Meet Courtney Cayman! Courtney is an Oncology and Wellness Dietitian with her own private practice. Courtney followed her passion for oncology and later integrated yoga into nutrition practice. The Healthie team got the chance to chat with Courtney to hear about her experience and what advice she had to share!
Why and how did you decide to become a dietitian?
When I was 9 my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer and in that process she completely changed the way we ate as a family. While most of my patients are familiar with things like hydrogenated oil now, we had completely removed it from our diet by the mid 1990s. She read so many books on nutrition and was not only able to tell me what to eat and what not to, but why, which made nutrition exciting to me from a young age. So naturally I learned from her. By the time I entered college I was all set to become a biomedical engineer, I loved math I loved science it seemed a perfect fit, but I quickly realized there was one thing missing, interaction with people. I had never heard of dietetics at that point and wasn’t sure what direction I would go in, maybe medical school maybe counseling itself. I took a nutrition class just for fun and learned that there was a whole profession dedicated to this topic that was already such a huge part of my life! It made perfect sense. I knew I would be taking a few steps down the pay grade ladder, but I also knew that this was my passion. I love reading research articles and attending conferences, and the fact that this field is constantly growing and changing. I also love the counseling aspect of being a dietitian, forming relationships with my patients and being able to watch them improve their life through nutrition and lifestyle is what keeps me passionate in this field.
Can you tell us about your career to date?
I received my undergraduate degree from the University of Florida in Food Science and Human Nutrition. From there I moved to Beaufort South Carolina to complete my dietetic internship through Beaufort Memorial Hospital and Roper Hospital in Charleston. During my internship I was given the advice that the best thing I could do was be a dietitian in a smaller area so I would learn more than just a small aspect of the field. So I moved to Macon Georgia and worked at what is now the Peyton Anderson Cancer Center and the Wellness Center both through the Medical Center of Central Georgia. This was the best thing I could have done. I primarily worked with oncology which is my first passion, but I was also able to work with cardiac rehab, eating disorders, athletes, bariatric patients, corporate wellness, general weight loss, IBS patients, and more. I gave television interviews, and wrote a monthly column, a spoke an average of 8 times every month, and would be asked to come to events such as farmers markets to be a resource for the people. I was the outpatient dietitian for that area and will be forever grateful for that opportunity. From there I moved back home to Orlando, to be closer to my family and accepted a position with Florida Hospital as their oncology dietitian working primarily with the inpatient and outpatient head and neck cancer population. During this time I also became board certified in oncology nutrition as well as a certified LEAP practitioner. I am currently working towards my masters in Nutrition and Functional Medicine. Both these positions allowed me the autonomy to create my role from nothing as they were both brand new positions, this is what gave me the confidence to branch out on my own. Which brings us to today.
Tell us about your integration of yoga into your nutrition practice.
Yoga is something that has truly changed my life and my ability to handle the roller coaster that it can be. I used to think it was just stretching and boring and a waste of my time. I would take classes off and on though with friends and eventually conceded that yoga can be quite challenging and has the capability of completely transforming your body. However it wasn’t until I emotionally and mentally needed the yoga practice that I learned its true power. Yoga is made up of 8 limbs and only one of those is the physical practice. The many limbs of yoga can influence every aspect of your life including eating habits for example the practice of moderation as well as self-study or mindfulness is key to yoga as well as health and nutrition. However I think the biggest lessons from yoga that I use in my consults is learning to listen to your body and what it needs.
What advice do you have for dietitians just getting started?
For anyone just getting started I would advise you to read the studies and textbooks and the credible books on nutrition. We are supposed to be the nutrition experts that doctors can trust and turn to, the better you are able to back up your recommendations with science the more you and our field as a whole will be respected by the medical community. Additionally, put yourself out there, the best way to grow in our field is to constantly be challenged.
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?
My decision to go into private practice stemmed from wanting to reach a wider range of patients. Branching out on my own allows me to continue to see the oncology patients, but also gives me the opportunity to reach out to new mothers, athletes, patients with no chronic disease that just want to change and improve their life, and more. Additionally, I had reached a point in my position where I was no longer challenged and no longer growing, this results in a loss of passion over time. I want to bring my patients the best of me and therefore I have to be fulfilled. As they say you can’t give to others if your own cup is empty.
How do you think Technology is changing the way dietitians are practicing care?
I am beyond excited for the ability to perform nutrition consults via secure video conferencing. Often it is hard for any of us to take the necessary time required to go to an appointment, with all the required responsibilities in our life, caring four ourselves often gets put off. By the time you drive to a location, maybe wait around for a bit, have the actual consult and then drive home, patients can easily spend 2 hours of there already overly busy days. By using Healthie, I can give my patients the same benefits in half the time. From the comfort of their own couch after a long day at work or during their lunch hour, something they could never do if they had to drive somewhere, patients can now easily devote this time to their well-being. Telehealth conferencing also allows me to see patients that live in other states and reach more people than just the central Florida area. Additionally the Healthie format allows for streamlined scheduling, messaging, payment for services and document sharing that benefits both the practitioner and the patient. While Healthie helps me meet my goals I look forward to helping you meet yours.