RDN Spotlight: Rachel Davis, MPH, RD, LDN, IBCLC
What is your ethnicity/race? Did your family have any customs related to food?
Black/African American. We really didn’t have any other food related customs other than large Thanksgiving and Christmas meals.
Where did you go to school and complete your dietetic internship?
Penn State University 2006-2010 (B.S. Nutritional Sciences)
South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control Dietetic Internship 2011-2012 (RD)
University of North Carolina- Chapel Hill 2012-2013 (Masters in Public Health/ International Board Certified Lactation Consultant training)
Why did you decide to choose nutrition and dietetics as a career?
I have always loved food and been interested in the different types. As I've grown and learned more about the science behind it and how much it can affect our lives and our health I discovered a passion for helping other people.
What do you do now as a dietetics professional and what does a typical day or week look like for you?
I work in private practice as a RDN and an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), and teach a lactation program at Johnson C. Smith, a Historically Black College (HBCU) in Charlotte. I also work in a hospital setting as a lactation consultant. In 2018, I co-founded the Queen City Cocoa B.E.A.N.S., (Breastfeeding Education, Advocacy, Normalcy and Support), a supportive, informed and empowered community for families in and near Charlotte, North Carolina. In the U.S. African American mothers have lower rates for breastfeeding initiation and duration when compared to other races and ethnicities. Because of this, Queen City Cocoa B.E.A.N.S. focuses our support on African American women, babies and their families. This is a volunteer community comprised of lactation consultants, doula, RDNS, health educators, social workers and peer counselors- all women of color.
What was the biggest challenge for you in becoming a dietitian and how did you overcome it?
I did not receive a lot of guidance in undergrad with the options that were available to me in the field of nutrition. I was just told that most people become a dietitian. I had to research programs and find out the steps and requirements in the process alone. I thought my program was great, I just had to ask so many questions of so many people to figure out how to even start the process of applying to programs.
Have you had any mentors and how have they affected your career?
Yes. I started off my career in Women, Infants and Children (WIC) in local clinics and as a regional trainer for 10 years and worked in hospitals simultaneously. This is where I developed a love of working with infants and young children and women in the pregnant and postpartum periods. I am still very close with several mentors who have become like big sisters. I've learned and continue to learn so much from them. They provided me with on the job training but also showed me ways to advance myself professionally and personally.
Why do you think diversifying the field of nutrition is important?
It is SO important for people to see people who look like them. Many patients and clients are more receptive or feel more comfortable when they have someone that they can relate to culturally. So many people of color are used to being the only ones in the room - this can be a very uncomfortable and lonely feeling at times.
What advice would you give a student of color interested in entering this profession?
Find a good mentor who is committed to your growth and who can connect you with resources and training to help you discover what you like. Learning as much as you can will help you figure out what you like and do not like - and can help you narrow down the population you like to work with in the field.