Alumni Spotlight: Emilie Westcott, MS RDN LD
During National Allied Health Week, we're interviewing CAHS alumni who are making a difference
We sat down with some of our alumni who are currently working in allied health during National Allied Health Week. See what they are up to today and how their UC degree helped them get there.
Name: Emilie Westcott, MS RDN LD, '17
Title: Improvement Coordinator
Employer: Clinical Nutrition & Lactation Department at Dayton Children’s Hospital
Programs graduated from: Nutrition Sciences (MS)
How did UC prepare you and set you up for success in your career?
I started my education as a DAAP student, got a BFA in Fine Arts, and later went back to school to become a Registered Dietitian. I think there is an incredible amount of problem solving, creative thinking, and particularly thinking out of the box involved with being a successful art student. I learned to be very self-motivated, particularly in learning new crafts and looking at the interconnectedness of mediums. Further, I think the critique process taught me to be humble, to accept feedback, and to understand other’s perspectives. All these things have really served me well in my career in the sciences.
When I returned to UC to get my DPD and Master’s degree, I wanted to become a sports dietitian. I’d been a college athlete and a coach and that’s what I knew. On the first day of classes, I won’t lie, I struggled a little bit. The courses were more structured and less self-directed. I recall sitting on the steps next to Braunstein (there used to be steps there), staring at DAAP, doing the math on how much of my tuition I could get back after the first day of classes.
However, I’m so glad I trekked forward on this path, because I realized how much I really enjoy the sciences and I’m good at it! For a long time, I didn’t value what I’d learned from my first degree, but my professors and mentors helped me realize how I could translate my skills to this practice. They gave me the confidence to stand out and own all the dips and turns that got me there. Now, I particularly appreciate how those who taught me then are still there for me now. I can run by for some career advice, some project ideas, some collaborations, and I still feel like I’m a part of the school.
What do you love most about your career or current position?
My current role at Dayton Children’s focuses on data, analytics, and informatics, but the initiatives are broad and plentiful. I love that I can take time to learn more about what we do for our patients day-to-day and find problems that data and technology can solve. I’m constantly learning new skills and concepts, which keeps me really engaged. I especially love that I have a role in improving the way our patients are cared for and the expansion of dietetics services hospital wide.
What encouragement or advice can you offer to fellow professionals in your field or others looking to enter the profession?
I think I got to a position I really love by amassing some pretty eclectic skills. I didn’t always have my eye on the end goal when choosing how to spend my time and what jobs to take. So, while my path wasn’t necessarily the straight one, it was the right one. I think the key to doing this and continuing to grow is to find a workplace that shares your vision for your personal future and your role on your team or within your department.
In thinking about a career in the field of nutrition and dietetics, I’d encourage anyone to keep your options open. Take opportunities that are outside of your comfort zone and area of interest. While you’re in school is the time to really explore every avenue, because you might end up somewhere you never thought.
Anything else you’d like to share on your career path, current employment, fun projects you’ve worked on, etc.?
I’ve had the opportunity to be the data manager for the Cincinnati Rollergirls for the past several years. Over that time I worked with the coaches to develop a pretty robust peer evaluation system. The human element was really interesting because everyone has varying levels of comfort with giving and receiving feedback. The biggest part was developing the technology and data processing side to make the system manageable, produce enough data to be valid, and to keep confidentiality of the contributors.
I mention this because this was the project that helped me realize that I could take this interest to a professional level. It was through talking about this work at my job and bringing some of the skills I was learning to work with me that my manager suggested we develop this position within our department.