RDN Spotlight: Tara Lemons RDN, RN, MA, MSN
What is your ethnicity/race? Did your family have any customs related to food?
Black-Native American. Historically food in my family has always been used as a source of celebration and comfort. Family gatherings most often involved southern prepared foods
What does your typical day look like?
I currently work as a Public Health Program Analyst for the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). My primary duties involve analyzing health insurance programs and policy to determine whether or not program goals are being met, make recommendations for revisions and performance improvement. My typical day is spent researching, developing or implementing quality improvement initiatives for the Division of Acute Care Services (DACS) within the Quality Safety and Oversight Group (QSOG) of the Center for Clinical Standards and Quality (CCSQ) at CMS.
Where did you go to school and complete your dietetic internship?
Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics - Georgia State University (Atlanta, GA)
Dietetic Internship - Georgia Department of Public Health
Master of Arts in Human Services - Health and Wellness- Liberty University (Lynchburg, VA)
Master of Science in Nursing - Education- Walden University (Minneapolis, MN)
Why did you decide to choose nutrition and dietetics as a career?
I had a desire to be in the health field and to know more about how food impacted quality of life and overall health and fitness. Additionally, several members of my family were under treatment for nutrition related diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, obesity and cancer.
What was the biggest challenge for you in becoming a dietitian?
My biggest challenge was overcoming the science courses taught at GSU which were required to become a dietitian. Another challenge was finding dietitians of color who were willing to mentor or advise me on career progression and non-traditional RD opportunities.
Have you had any mentors in your career? If yes how have those mentors affected your career/life?
Mrs. MaryEtta James, M.Ed, RDN was my mentor during my undergraduate studies. We remain in touch some twenty years later (thanks to social media community). She is the person who piqued my interest in renal nutrition, helped me secure a spot with the Georgia Department of Public Health Dietetic Internship Program and was instrumental in helping me obtain my first diet technician job at one of the Atlanta Dialysis Clinics. I truly admire this woman of integrity and character. I appreciate every ounce of leadership and guidance she provided during my early years as a dietitian.
Why do you think diversifying the field of nutrition is important?
America has a growing aging population and is becoming more diverse by the minute. As nutrition experts, we understand the importance of healthy nutrition and dietetics for a sustainable quality of life and the transformative power of nutrition as medicine. Dietitians of diverse ethnic backgrounds who are able to assess, evaluate, understand, and educate are desperately needed to promote our profession. Additionally, as dietitians are branching into a variety of unique practices in dietetics including quality improvement, technology, research and innovation, our profession needs the unique insights and experiences dietitians of various ethnic and cultural backgrounds are able to bring to the field.
What is a piece of advice you would give a student of color interested in entering the field of dietetics?
My entire dietetics career, be it part-time or full-time has been in a branch of uniformed services. I would encourage all student RDs of color to never give up! This field has caused me many frustrations and disappointments. However, I encourage everyone to never forget the clinical value a RD brings to any acute care multi-disciplinary care team. Never forget the knowledge and expertise a caring and passionate RD can provide to a community and the American population as a whole. One of my favorite quotes that increases my motivation is "A DREAM written down with a date becomes a GOAL. A GOAL broken down into steps becomes a PLAN. A PLAN backed by ACTION becomes REALITY".
Tara is a Public Health Program Analyst for the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). She is also a healthcare consultant and consults with high school athletes to improve performance. Her motto is, “commit to service where you can, when you can, while you still can!” Follow her on Instagram!
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