Meet Sheila Dean and Kathie Swift! Kathie and Sheila are the founders of the Integrative and Functional Nutrition Academy (IFNA). IFNA offers training that caters specifically to nutrition professionals to teach them how they can integrate the skills, tools and knowledge of Integrative and Functional Nutrition into their own dietetic private practices. We sat down with Sheila and Kathie and reflected on their careers so far. Read on for some incredible advice for new RDs, and learn all about IFNA!
Can you tell us a little about how your careers have taken shape?
Sheila Dean became a dietitian back in the 90’s. She told us, “I never really had any one full-time job for any one facility. I always had some sort of side work – which eventually evolved into a full-time functional nutrition based practice.” Sheila opened Palm Harbor Center for Health & Healing in the early 2000’s and took up various side teaching opportunities at universities such as the University of Tampa, Maryland University of Integrative Health, Schiller International University, St. Petersburg College and more recently University of South Florida’s Morsani School of Medicine. She also authored several technical papers and textbook chapters. Her passion has centered on not only including Integrative and Functional Nutrition into her own practice, but to teach other dietitians how to incorporate this approach into their own practice. This is why Sheila connected with Kathie Swift to create IFNA.
Kathie Swift became a registered dietitian in 1981 and started her career in public health. Her diverse background led her to a progressive hospital where she was able to teach nutrition and culinary classes in a state-of-the art demonstration kitchen. She later moved overseas to work in a hospital in the UK. There, Kathie explored integrative therapies and other alternative forms of medicine, which later became recognized as Functional Medicine. Kathie went on to direct a number of programs at Canyon Ranch Health Resorts in the Berkshires where she initiated nutritional medicine services and programs. Kathie explained, “So many patients would ask us how to find other dietitians trained in this model.” This led Kathie to join forces with Sheila to create IFNA.
What career milestones are you most proud of?
Sheila explained, “IFNA. It’s a milestone I’m very proud of… A huge labor of love.” Sheila also shared that she was very proud of watching her private practice grow as a solo practitioner, and in her personal life, her kids. She is very proud of who they’re growing up to be!
Kathie also agreed, “IFNA is the culmination of my professional journey.” A friend of hers had told her, “In your heart, you’re an educator.” Teaching Integrative and Functional Nutrition has been Kathie’s passion and IFNA has made that a reality. “It is transforming the practice of nutrition,” Kathie said. “I want this to be my lifelong legacy.”
Tell us about the need in dietetics that led you to start IFNA.
Sheila explained to us, “There’s a lot of information exploding about Functional Medicine and not one easy way to access this information other than the Institute of Functional Medicine. Before IFNA, there was no comprehensive and systematic program that also offered BOTH a Certificate of Training AND an Advanced Practice Credential specifically geared towards dietitians.” There was a need for IFNA. IFNA is able to bring experts to teach in a matter that is cohesive and organized. “It was now or never,” Sheila said. “And I’m happy to say it’s been really well received.”
What advice do you have to share with new dietitians or RD’s looking to get into private practice?
“Explore,” Sheila said. “Invest in yourself and your education. And always ask questions.”
Kathie added, “Today it’s so important to embrace technology. It can make a difference in your practice.” She also advised that new dietitians always continue to expand their skill set into their other interests “whether it’s yoga, or art therapy, or writing.” Then lastly, Kathie said, “Get trained with IFNA.”
Thank you both for your meaningful contributions and for creating IFNA – it’s truly an incredible and needed Academy for nutrition professionals! Healthie community, if you haven’t checked it out yet, we recommend doing so!
Update May 2017: If you’d like to learn more about IFNA, check out our interview with IFNA founders Dr. Sheila Dean and Dr. Kathie Swift.