Meet Rita Batheja, MS, RDN, CDN, FAND AFMCP! Rita is an Integrative and Functional Medicine Registered Dietitian Nutritionist based in Long Island, New York. Rita’s notable and forward-thinking career in the field of dietetics is being recognized this year with three distinguishing awards in less than two weeks: she broke the Academy’s history!
2017’s Medallion Award by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics ( TOP award )
Visionary Award from the Dietitians In Integrative & Functional Medicine Practice Group (DIFM DPG)
Distinguished Dietitian of Long Island by the Long Island Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics
Rita is actively involved in the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics at the national, state, and local level. She is the founder of The Indian American Dietetic Association (IADA) ethnic networking group, now called the Asian Indian MIG. She was also the founding member of the Nutrition in Complementary Care DPG, 20 years ago. Rita became actively involved in the functional medicine and integrative nutrition community, recruiting like-minded individuals to join the Dietitians in Integrative & Functional Medicine Practice Group (DIFM DPG). Rita is extremely passionate about functional medicine, saying, “All dietitians should be educated in functional medicine to truly treat the root causes of maladies.”
Healthie: Tell us how you first got involved in functional medicine and integrative nutrition.
Rita: Growing up in India, I was raised with the principles of complementary and integrative therapies, so my involvement in integrative and holistic nutrition is a natural course. But in 2008, Kathie M Swift RDN, MS, RDN, FAND, EBQ invited me to attend the Food as Medicine Conference in Maryland, which is where I met Diana Noland, MPH, RD, CCN, LD, who I consider the mother of functional medicine. Diana invited me to attend a one-week Applying Functional Medicine in Clinical Practice (AFMCP) course in San Antonio, Texas where I was immersed in the functional medicine community. I now apply functional medicine and integrative nutrition into every aspect of my clinical practice. I share my experiences and learn from top experts in the field, such as Dr. Jeff Bland, Father of Functional Medicine and Mark Hyman, MD, Chairman of the Institute of Functional Medicine at the Integrative Health Symposium in New York City every year.
Healthie: What is functional medicine?
Rita: Functional medicine is the wave of the future! It’s more than traditional medicine in that it helps identify the root cause of disease and treats the individual as a whole person. Functional medicine takes a systematic approach and practitioners learn about the individual, healing them from the root cause of disease (like healing the gut and underlying inflammation).
Healthie: What does your day-to-day schedule look like?
Rita: Every day is different! I am my own boss in private practice, so my day-to-day depends upon events happening around me. I schedule my patients accordingly.
Healthie: How has the field of dietetics changed over the course of your career?
Rita: The field of nutrition is now at the forefront of everybody’s mind, so the field is what we make it. All along, I have always felt that it is up to the individual practitioner. As long as you have the goals, desires and ambition to make it happen, you will. We set the pace, and the public is learning that there’s nothing quite like nutrition. I believe that today’s doctor will be tomorrow’s nutritionist.
It’s also important to recognize that there shouldn’t be competition, but more collaboration. Doctors and dietitians need to work together to help the public. There’s room for everyone in this field, because everyone needs our help!
Healthie: Why are you excited about Healthie?
Rita: It’s a fantastic platform! New and even seasoned dietitians are always asking how they can get set up in private practice and this platform outlines everything you need to get started. It’s confusing to enter private practice between billing, charting and forms, and the Healthie platform outlines everything step-by-step. Telehealth helps people, it’s the future!
Healthie: What advice do you have for young nutrition professionals and/or functional medicine students?
Rita: Always continue learning and furthering your education. I think every RD should immerse themselves in functional medicine. Take courses, there are always free webinars. Take the Food as Medicine Course, look into the functional medicine institute, the Integrative Health Symposium here in New York City, and more. I am originator of the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin‘s [AAPI] Nutrition Guide to Optimal Health: Using Principles of Functional Medicine and Nutritional Genomics eBook I, II and III. Cream of the crop MDs, RDNs and Allied Health Care professionals have contributed their chapters as a service to the global community and this resource is free.
If you’re interested in learning more about functional medicine, check out our partnership with the Integrative and Functional Nutrition Academy, visit the DIFM DPG website, the Institute for Functional Medicine, and Next Level Functional Nutrition.