My career launches
After high school, I worked for 2 years as a medical unit secretary at St. Vincent Hospital in Portland. I saw that the medical professionals around me had little training in nutrition, and I realized how badly certain patients needed better nutrition. I knew I already had a body of knowledge I could use to help others. When I learned that Oregon State offered a degree in nutrition, it took me just 2 weeks to quit my job at the hospital and move to Corvallis. I spent my freshman year at Linn-Benton Community College and took the next year off to co-found Corvallis’ first natural foods restaurant, the West Bank Cafe. Then, anxious to get on with my education, I left the restaurant and enrolled at OSU.
Thanks to my mother, I was already holistically oriented before I arrived at OSU. There was a single moment early in my sophomore year when I realized just how different my paradigm was from mainstream thinking. My professor for Nutrition 101, a great professor in many respects, told us there was no difference between white bread and whole wheat bread except for some fiber and a few vitamins. This was technically true, but she said it as though this didn’t matter! I realized then that even people who knew the importance of nutrition to our health didn’t necessarily understand the importance of whole foods.
After graduation, I did a year-long dietetic internship at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland. It was 1977, and I was invited to sit in on the first nutrition class offered to OHSU medical students. It was interesting to learn more about the biochemical pathways of nutrients, but there was no mention of the foods or supplements a doctor might recommend to a patient to provide those nutrients. I wondered if nutrition would ever be a meaningful part of mainstream medicine.