RDN Spoglight: Morgan McGhee, MPH, RD
What is your ethnicity/race Did your family have any customs related to food?
I am Black American. I grew up in Alabama and while we ate typical "southern" food there was also a very strong influence in a "plant-based" diet. My parents were very committed to ensuring that my sisters and I knew how to cook. We had cooking days and it could not be something we "usually" ate. From a very young age, this helped me to be creative in the kitchen and to try new things that impacted my decision to become an RD.
Where did you go to school and complete your dietetic internship?
I went to undergrad at Oakwood University in Huntsville, AL and earned a B.S. in Biology then went to Loma Linda University in Southern California where I received a Masters of Public Health in Nutrition that was a coordinated program in Dietetics.
Why did you decide to choose nutrition and dietetics as a career?
As a teenager, I understood the relationship between food and health and THOUGHT I wanted to practice preventive medicine (hence the degree in Biology). However, after graduating it became clear to me that I wanted to pursue a path in public health nutrition and after completing my internship in school foodservice, I decided that was the direction I wanted to go in.
What do you do now as a dietetics professional and what does a typical day or week look like for you?
I recently transitioned into a position as FoodCorps' School Nutrition Leadership Director for the reWorking Lunch initiative. With collaboration from numerous stakeholders, the program will create a pipeline for the next generation of school food leaders. Our leadership program will launch in just over a year so during a typical week, I have phone calls and meetings with training partners or school district directors about core program elements and with internal stakeholders on best practices from our direct service program. I love my job because I am able to use my past experience as a menu planner, nutrition educator and operator while using my expertise in program planning, implementation and evaluation as a public health dietitian.
What was the biggest challenge for you in becoming a dietitian and how did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge I faced in becoming a dietitian was test anxiety. I did not pass part of my graduate school comprehensive exam and I did not pass the RD exam by one point. The results from these tests were incredibly disappointing and caused me to doubt the calling on my life, especially because they were within months of each other. While waiting to retake the exams, I focused on self-care, whether it was dancing, reading or being outside. It was also helped to have a community of support to encourage me.
Have you had any mentors and how have they affected your career?
I would not be where I am today without the guidance and support of others. Whether it was a dietetic preceptor, a co-worker in another department or a more experienced, wiser friend; these people have played an essential role in my career. These relationships also informed my career choice in wanting to help others discover their own potential, especially in school nutrition.
Why do you think diversifying the field of nutrition is important?
As I once said to a committee chair, "How can we represent student health if we do not have a representative committee?" If we truly want to impact health outcomes in this country, we have to be serious about who is a part of the conversation. It is more than having a "diverse" staff but truly challenging ourselves on understanding the systemic barriers to good health in the United States.
What advice would you give a student of color interested in entering this profession?
Know your worth. Do the work but also know what value you have as an individual and know what contributions you can make to an organization. NO ONE can determine your value, so believe in yourself and keep pushing!