Reflections on my 50-year career…to date
By Betsy Nobmann, PhD, MPH, RDN
It is both gratifying and satisfying to pause and reflect on reaching the 50-year milestone in the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. I became eligible for membership in the American Dietetic Association in 1966 after completing a dietetic internship at Yale-New Haven Hospital. The sweet-spot that resonated with me during interning was working with a Public Health Nurse. Public Health was where I wanted to be. My first job was with the Connecticut Department of Public Health in Hartford. Memorable tasks included working with the nurses and with a teacher who was tackling childhood obesity (even then), and reviewing the food service in a county jail. One memory is still vivid - checking the grease drip-pan in an institutional-kitchen stove and finding a layer of dead cockroaches.
In order to be called a public health nutritionist and not a nutritionist, I needed a Master’s Degree. So, my husband, Bob, and I headed for UC Berkeley. Upon completion we stayed in California instead of returning to Connecticut. I was fortunate to get a job on a research project entitled, Obesity and Leanness in Preschool Children. This longitudinal study allowed me to visit with about 100 moms and their 6 month-old babies to assess their food intake, activity, etc. That was fun! I left the project when the children were 3 years old. Next was a stint with the California State Health Department where I was involved with starting the state-wide WIC Program – designing the vouchers one evening, working with local entities, and with the formula reps.
In 1974 Bob and I decided to give Alaska a try – for 10 years we thought. The years rolled by and there was no other place we wanted to be. I was fortunate to work for the Alaska Area Native Health Service for 19 years as Chief of the Nutrition Services helping to acquire funding for nutrition services in the YK and Bristol Bay Regions and supporting existing nutrition services in SEARHC and WIC programs around the state. During that time I traveled extensively in-state and to Scandinavia and Siberia. I met wonderful people in the communities of Alaska.
In the 80’s I was frustrated by conflicting reports about the how much Alaska Native people used Native foods. Some said “practically all”; some said “hardly any”. To clarify this I set out to conduct the Alaska Native Dietary Survey of 1987-88. That started the process of researching the food consumption practices of Alaska Native people and the foods unique to Alaska. In 1996 I left AANHS and went into private practice – as IDM Nutrition Consulting with partners in toxicology and environmental health, and as EDN Nutrition Consulting, my sole proprietorship.
Forty publications and a PhD in Human Nutrition later, I am still involved and interested in the topics.
There was a time when I thought of changing careers, but realized that the country had “discovered nutrition” and what a mistake it would have been to leave then. My self-directed career path provided the stimulation and enthusiasm that continues for me today. I have formed many long-term friendships with my fellow dietitians which I treasure. It has been enriching and enlightening to work with numerous colleagues in other fields, and with my mentors through the years.
As for the future, my Internship Director, Dr. Doris Johnson said, we stand on the shoulders of those who went before. I hope I can continue to offer strong shoulders to developing dietitian nutritionists to fulfill careers as satisfying as mine has been and continues to be.
(Photo at Mendenhall Glacier, Juneau, 2009 by Kathee Hays)
Every year, Congress must pass bills that appropriate money for all discretionary government spending. (Mandary funding like Medicare and Social Security are not included in this process.)
The Academy is most interested in Agriculture and Health and Human Services bills which fund the majority of nutrition services and programs.
To find out more, please click on the document below.