RDN Spotlight: Michael Booth, RD LDN CNSC
What is your ethnicity/race? Did your family have any customs related to food?
Where did you go to school and complete your dietetic internship?
Bachelors of Science in Nutritional Sciences/Coordinated Dietetics Program - Howard University, Washington D.C., 2016
Masters of Science in Nursing, Specialty - Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner - Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN, expected completion 2020
What do you do now as an RDN and what does a typical day look like for you?
For the last two years, I have practiced as an inpatient clinical dietitian. Primarily, I provide coverage to the medical/surgical intensive care unit (MICU). I work 40 hours a week, usually Monday through Friday. I arrive at work between 6am-7am. Once there, I screen my assigned units and begin reviewing the electronic medical record for the patients I plan to see that day. I attend daily interdisciplinary rounds in the ICU before I see each patient individually. The team includes, doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, pharmacists, and case managers. The majority of my patients are mechanically ventilated and require various types of sedation, as they are seriously ill. They are often unable to meet their estimated energy needs by mouth and usually require a form of nutrition support (i.e. tube feeding, TPN). I spend a large part of my day with the doctors and nurses learning about medications, pathophysiology, other aspects of critical care to better align the nutrition prescription with the overall plan. I go from room to room looking at IV drips, vital signs, and check for tolerance of each nutrition support regimen. I enjoy being hands on and always conduct a physical exam to assess for malnutrition and nutrient deficiencies. Working with nutrition support patients requires me to synthesize lots of information, critically think and actively solve problems as they arise. This is a very exciting and rewarding environment to work in. You feel a part of something bigger than yourself. I truly love what I do.
Why did you decide to choose nutrition and dietetics as a career?
Growing up, I struggled with being overweight and searched for the answer that would make me as thin as my peers and at the same time build my confidence. Unfortunately, I did not unlock the mystery. In college, my weight continued to spiral out of control until one day I hit rock bottom. I was 295 pounds and I had lost control. I decided then, I was going to do whatever it took to reclaim my life. To start I used workout DVDs like Shaun T’s INSANITY and made exercising a regular part of my routine. I are more whole foods and reduced my overall caloric intake to help weight loss. During this time, I was a biology major/pre-pharmacy student and hated everything about the classes I was forced to take. I ended up taking one course in nutrition and never looked back. 100 pounds later, it was the best decision I have ever made.
What is or was the biggest challenge for you in becoming a dietitian and how did you overcome that challenge?
The toughest part about becoming a dietitian was surviving the clinical internship. Being an intern in the hospital was one of the most emotionally taxing times I have lived through. My preceptors enlisted me in the military and I had yet to realize I was already in basic training. I worked the hardest I had ever in my life and it still was not enough. I remember learning about nutrition support and how afraid I was to calculate parenteral nutrition. Not to mention, my preceptor had just failed the certification exam. I remember having frequent emotional breakdowns on my lunch breaks and feeling the constant cloud of defeat looming above me. I had to ask myself, “Was it me? Am I not good enough? Was it because I don’t look like they do?” With all these things swimming in my head, I still held it together. I remember my mother had always told me to do my best, and I did just that.
I had to realize, I could not allow anyone or anything to come in between where I was and where I wanted to go. After all, I was passionate about nutrition and excited about the future that awaited me. I did not let my setbacks keep me from reaching my goals. I had an insatiable hunger to learn and I wanted to prove to myself that I was more than enough. And today as a Certified Nutrition Support Clinician (CNSC), I have done exactly that.
Have you had any mentors in your career? If yes how have those mentors affected your career/life?
I am a firm believer in seeking out mentors to help with each life transition. I have had multiple individuals assist me on my educational and career journey. This includes dietitians, other professionals, and even my former classmates. I take something I like about each person and add it to my personal success pot. Those designated as mentors have affected me immensely because they have achieved what I hope to or possess successful habits that can bring me closer to meeting my own goals. The wisdom imparted from them often makes the pursuit a lot more manageable.
How do you envision the future of the nutrition and dietetics profession?
As a clinical RD, I hope to see the value of nutrition increase within the in-patient setting. Many people misinterpret our role and have a limited understanding of our background and training. Medical nutrition therapy must be an integral component of hospital-based care to ensure we meet the diverse needs of patients.
Why do you think diversifying the field of nutrition is important?
Diversity in dietetics is important simply for the goal of achieving cultural competence. Our patients are not one race. Why should we be?
What is a piece of advice you would give a student of color interested in entering the field of dietetics?
You can have anything you want in life. Set the bar high and just do it! Your passion will take you as far as you want to go despite what anyone else has to say about it.
“Knock me down nine times but I get up ten!” – Cardi B
Michael is a Los Angeles native now living in the D.C. Metro area. He currently works as a clinical dietitian in the ICU, with hopes of becoming a critical care nurse practitioner at a Level 1 trauma/academic medical center. He is fascinated by emergency medicine, but also wants to continue my journey through healthcare pushing the nutrition agenda. You can follow him on LinkedIn or Instagram.