We talked to Leah Kaufman MS, RD, CDN, the founder of Leah Kaufman Nutrition, her own private practice! Leah has had a ton of dietetic experience in different forms; we were lucky enough to have her share a bit about how she became an RD, balancing her personal and professional lives, and her favorite things about Healthie!
Why and how did you decide to become a dietitian?
I decided to become an RD when I was actually interning for a marketing company in Washington DC the summer after my junior year in college. I was a business school major and realized that the corporate world was just not for me. I was always into health and nutrition and thought, how can I make this into a career? I researched various careers in the field and then decided to shadow the dietitians at George Washington University Hospital. One very generous dietitian sat me down and told me all there was to know about getting into the field. I knew right then and there that this was for me and since then, I never looked back!
Tell us about your career to date!
I graduated college with a major in business and minor in Spanish, so I had to look for graduate programs that would allow me to start from the beginning in dietetics. I knew I wanted to get closer to home, so I found a program at Columbia University that allowed me to receive my graduate degree in nutrition while completing the coursework needed to become a dietitian. I started in an in-patient setting; I moved to an outpatient clinic and now am working on continuing to grow my private practice.
Tell us about your decision to go into private practice – why did you decide it was the right path for you, early in your career?
I made a pact to myself that by the age of 30, I would have my own practice. I really liked the idea of working one-on-one with patients in an office environment and I wanted to meet at least one new person per day! I started to learn the ropes during my dietetic internship, where I took any opportunity to shadow very successful dietitians in private practice. After graduating, I started by working part-time for another RD’s private practice, while I still had my full time job. At the time, I spent some weekends traveling to the Jersey Shore where my father is an OB/GYN and needed me to see some of his patients who were struggling to lose the post-baby weight. At age 28, I had the unique opportunity to start renting space in NYC at a private gym to begin my own private practice, so I did! It was a leap of faith, but I made it work and am so happy that I did!
What advice do you have for dietitians just getting started?
I do not think working in-patient is for everyone, but it is really where I learned the most. It was scary and a bit overwhelming at times, but I highly recommend being an in-patient RD for at least one year. I learned what it meant to read patient blood work, how to work with tube feedings, and being a part of an interdisciplinary team. Also, I strongly encourage future dietitians to make connections! I really met a lot of my RD friends as part of the Greater New York Dietetics PR Committee. The dietitians I have met there really watch out for each other – we are an intimate networking group. I know if I ever needed career advice, I have so many RD friends from this group to turn to.
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career?
The biggest challenge is the balance between work and life. Running your own business can be a challenge, especially because you are basically on call all the time. I have patients emailing me around the clock about various places they are eating at, meals they plan to prep, or questions about their office lunch-in. You learn to make boundaries and you cannot be scared to do it!
How do you think technology is changing the way dietitians are practicing care?
I think it’s a great addition! It allows you to get closer to your patients in real time. Right now, I have my patients document what they are eating, but what better way to do this than through pictures? 4 ounces of protein can be viewed in so many different ways, but with pictures, facts are right there in front of you. Everyone is on their phone these days, so the information is so easily accessible.
Why are you excited about Healthie?
I’m excited to have everything in one system that I can easily get to, as well as communicating with my patients. I love having all my forms digitized! No more paper forms is a huge help when you are not the most organized.