Mary Henderson MS, RD, Ph.D. candidate

Hey SDA! I’ve been saving this blog post for a while but I decided to post it now. One, it is the end of the semester and it’s time for a treat; secondly, Mary Henderson is in the class of 2012 and should be receiving her Ph.D. at the end of this term! She received her Master’s degree and completed her DI at Tufts University and is a student in the UC Davis Graduate Group of Nutritional Biology. I contacted her over the summer and did an e-mail interview, and she kindly agreed to let me share her responses with you all. A huge thank you and congratulations to Mary.

I started out as an UG interested in Nutrition, but not knowing that there was a real profession behind it, so I started out on the Med School path because I really like the Health Science field and I figured I could incorporate some Nutrition into my practice. When I finally learned what a Dietitian was and that there was actually a career path that involved healthcare, I switched and worked toward getting into a DI. When I was applying for my DI, I knew that at some point I wanted to at least get my MS, so I applied to both MS/DI programs as well as just RD programs. I ranked the MS/DI programs higher since that would be the most ideal situation. I ended up being accepted into the Tufts University program — which was amazing. I had the opportunity to get excellent training to become a RD, but I was also able to experience Grad School. I really had no intention of pursuing a PhD when I started at Tufts, but while I was there I was introduced to the field of Nutrigenomics and the Fetal Origins of Health/Disease research and became really interested in pursuing a career (of some sort) in those fields. Hence, how I came to be a student in a Developmental Nutrition lab at UCD.

Would I do it all over again ? Absolutely ….. although it is not always easy and it has been a lot of hard/challenging work — I really love the area I am in and look forward to continuing with research but to also start to see patients again (I am doing some Corporate Wellness work as an RD right now).

For my research —

Research in general is challenging …. RD or not.

As an undergrad and as a graduate student at Tufts I was pretty much only involved in Clinical Research. My research now is completely bench and I actually work with mice as my model. I knew I needed to learn many of these skills to be able to do and understand Developmental Nutrition work — thats why I decided to pursue my PhD in this area. I would like to go back and incorporate more Clinical Research after I graduate.  Having the strong clinical and bench science skills has really made a huge difference though and has made me much more well-rounded as a student researcher.

As for my career path — I am looking to work at a Teaching Hospital/Academic Situation where there will be research going on (the academic portion) and also a DI so that I can precept dietetic interns, med students, etc. (teaching) and see patients. I was able to complete a teaching/mentoring fellowship a year ago and found that I really enjoy mentoring students, so I have also thought about being a DI Director so that I will be able to work with students that way as well.

If you are interested in conducting e-mail interviews and contributing posts such as these to the blog, contact me if you need help getting started. We’re always looking for more voices and stories 🙂


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