RDN Spotlght: Antonio Miranda, MS, RD
What is your ethnicity/race Did your family have any customs related to food?
I am proudly categorized as Hispanic. Similar to other Hispanics and all cultures, food serves an essential psychosocial role. In our Mexican-American family food serves to demonstrate appreciation to others, kindness to visitors and those in need and respect during visits to other homes. Some unique, food related customs for my family include: always paying for another's meal when you invite them out to eat, buying a surplus of food to ensure there is plenty for all visitors, never skipping meals, and always finishing the food on your plate. Lastly, these traditions were brought about from the unique upbringing of my parents. My parents grew up impoverished (financially, but not spiritually), and therefore knew the struggle of not having enough food to eat or clothes to wear. Therefore, once assimilated into American culture, they have (healthily, for the most part) embraced traditions of giving back to those in need, having enough food for everyone to enjoy the party, and to not skip meals.
Where did you go to school and complete your dietetic internship?
I completed my B.S. in Nutritional Sciences at a tremendous and challenging institution that is Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas.
Then I completed my master of science/dietetic Internship at Texas Woman's University. Now, I am pursuing a PhD in Nutrition, also at Texas Woman's University.
Why did you decide to choose nutrition and dietetics as a career?
This could be an entire lecture, but in short: to help as many people as possible. I tell the students in my nutrition class: "Knowing nutrition doesn't matter because you feel smart learning. Nutrition matters because people matter." Therefore, my motto is always to be the best dietitian and student of the game possible, in order to provide optimal care for the people in this world. This inspiration arises from observing my sister suffer through anorexia, my family member pass away from untreated diabetes complications, and from personally experiencing obesity as a child. Therefore, I view nutrition as a way to help all people, because everyone can benefit from nutrition: either physically, psychologically, or socially.
What do you do now as a dietetics professional and what does a typical day or week look like for you?
Given that I am pursuing a PhD, I work many part-time jobs to fit my class schedule. Mondays I go to my classes and in the evening complete my homework/prepare my lectures for the next day. Tuesdays and Thursdays I teach an intro to nutrition class for a Dallas Community college (which takes a lot of preparation time because I like to be an effective teacher). Wednesdays are my catch up on homework and actual “work” days. Then Fridays I work at a bariatric clinic helping those seeking either medical or surgical weight loss. On the weekends I work on building my private practice and more homework. It is a non-stop lifestyle, but will be worth it in the long run.
What was the biggest challenge for you in becoming a dietitian and how did you overcome it?
Honestly, the biggest challenge in becoming an RD was the fact that I was and still am a first generation college student. Nobody told me how to apply for college. Nobody told me how much I needed to study to get good grades. Nobody told me what a dietitian was until my sophomore year of college. I was honestly flying blindly. All I knew was that I wanted to work in nutrition, so I relied on my faith and hard work to eventually find my path. Thanks to many programs and great mentors, I did eventually forge my own path, but not without many stumbling blocks. It is a massive learning experience as a first generation college student (my parents were only able to go to 6th and 9th grade in Mexico), but I continued to look for answers, help, and self-improvement and overcame all challenges.
Have you had any mentors and how have they affected your career?
My greatest mentors are my parents. Though low in education status, my parents are the smartest people I have ever met. My mother always told me to follow my dreams, achieve the highest possible academic efforts, and when faced with a challenge to think "it can always be overcome." And this has motivated me for many years now. Additionally, my dad, with his zeal for life and hard work as well as his "get it done no matter what" mentality, I have been molded into a driven and self-confident individual. Most importantly, however, are their teachings of compassion and service that give a reason to the hard work in this life.
Why do you think diversifying the field of nutrition is important?
Like any field, diversity allows for optimization of care. While a non-Hispanic can provide tremendous service to a Hispanic patient (without question), having experts from diverse backgrounds allows for a progressive movement toward true understanding of patients. Together, regardless of ethnicity, we can all learn from the experiences of all and identify how to optimize education and interventions for people of all populations.
What advice would you give a student of color interested in entering this profession?
Never lose sight of your dreams. No matter what you want to do, always remember that nutrition (and all professions) matter because other lives matter. Every note you take, essay you right, presentation you give, will help make you a better practitioner in the long run. This will then allow you to be a force for good, help, and even save many lives. You are building yourself up as a super hero. Never lose sight of that dream.
...And also....put in the work. Nothing comes free or easily. It takes hours and years to get there, but it's worth it.