Erica Givens

Erica Givens, Student Clinical Nutrition Program
“I have a whole new world of opportunity available to me.”

From Curiosity to Career

A few years ago, while reading magazines like Cooking Light, Erica wondered what an “RD” was, letters she saw after the author’s name on many stories. “That initiated my interest in the whole career field,” she says. So she visited the American Dietetic Association website and emailed every single research dietitian (RD) in the Houston area in an effort to try to get her foot in the door someplace as a volunteer.

She found an opportunity at MD Anderson to do just that, and it later turned into a job. While there, she often watched presentations by the RD she worked with, and says, “I found myself a little envious, because I wanted her job! I had to figure out what I needed to do to get to that next level.”

Charted Courses

When Erica moved back to Dallas and took a position at UT Southwestern, she realized there was a master’s level clinical nutrition (CN) program, which was exactly what she was looking for. She emailed CN, and they responded – within a day! – and “laid everything out for me. They were so welcoming and friendly.”

Balancing Act

“Being back in school was a bit of an adjustment, especially as a single parent of a young son. The program is demanding, but the faculty is always ready and willing to clarify and help out as needed. So this first year has been a whirlwind, but it’s been very exciting, very powerful, and it’s preparing us for a rewarding career as an RD.”

Learning Comes to Life

In rotation, Erica was given the opportunity to observe a laparoscopic surgery, standing just a few feet away from the surgeon throughout the four-hour procedure. “Being able to see that first-hand really brings what you’re learning in the books to life. It piqued my interest in bariatrics, and I would like to work in that area after graduation.”

Collaboration is IDEAL

The School of Health Professions offers a program called IDEAL (Interprofessional Development, Education, and Active Learning) where students from different disciplines come together to learn about solving problems. Erica says, “It’s interesting to see the different sides as we move toward a team-oriented approach to comprehensive health care – MDs, RDs, nurse practitioners, PAs – everybody working together, moving forward as a team, focused on patient care.”

What’s Next?

“After graduation, the best thing would probably be to get a couple of years of good clinical experience,” Erica says. But she admits that she loves to cook – she wants to eventually author a cookbook – and would like to partner with a culinary program to teach chefs about applying nutrition. Later, she would possibly like to pursue a Ph.D. “Being an RD, the sky’s the limit,” she says. “There are so many opportunities there, I’ll have a problem picking just one!”

The Last Word

“I believe my life has taken a turn for the better, and I have a whole new world of opportunities because I am in this program now, which has provided me with the tools, knowledge, and skills to help others.”