Speaking at FNCE, My Non-Traditional Career

Posted by on Oct 26, 2012


I am happy to say that my talk earlier this month at FNCE (the Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo) was a total hit!  And I had SO much fun doing it. This was my first live speaking engagement in front hundreds of people, so I naturally thought I might be nervous. However, right before I stepped on stage a great calm swept over me. Some of it was because I had spent a good amount of time preparing. Some of it was because I was able to get some great, upbeat music piping through the house sound system as people entered the room. However I think most of  the reason I was so calm was that I realized the sea of faces I was staring into were not strangers. They were simply my future friends. And that is exactly what the whole experience felt like.

The title of the session was “Non-traditional Career Paths in Dietetics” and I was one of three speakers discussing our personal career path. The session was intended primarily for students who did not wish to pursue a career in ‘traditional’ settings such as hospitals or other clinical locations, where currently approximately 55% of RDs work. The other speakers were Jackie Newgent (a culinary nutritionist) and Lindsey Toth (a communication specialist).


My Journey

During my talk I shared about the three areas of the nutrition field I have worked in during the past 15 years: international nutrition, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), and private practice.

International Nutrition

In college at the University of Delaware, I conducted research in Costa Rica and Guatemala regarding transcultural healthcare. I also studied international nutrition in South Africa. After a short time working in corporate America, I decided to quit my job and move to Peru. I worked in a small, rural desert community in the Piura region, with a small Canadian organization named Ayni. I led workshops on nutrition and solar cooking, taught English, and assisted with income generation projects for the school and community. I worked with an incredible group of international volunteers, and can easily say that my time in Peru was one of the most rich and beautiful times of my life. I learned a great deal about international nutrition, life, and myself.

 Nutrition Day: A School-wide Celebration              Eat from the Rainbow: A workshop for Parents



When I returned to the United States, I began working on the CDC’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). NHANES is said to be the largest public health survey in the world. I traveled through out the United States with a medical examination team and over the course of six years interviewed over 5,000 people about their diet and health. I also served as an interpreter for members of the medical team who did not speak Spanish.           The NHANES Mobile Exam Center


Private Practice

In my private practice today, I offer a holistic approach to wellness. I combine my background in dietetics with the training I received through the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, and my knowledge of the interrelatedness of mind-body-spirit as a yoga instructor and life coach.





Toward the end of the 90-minute session, we opened up the mikes for questions from the audience. There was so much interest to learn more, that we never even made it to our closing remarks! After the program ended I was shocked to see the stage being rushed, and dozens upon dozens of students line up to thank us, say hello, and ask more questions. After a half an hour, we were asked to leave so the next talk could begin, and continued chatting outside. It was truly amazing!


What I Learned from Speaking at FNCE

It was clear that the students enjoyed the session. But I, too, gained so much from the experience. Preparing for a talk about my career created an opportunity to do a meta-analysis of my life and career in a way I had never done before. These were the main themes that I learned from preparing and presenting at FNCE.

1. Always Follow Your Heart. I did not always have clear idea of what I wanted to do. But I did know what I loved, and I created my life around that.

2. Sharing Your Story is Powerful. This concept never clicked with me, until I actually did it.

3.You can consider yourself shy and still speak in public (and do just fine). All three speakers considered themselves to be shy people!

4. Stay Open. Even when you feel unsure. Everything really does happen for a reason! Stay open and remember that you have forever been given just what you need…


To my new friends- I am honored to have met you. Please stay in touch! To everyone else, thank you for your support and encouragement!! I hope to hear from all of you soon.

With love and gratitude,





PS A copy of the session handout can be found HERE. I will also post my talk as soon as I receive it from the Academy.


  1. Pamela, I teared up reading this. So proud of you and what an interesting path you have taken. I forwarded this post to my daughter, who loves adventure travel, farming, and cooking. She is just starting a job designing food and nutrition programs at a family homeless shelter.

    • Thank you so much, Kim! Your daughter and I do have a lot in common (in addition to both adoring you!). What a great experience for her after her farming adventure. We should connect! Big hugs to you.

    • Wow,
      I NEVER comment like this. I was going to send you a [private]note, but thought I’d go public (mind you, I don’t do Facebook or twitter or LinkedIn). Anyway, as your former teacher and “boss” I wanted to tell you how proud I am of you and how happy I am for you. You have now really gotten the fever. It is indeed wonderful to realize that there is a receptive audience for what you are passionate about. Your website, and much, much more importantly, your passion and enthusiasm, are priceless. Stay real and keep living big and loving life. I’m one of your biggest fans.

      • Wow back, Jed! Thank you for ‘going public’ and for your kind words. That you for your support in grad school and today and always keeping it real. YOUR enthusiasm and realness makes it easier for me. I’m a big fan of you, too!

  2. You are amazing! I can’t wait to work with you 🙂 besote!

    • Yay! I can’t wait either. Besote a ti tambien 🙂

  3. You totally rocked it at FNCE! I’m happy I was there to watch you inspire everyone there! I wanted to tell you that in-person afterwards but you were already mobbed by so many RDs-to-be! (While “Fireworks” played in the background, of course 🙂

    • Thank you Minh-Hai! It was awesome to have your smiling support right in the front row. You have no idea how much that means to me. Thank you!!

  4. Pamela, you have so much to be proud of, and I am so happy you have remained steadfast to yourself and your ideals on your journey. You have always given so much to those around you and now you are sharing your gifts with so many more people. I admire you for inspiring students to think outside the box and follow their dreams like you are doing. Bravo!

  5. Pamela, I loved reading this, for loads of reasons. What a rich life you’ve lived and are living. You inspire me.

    • Thank you, Ann. Before this talk, I never considered that I might be inspiring, I always thought I was just doing (random) things that I liked. And then the other day I found myself admiring a someone because of how good she was simply at being herself. It reminded me that just being who we are, not what we do, is the gift.

  6. You never cease to inspire me! Your words and actions are loving and powerful 🙂 What a great read for my Sunday.

    • Thank you Amy!! You also inspire me, my dear.

  7. Pamela, your session was incredible…as has been your journey. I learned so much from listening to you and the other dietitians speak. I am probably even more unsure now of what exactly I want to do, but am relieved to hear that so many others feel the same way.
    It was great how you brought so many eager students into one room to discuss all of our future opportunities…the energy and excitement in the room was contagious!
    Thanks so much for doing this and showing us that following your passion is always the most important career path.

    • Thank you, Christine! It is totally okay to not be sure what you want to do – most people don’t! Especially while you are still in school. Often the story, and seeing how the pieces all fit together, only becomes clear when we have a little distance. Thank you for coming and for your post. I can’t wait to see how your journey unfolds!

  8. Sorry, you might’ve already mentioned this but is the talk going to be available anywhere?

    • Hi Ashley! Yes, I plan to post the talk on my site when I receive it. Hopefully it won’t be too long before I get it from the Academy. Are you a student?

      • Yes, I’m a student. Is it possible to get you to e-mail me when it becomes available? Thank you.

  9. Hey Pamela! I am just reading this now. I wish I knew you were going to be presenting at FNCE! I would have loved to come watch. But I’m so glad you were there to inspire the RDs-to-be…your path is an incredible one and one that I admire for sure. You are an inspiration to us all. Has the Academy posted your talk yet? I’d love to watch!

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