Eating is so often a source of joy and comfort as much as it is a source of sustenance and nutrients, and nutrition professionals are tasked with the balancing the two. That balancing act is what appealed most to Terri Will and drew her into the field of dietetics in the first place.
“The love of food definitely had a major impact in choosing the field of dietetics, however, I had to attend a group nutrition class at a hospital in Pittsburgh when I was in high school and the science behind nutrition along with the ability to help people peaked my interest and led me to where I am now,” she said.
The current President of the Northwest Pennsylvania Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics says diet liberalization is one of her greatest passions in the field, especially when it comes to elderly clients who want to both eat well and feel well.
“For me, ensuring that the elderly population has quality of life in regards to nutrition and the ability to have the foods that they enjoy is most important to me. Please do not tell me I can’t have ice cream when I am 90, I deserve it,” she said.
A clinical dietitian employed by the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine, Will often works in the 30-bed vent unit in her skilled nursing facility, where patients don’t have the luxury of savoring their meals. The balance here involves ensuring each person receives the nutrients they need to support their recovery as their conditions change.
“My favorite part of my job is the 30-bed vent unit because nutritional needs of the resident are constantly changing,” she said. “I enjoy the challenge and constant change.”
After receiving her Bachelor’s degree in Dietetics from Indiana University of Pennsylvania in 2008, Will went east to complete her dietetic internship with the Sodexo Philadelphia/NJ dietetic internship program in 2009. More recently, she received her M.B.A. from Clarion University in August, 2016. She credits her success to the willingness to pursue new opportunities, working hard, and the ability to be flexible. And she advises current nutrition students to do the same.
“Get involved. Get involved in your school, state, and local dietetic association. By getting involved you acquire leadership skills and are able to network professionally,” she said. “Flexibility is also so important. The best piece of career advice I ever received was to be flexible, and I follow that advice every day because my job duties and what I plan to do each day continually changes. When so many things in our lives are out of our control, being flexible helps to get through the day with much more ease.”
Flexibility will also help dietitians adapt as the profession shifts with the healthcare landscape. As disease prevention becomes a greater focus, dietitians are being called on to provide education is all kids of settings. Will believes one setting that will grow increasingly popular is whatever screen you are reading this on.
“Over the next decade or so, I feel that nutrition will definitely evolve towards telehealth. With all the information at our fingertips, nutrition experts are going to continue to spend time educating consumers on where and how to find valid evidenced-based nutrition information.”
By: Katie Dwyer