Danielle Penick, MS, RD, CNSC, LDN

Danielle Penick Headshot2.jpg


for something nutrishus

What interested me the most was how versatile the profession was. You could be a clinical dietitian, a community dietitian, have your own private practice, become a researcher or professor (with additional training), or you could even become a sports dietitian.

I reached out to Danielle on Twitter as a recent member/admin of Build Up Dietitians (BUD) and out of curiosity regarding her blog/online evidence based resource for cancer survivors, Survivors’ Table. I’ve learned so much about her, as neither of these are even her current day job (we dietitians like to keep busy).

Why did you become an RD?

Originally, I wanted to be a pharmacist and to attend Florida State University for college. After starting at FSU, I learned at the time they did not have a pharmacy program. This would eventually require me to transfer schools, so I started looking into other health care programs. 

There were a limited number of options and I stumbled upon the word dietetics and had no idea what that word even meant. Once getting a better idea of what a dietitian did, I thought that I might enjoy it since the profession was based around helping others. What interested me the most was how versatile the profession was. You could be a clinical dietitian, a community dietitian, have your own private practice, become a researcher or professor (with additional training), or you could even become a sports dietitian. I took my first class and fell in love with the field! It’s been 10 years and it’s still my passion.

What are area of dietetics do you work in?

Currently, I’m working in telehealth.

How would you explain what you do?

I work for a national insurance company and have the benefit of working from home. I am able to collaborate with people who have an interest in working with an RD in many different capacities such as managing their diabetes, cholesterol, high blood pressure, healthy eating, weight loss, among many other comorbidities or eating issues. One of the accounts I work on is a foreign account, which allows me to speak to people internationally as well.

What are your ‘typical’ daily/weekly tasks?

At this time I work Monday through Friday and my workload is a consult driven process. Case managers (nurses) speak with our members and will refer them to speak with me as they express an interest. I will reach out via phone and work with them consistently as needed.

On the side, in the evenings and weekends, I do a lot of writing as this has become a more recent interest of mine. I write for my own personal cancer nutrition blog called Survivors’ Table mostly, but have also written for SELF magazine, Today’s Dietitian RD Lounge, SciMom’s, and for ASU’s Ask a Biologist. Additionally, I’ve been involved in some speaking engagements.

What has been your career path?

The prior 8 years I worked as a clinical dietitian at various hospitals. I worked at both inpatient and outpatient facilities. The earlier part of my career I worked exclusively as an oncology dietitian and worked for Cancer Treatment Centers of America for about 3.5 years in Phoenix, AZ. About 90% of my day was outpatient and about 10% was inpatient, and it gave me a strong foundation in cancer nutrition. Later I worked at another outpatient cancer facility in Southern GA when I was living in North Florida. Then I moved to Raleigh, NC and worked for a large level 1 trauma hospital where I covered the cardiothoracic ICU, internal medicine, and oncology floors for about 3 years. Now I am fortunate to still work with a large percentage of cancer patients.

What advanced education or special training do you have?

Oncology is my area of expertise and my passion. I also have my Master’s in Clinical Nutrition and am board certified in nutrition support.

In an ideal world, what does the industry look like 5 years from now?

Oh that’s a really great question! Hopefully evidenced based information being shared more consistently. It would be nice to see nutrition programs universally increasing focus on more training in communications for social media, agriculture, and the scientific process (ie. Understanding meaningful findings versus small and poor quality findings). It would be ideal if we could all feel more comfortable in these arenas since there are some gaps in dietetic programs and internships. For example, I did not learn much about agriculture as it wasn’t a core part of my training, but I know some RDs who attended schools that have a strong ag focus who are well versed in these areas.

What misinformation about RDs would you like to clear up?

The stigma that all dietitians are always judging what other people are eating. Usually I’m more focused on what I am eating than examining what other people are choosing. I’m a fan of eating a variety of foods and enjoying treats as part of a balanced diet. I certainly don’t want people judging me when I’m making food selections!

What would you like people to know about RDs?

Dietitians are food resources and want to help work with people within their food restrictions, allergies, intolerances, and other parameters etc. We don’t have a single perfect diet recommendation, meal plan or recipe selection for all. RDs try to tailor their recommendations with what’s going to work for you.

What are challenges you encounter as an RD?

Unfortunately, we are seeing a shift of a lot of nutrition misinformation and pseudoscience online in many professions, but no profession is immune to this either. It’s really tough to help others navigate this sometimes and often it can be seen as taking away a sense of control or be viewed negatively. My goal as an RD is to provide evidenced based information that will best help my patients and help to save them money and time.

What are you passionate about in dietetics?

I love the versatility of the profession! We have so many areas that we can work in if we decide to try something different. What attracted me to clinical nutrition was seeing how nutrition could affect labs, making calculations for tube feedings and IV nutrition (Total Parenteral Nutrition, TPN), and seeing the immediate changes the next day when new labs were drawn. I also loved the variety of being able to provide education for patients and to make recommendations to medical care providers for diets and nutrition supplement drinks. At one of my jobs I could even write orders for the tube feedings and TPN if consulted.

If you asked me 2 years ago if I would still be working in a hospital for the future of my career, I probably would said absolutely. I assumed that would always be what I was doing. Now I’m exploring writing and speaking more. I never thought that I’d be working in this capacity and I’m LOVING it!

What makes RDs unique/different from other nutrition/wellness professionals?

RDs are trained extensively in the field of nutrition. Other nutrition professionals can be too, but most are not. For example, most in the wellness and nutrition coaching arenas are not. They may mean well, but can often provide information that is not correct and it can come at a cost. It can result in people spending unnecessary money, time, and sometimes can result in negative health outcomes.

What tip(s) would you give to our readers?

Be skeptical of nutrition resources that go against a scientific consensus or those who are going against what you find by major national governing bodies. Just because someone is popular or has a lot of followers doesn’t mean they are reliable. Even doctors.

More about Danielle:

Facebook: Survivors' Table

Twitter: @DaniellePenick

Website: www.survivorstable.com

Thanks Danielle!