Jennifer Mimkha, MPH, RD, LDN, CLC
for something nutrishus
Not only does Jennifer have the challenge of helping people sort through fads and misinformation, but also how genetics play a role in their needs. She also took her own interest in vegetarian/vegan eating and turned it into a private practice. We've seen many personal interests, life stages, and chronic diseases within families have an impact on the areas that dietitians choose to practice in.
Why did you become a RD?
My mom was diagnosed with chronic Lyme disease when I was 13 and I watched my parents seek out both traditional and alternative methods of treatment, many of which included nutrition therapies. I saw how much confusion there was around the use of herbs and supplements, let alone food! I wanted to help change food and nutrition policies in our country for the better so I decided to study nutrition. In college I became a vegetarian when I learned more about factory farming and it’s effects on the animals, environment, and ultimately us as consumers. A few years later I became vegan and then a whole foods, plant-based dietitian.
What area of dietetics do you work in?
I’m an outpatient pediatric dietitian, specializing in metabolic disorders (inborn errors of metabolism and genetic disorders). I also have a small private practice, Prana Nutrition, LLC in Tampa Bay.
How would you explain what you do?
I manage the diets of patients with inborn errors of metabolism such as PKU, MSUD, Galactosemia, Urea Cycle Disorders, etc. These are lifelong disorders where diet is either the only treatment or part of the main treatment in managing them.
In my private practice I specialize in plant-based nutrition. I help clients transition from their current diet to a fully plant-based diet.
What are your ‘typical’ daily/weekly tasks?
Our largest population at the metabolic clinic is PKU patients so I’ll use that disorder as an example. All of our PKU patients are required to send us monthly (weekly if pregnant or an infant) blood phenylalanine levels along with detailed food records so I can see how many mg of phenylalanine (phe) they ate prior to the blood draw. I interpret the results and adjust their dietary phe allowance as needed, so their levels remain within the treatment range. The metabolic physician and I run our clinic so I handle a lot of tasks that would typically be handled by a case worker, such as dealing with insurance companies for metabolic formula, medication, and low protein food coverage. If one of our patients is admitted I will go over to the hospital to see them and of course communicate with the whole medical team.
What has been your career path?
I completed my BS and MPH degrees in PA before completing my internship at Yale-New Haven Hospital in CT. I had lived in the Northeast my whole life and after spending a year in CT I wanted to move somewhere warm. Pediatrics interested me the most during my internship and I joined a pediatric listserv for dietitians, which is how I found out about the metabolic position available in FL. I interviewed for it right after passing my RD exam and I moved to FL two weeks later!
As much as I love my job, private practice has always been my goal and plant-based nutrition is my passion. That’s why I started Prana Nutrition, LLC. I am slowly working on transitioning to being a full time private practice dietitian.
What advanced education or special training do you have?
I have a bachelors degree in nutrition and dietetics and a masters degree in public health with a nutrition concentration. I’m a certified lactation counselor, and I have special training in metabolism/metabolic disorders.
In an ideal world, what does the industry look like 5 years from now?
Hopefully there are fewer ties to the food industry and their special interests. I think this greatly affects our credibility as a profession and makes it difficult to change public opinion about our role as the nutrition experts.
What would you like people to know about RDs?
How much work it takes to become an RD! I think we are sometimes undervalued as a profession and part of that comes from misunderstanding our many roles. Yes, we know about food but we also have a strong scientific background. Also, we aren’t the food police! We’re really not paying attention to what you’re eating when we’re out with you.
What are challenges you encounter as a RD?
Combating the latest fad diet(s). A lot of time is spent dispelling nutrition myths and explaining the facts to clients.
What are you passionate about in dietetics?
Plants! Plant-based nutrition and sustainability. I have a deep appreciation for nature and the environment and I’m committed to spreading information about the relationship between plant-based diets and conservation efforts.
What makes RDs unique/different from other nutrition/wellness professionals?
Our educational background (specifically with the sciences such as biochemistry, organic chemistry, food science, etc.) and the required internship position us in a place of authority when it comes to nutrition.
What is your favourite meal?
What tip(s) would you give to our readers?
Follow your heart. If you feel called to switch gears and start something new – do it! If you’re passionate and ambitious you can make it work.
More about Jennifer:
Website: Prana Nutrition