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"What I learned with my journey is to never doubt yourself. Life it hard — but don't give up! Believe in yourself. If you put your mind to what you love, you have got to succeed."

Sheetal Parikh

By Sheetal Parikh, MS, RDN, LDN

I came to this land of opportunity from India in January 2001 with lots of hopes and dreams of working and contributing to the field of nutrition and dietetics. I’d already graduated with a bachelor’s degree in food and nutrition and a master’s degree in dietetics and had one year of experience as a Ph.D. student and professor of nutrition and dietetics at a university in India. I was confident that I would be able to showcase my love, passion and expertise for this field but didn’t know that destiny had a different plan for me and was ready to test my perseverance for my beloved profession.

After some research, I found out that to receive the credential of registered dietitian nutritionist in the United States I would have to go through undergraduate schooling and an internship program all over again. I couldn’t understand it and refused to go back to re-do an undergraduate degree. In my heart, that was stepping backward and therefore I opted for the Ph.D. program in nutrition at the Loma Linda University in California. I was enjoying every moment and thought this was it until six months in I received news that my younger brother in Florida, who was only 22 years old and my only family in the US, was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. My husband and I decided to move to Florida to take care of him.

With mental and emotional trauma accompanied by financial stress then, I had to start working outside my field to make ends meet for my family and to be there for my brother. Long story short, it took me 15 years long to come out of the responsibilities and to feel secure in every way to pursue my dream of working in the field of nutrition and dietetics. The entire time in the back of my mind I was thinking of how I can get back to what I love!

In 2016, after many thoughts, I decided to take a step back to move forward and got enrolled in a dietetic and nutrition coordinated bachelor’s program. I was able to complete the program with a 4.0 grade point average achieving one more bachelor’s degree in 2017 and winning the Florida State Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Outstanding Student of the Year Award.

With my work ethic and passion for nutrition, I got hired as an intern and now work as regional dietitian in clinical and patient services for Morrison Healthcare. My specialization and expertise in plant-based nutrition led me to be highly involved with the Vegetarian Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group and I served as the Florida Academy coordinator and diversity liaison for two years. At present, I am a part of the executive committee fulfilling the role of treasurer. I have also been involved with the Commission on Dietetic Registration on different projects contributing to our profession.

What I learned with my journey is to never doubt yourself. Life it hard — but don't give up! Believe in yourself. If you put your mind to what you love, you have got to succeed. Perseverance and alacrity are the keys to personal success and satisfaction.  The world is always beautiful and giving around us — it is the attitude that makes or breaks us. Therefore, it is not necessary to always move forward for success, sometimes taking a step back can result in a leap of success forward, which I learned with my journey. I am very glad for our fellow dietitians who don’t have to go through the challenges that we professionals from different countries have to experience in order to achieve our dreams!

This content originally appeared in Food & Nutrition Magazine®.

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