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Translating Science into Soundbites

Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RDN, shares her journey in the field of dietetics, beginning as an educator and finding a place in nutrition communication.

"I remember when I got my first byline in the New Orleans newspaper, The Times-Picayune. It inspired me to pursue my love of nutrition communication."

Kathleen Zelman

Kathleen Zelman's portrait

Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RDN, is dedicated to mastering the art and science of nutrition communication. Affectionately called "Chatty Kathy" as a child, Zelman earned an undergraduate degree in nutrition and dietetics and a master's in public health from Tulane University. After graduation, Zelman worked as an educator in New Orleans, first at St. Mary's Dominican College, then as the dietetic internship director at the Alton Ochsner Medical Foundation.

But Zelman kept coming back to communications — and teachers, mentors and colleagues encouraged her to pursue writing for consumers. "I remember when I got my first byline in the New Orleans newspaper, The Times-Picayune," Zelman says. "It inspired me to pursue my love of nutrition communication." Newspaper assignments led to a weekly radio program and local television, where she was paired on camera with legendary New Orleans chefs Emeril Lagasse and Paul Prudhomme.

Zelman further honed her media skills as the Louisiana State Dietetic Association's media representative and a dozen years with the Ambassador Program of the American Dietetic Association (now known as the Spokesperson Program of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics).

In 2003, Zelman embarked on another media adventure when a startup website in Atlanta approached her about being its director of nutrition. The website was WebMD — and Zelman has overseen its food and nutrition content ever since.

For her ability to translate science into soundbites, Zelman has been recognized for media excellence by the Institute of Food Technologists, the American Society for Nutrition and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. No matter how much the media business has changed since she started, Zelman says she still enjoys the most important element: communicating science-based nutrition information to consumers.

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