I’m so excited to introduce Agnes! Agnes and I met as dietetic interns while we were both in Boston this year. Her genuine passion for connecting with and helping others is infectious and I’m grateful she’s sharing some of that passion and her career goals on here! She recently started an instagram account dedicated to sharing blurbs on nutrition and health in a way that’s easy to digest and thought-provoking. It’s already taking off, so follow along here: @nutrition_blurbs. No doubt, she is changing the way we talk about health. Meet, Agnes!
SO let’s start off with introductions, tell us a little about yourself!
Hello! My name is Agnes and I’m a dietetic intern and graduate student at Tufts Medical Center and Tufts University. I am originally from a suburb of Chicago, IL and if you ask anyone who knows me, I love all things from Chicago (especially the sports!). I graduated in 2017 from Cornell University with a major in Nutritional Sciences and then I moved to Boston to start my MS/DI. My parents are both from Seoul, South Korea and moved to Chicago a couple years before I was born. Being a first-generation Korean-American has always been kind of a big part of my identity.
How did you get started? How’d you get the into nutrition?
My freshman year college roommate (who also was a high school friend and field hockey teammate) had at that point, been vegan for a couple of years. Living and going to dining halls/eating out with her made me become more aware of just how nutrition and food choices play a role in everyday life. I also met for the first time, someone who had numerous severe food allergies and that again, continued to open my eyes to how for some people, food is like medicine and can be used for therapeutic purposes. I came into college as a biology major and by the middle of sophomore year I was a nutrition major on the pre-dietetics track.
You’re doing a combined Dietetic Internship/Master’s program - what’s been your favorite rotation or class so far?
My favorite rotation so far has been inpatient pediatrics. This rotation included the general pediatric floor, the pediatric bone marrow transplant unit, and the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) so it was really cool getting to work with kids of all ages and diagnoses. A very close second favorite was the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) rotation which, although super specialized, was an incredible experience where you could really see nutrition’s impact on these tiny babies’ growth and health.
What was the inspiration behind @Nutrition_Blurbs?
Long story short, I felt like putting together a whole food and nutrition account with a color theme and aesthetically pleasing pictures seemed like too much work. That being said, I still wanted to share my thoughts and evidence-based nutrition information for my friends on Instagram, so I took a more Twitter-like approach and instead of using pictures, I just write a short “blurb” and post that instead!
You’re also involved in the Massachusetts Dietetic Association, what’s your favorite part of that? What’s your advice to someone who wants to be more involved in their field?
I think that any student or professional in dietetics that finds themselves in Massachusetts, especially the Boston area, is very fortunate because there’s such a large network of people in dietetics here. So this year, I’m on the board for the MSDA and I think my favorite part of it is just getting to meet new people. I would advise students and current RD’s alike to volunteer with their local organizations to give back to the community while getting to know others in the field.
What’s your advice to someone who wants to pursue their RD?
Reach out to RD’s! It’s funny because this is the kind of advice I always hated hearing (I hate the word “networking” to be honest and I low-key get email/phone anxiety) but it really is so true. 95% of RDs will be happy to help you and talk to you about their experience and they are your best resource.
When someone finds out you study nutrition and are going to be an RD, what’s the most common question you get asked and how do you answer it?
I usually have people telling me their most common GI symptoms (like gas, cramping, or bloating) and ask me what foods they should avoid. I try to first explain that there are so many different possible reasons why someone could be experiencing those symptoms, and that finding the actual cause(s) requires really diving into your diet history (which I’m happy to do if they want). But basically, there is no one-size fits all universal answer!
What’s been the biggest learning curve you had of the internship/grad school?
Something I think I have to constantly remind myself is that as much as an internship feels like a regular job, you are still learning and that you are going to make mistakes.
As an RD what do you hope someone takes away after hearing you speak about nutrition or having a session with you?
I want people to realize how much nutrition can offer in our current state of medicine and healthcare; how it can be preventative for chronic diseases and long term health as well as crucial in acute illnesses and key to helping someone heal in the hospital.
What’s your dream job?
There’s no way I can choose just one so I’ll tell you my dream career “trajectory” –first I would love to just work on an inpatient pediatric or neonatal floor in a big city hospital (ideally in Chicago) for a while, and then I want to work with younger athletes (high school or college) since sports are something I’ve always loved. And my dream dream job would be to be the team dietitian for a major Chicago sports team!
What’s something you wish you learned in school or could tell your younger self?
Stop comparing yourself to other people. Your self-worth is not determined by how you “rank” among others, and it’s better to believe in yourself and be confident than always worrying and being self-conscious.
Take us through a typical (or not-so-typical) day!
Right now I’m in the 2nd half of my adult inpatient rotations so I’m working with the dietitian who covers the Hematology/Oncology floor as well as the Neurology floors. I wake up at ~6:30am, commute over to Tufts Medical Center, screen the patient census for who I might see that day and meet the RD on the floor by 8:30am. Then it’s really dependent on the day, but I see anywhere from 4-6 patients and write notes. I’m usually done by 4:30pm but then I try to do a couple hours of homework, catch up on emails, etc. and if I’m lucky I’ll go to the gym or a yoga class (let’s just say I have not been so lucky recently). This semester I get home pretty late because on Mondays I have a night class, on Wednesdays my friend and I watch the new episode of Riverdale (best show ever!!) and on Thursdays I go to a small group for my church. So dinner is often up in the air depending on when I get home! And then I’m usually in bed by 11pm!
What’s your biggest goal as of now? (personal or career-related)
Right now it’s honestly just finish up the internship with a bang! I have about 6 months left and a lot left to do before it’s over, but it’s already flying by so fast…
What’s something you’re currently obsessed with? (people, things, products, habits, places - can be anything!)
The CW show “Riverdale”. I don’t remember the last time I was this dedicated to a television show haha
What does “health” mean to you?
To me, health means: a physical/mental/emotional state where you are able to form connections with the people and environment surrounding you, pursue your goals, tackle the challenges you face, and just overall enjoy life. How people stay healthy can vary and it can look different for each individual, but the one thing that doesn’t change is that health allows you to take on life in a meaningful way.
How do you see (or hope to see) our perception of health and nutrition changing in the near future?
I hope that people will start to see the true complexity of health and nutrition. In our society and culture we love to over-simplify things, and while some aspects of nutrition are quite simple, a lot of it is not. I think the more people appreciate that, the more mindful they will be about nutrition.
How can readers keep up with you? Social handles and platforms!