Sonja Stetzler, MA, RDN, CPC
SPEAKER / COACH,
for something nutrishus
Libby Rothschild highly recommended Sonja for an interview in this series based on her own experience being coached. We have seen many dietitians working in coaching roles and some in communications, however, public speaking coaching and medical improv are definitely unique, as is Sonja's career path. Sonja is a great example of the diversity that exists in dietetics and the niches we can create with our similar, yet varied educational backgrounds.
Why did you become a RD?
I had an interest in food as my mom grew up on a farm and we would spend time in the summer at my grandparent’s farm and sometimes helped pick and prep the vegetables they grew for our meals. My dad’s side of the family was Lebanese, and I also grew up eating Lebanese food - long before the Mediterranean diet became popular. When it came time to decide on my major in college, the dietetics curriculum aligned with the subjects I did well with in high school, and there seemed to be a variety in the type of work I could do, so it seemed like a good major to go in to.
What area of dietetics do you work in?
I am the founder of Effective Connecting, providing communications/public speaking coaching. I also facilitate a Speaker Success MasterMind group for dietitians. Essentially, my current work is based in communication and education. This is not where I started, though. My career has had many twists and turns based on areas of interest for me. Throughout my career I have held many positions in non-traditional roles: food service (I was a cafeteria manager for a large medical university), sales, sales management, quality assurance, adjunct faculty teaching in the School of Communications, executive communications coach.
How would you explain what you do?
I work with medical professionals to improve their communication skills by using applied/medical improvisation techniques. I use what is called Applied Improvisation, which is different than improv for comedic or entertainment reasons. Applied Improvisation uses the same skills that are taught to actors and musicians and applies them to other fields such as medicine, business, and education. Applied Improvisation teaches skills such as listening, observation, collaboration, creativity, risk-taking, and thinking on your feet more quickly.
What are your ‘typical’ daily/weekly tasks?
There are no typical weeks for me! Every day is different. I develop and deliver communication workshops, speak on communication topics, coaching individuals specifically on improving their communication and speaking skills, write about speaking and communication topics, and I facilitate a Speaker Success mastermind group for dietitians (starting up again in January 2019).
What has been your career path?
What advanced education or special training do you have?
My Master degree is in Organizational Communications. I also earned my executive coaching certificate. I have been trained in applied improvisation by Second City in Chicago and Medical Improv at Northwestern University’s Medical School in Chicago.
In an ideal world, what does the industry look like 5 years from now?
Healthcare is changing and like most other industries, it will look different in 5 years from what it looks like today. Artificial intelligence will play a much larger role in how we work with our patients and clients. Dietitians (as well as other healthcare professionals) will need to be highly skilled in communication and conversational intelligence to be effective with patients, clients, and with interdisciplinary healthcare teams.
What would you like people to know about RDs?
That we have diverse interests and areas of specialty.
What do people think that you do for a living?
In my experience, most people have a narrow view of what dietitians do, and they are surprised when I talk about what I do from a communications perspective.
What are you passionate about in dietetics?
The opportunity to impact someone’s life in a healthy way with food.
What is your favourite meal?
I don’t have a favorite meal, per se, however I gravitate towards meals that are mostly vegetarian and are creatively developed.
More about Sonja:
LinkedIn: Sonja Kassis Stetzler, MA, RDN, CPC
Facebook: Effective Connecting