October 2017 Member Spotlight

As the Program Manager of the Bariatric Program at the University of Pennsylvania, the President of the Philadelphia Dietetic Association, and a doctoral candidate at Temple University, Colleen Tewksbury, MPH, RD, LDN certainly has a full schedule!

Her fascination of the gut and interest in the Food Network led her to pursue a degree in nutrition. She completed her bachelor’s degree and dietetic internship through La Salle University’s coordinated program. She went on pursue her Masters of Public Health from West Chester University and is now in the final stages of her PhD in Public Health: Social and Behavioral Sciences at Temple University. With the personal time she has left, Colleen enjoys going on hikes with her husband in the parks near their house outside of Philadelphia, developing her home improvement skills, and sampling all kinds of craft beer.

Her favorite dish stemmed from her childhood. She is one of six children so requests were typically limited to once a year on birthdays. Each year, her birthday meal was very specific: chicken parmesan, angel hair pasta with garlic-herbed butter sauce, and asparagus. This is still her favorite meal and enjoyed on her birthday each year.

Another childhood memory she shared is that her mother jokes that Colleen told her she wanted to major in nutrition and become a dietitian over a plate of waffles at her kitchen table. Colleen noted that her parents did a wonderful job in providing a foundation in nutrition by putting an emphasis on enjoying the simplicity of foods and dishes in a traditional Irish-American home where seasoning was scarce, Colleen also noted, “my family taught me to be empathetic, a skill that has benefited me more in my career than anything I’ve ever learned about food from them.”

This skill may contribute to her success in working in weight management and obesity treatment. She noted, “The individuals I work with are supportive of individual choice in foods. It is a wonderful, compassionate environment to work in. For many individuals outside of our team, I’d love to not change their eating habits, but their reactions to other’s food choices. Being on the receiving end of judgement over something as personal as food is always challenging.”

Talking on Registered Dietitians and the dietetics profession Colleen explained that many dietitians she has met, including herself, struggle with assertiveness and branching outside of the nutrition community bubble. She found that working in management under the Department of Surgery forced her to develop these skills. She noted, “there are still many areas we can establish ourselves in but need to create our own path and develop it for others behind us to create more job opportunities. For the betterment of the profession, it is something we each have to strive for, but despite it being a fulfilling trek, it is also trying and difficult.” She learned from a mentor that to improve and grow the profession, individuals must work towards change. This is why she finds volunteering so important.

She believes the benefits of being a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) and the Pennsylvania Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (PAND) include scholarships, awards, newsletters, journal, but especially “the ability to affect change at a higher level.” She noted, “both AND and PAND provide this community of colleagues which is the common thread that produces the greatest benefit.”

When asked about changes she would make to the dietetic profession, she noted not changes but two improvements. First would be providing more dietetic internship opportunities. She is a big supporter of precepting and working to alleviate the challenges of becoming an RD. Next, she would want to improve the job prospects of RDs, including the number of jobs, pay scale, and career ladder. She acknowledges that this would be a large task but noted, “This is something that both AND/PAND can improve along with dietitians at a local, individual level.”