasting, dining and the pleasures they lend. Science has always intrigued me as a discipline, ever since my award-winning science project in fourth grade. I enjoy reading science news and I find scientific breakthroughs very exciting. I hold great respect for the medical profession and I look forward to being part of this exciting field. As for wellness, I struggled with my weight for a number of years and I noticed how the extra weight started to affect my health and well-being. I began exercising and reading nutrition books and slowly became more and more fascinated with nutrition. Once I finally achieved weight loss and sustained it, I longed to help counsel others in a similar situation. This determination is really what catapulted nutrition as my hobby into becoming my future career path.
Your Job Title and Company?
Wellness Advisor and Cooking Instructor at Stanford University
Recipe Developer and Author of DishByTrish.com
Describe a typical (or not so typical) day-in-the-work-life for you.
My work at Stanford University starts sharply at 7am. I work for their BeWell Program which is a health improvement program supporting Stanford faculty and staff. As an advisor, I counsel anywhere from 8 to 15 participants a day, depending on the day. We set up a mobile ‘clinic’ each day. After each participant gets their blood work drawn by one of the health screeners, I sit down with them as a wellness advisor and discuss their results, their lifestyle, and any changes they are interested in making to support their health and wellness. Sometimes in the afternoon I will travel around campus to our satellite offices for additional consultations. Each quarter, I help plan and teach at least two cooking classes for faculty and staff so, depending on the time of year, I might spend some time in the afternoon coordinating these classes.
When I get home from my day job, I spend about one hour using social media (twitter, facebook, linkedin, blogging, etc) to network, stay abreast on nutrition news, and get inspiration for my recipe blog, “Dish by Trish.” About two nights each week, I cook ‘blog worthy’ dishes and meticulously write down the recipe as I cook it as well as take photos of the process and final product. Lately, I haven’t been able to blog as much as I’d like due to time constraints.
How did you get your current job in dietetics?
By regularly checking the Stanford Jobs website and applying.
What skills were you born with and what skills have you learned along the way?
Hmm this is an interesting question. I feel like many of them I have acquired and honed over the years. Several skills that stand out for me as a Registered Dietitian would be organizational skills, problem-solving skills and leadership skills. My undergraduate days definitely helped me become much more organized than I was prior to college and these skills come in handy with all areas of life. My dietetic internship and first year being a RD certainly pushed me to become a better problem-solver. Finding myself in unknown territory and needing to come up with solutions helped me strategize and troubleshoot, and become more independent as a result. As far as leadership skills go, this is an area of continual exploration and improvement for me. I don’t consider the term ‘leader’ something that is necessarily fixed or innate. Many of us possess leadership qualities that with commitment, experience and passion our inner leaders can shine ever more brightly.
What advice do you have for others wanting to be just as successful and fulfilled as you?
I still have quite a bit to go but for those starting out or making a new career change I would encourage them to think outside the box in terms of work. I never thought I would have a food blog, teach cooking classes or work in corporate wellness. Each opportunity led to another. Never burn bridges – the dietetic world is very small actually – and network as much as you can to foster relationships with your colleagues.
If you could be paid for your job with something other than a paycheck, what would it be?
How about instead of money I could earn experiences – travel and culinary experiences sound good to me.