Mitchell Zandes is an adjunct professor at New York University (NYU), where he teaches an introductory course in nutrition to undergraduate students. He’s also a clinical dietitian at Montefiore Medical Center and the creator of Clinical Nutrition University on YouTube.
Please describe your work.
I’m a clinical dietitian by trade, meaning I provide nutrition therapy to patients with unique nutritional needs due to a medical condition or disease. Most of the patients I work with are hospitalized because they’ve had a stroke, or because they require surgery on their digestive tract. My area of expertise is nutrition support, which includes the provision of artificial nutrition through a feeding tube and/or directly into the bloodstream.
When did you first suspect that you wanted to work in this field? That is, when did you first fall in like—or love?
I first became interested in nutrition when I was an undergraduate student at Clemson University. My major was English, but because I was working out a lot and playing basketball, I spent much of my free time learning how to train and eat for performance. By the time I graduated, I’d learned so much about exercise and food that I wanted to share with others.
I eventually enrolled at LIU Post to receive a formal education, and that’s where I was introduced to medical nutrition therapy. My passion for performance nutrition quickly subsided once I realized there was an endless amount of information to learn about diet and disease. I also saw how I could help the sickest, most vulnerable populations in the community, and thought it would make for a rewarding career.
Describe the training you’ve undergone, academically and/or professionally, to reach this point in your career.
I started at Clemson University, where I received my bachelor’s in English with an emphasis on Writing Publication Studies. Then, I went to LIU Post where I got a second bachelor’s degree in Nutrition & Dietetics. From there I entered my dietetic internship — the year of clinical experience that is required to become a registered dietitian — through The United States Department of Veterans Affairs at the James J. Peters VA Medical Center in the Bronx. During this time, I started my master’s in Clinical Nutrition at NYU. As soon as I finished my dietetic internship, I was hired at Montefiore Medical Center as a clinical dietitian. I finished my master’s that year, and shortly after was hired at NYU to teach the undergraduate class that I’m still teaching today. In addition to being a registered dietitian, I hold an advanced practice certification as a Certified Nutrition Support Clinician (CNSC) through the American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition (ASPEN).
I often credit my online presence as the reason I was hired to teach at NYU. For several years, I’ve been posting free educational content through my Instagram, and have established myself as a subject matter expert on a number of topics in the field. I truly don’t believe my name would have been suggested for the open position had I not been so public about my knowledge and passion.
What qualities (aptitudes, preferences, personality traits) do you think make students most likely to enjoy and succeed in your class, and to pursue studies in your field?
To succeed in my class and pursue studies in my field, I think the first characteristic required is a strong interest in taking care of your own health. Having a healthful lifestyle and diet is not a prerequisite to becoming a dietitian — or doing well in a nutrition class — but it does help for two reasons:
- Students seem to be more motivated to learn the material;
- As a dietitian, practicing what you preach makes it much easier to teach others and provide realistic recommendations.
In other words, it’s much easier to be asked to learn about things that you enjoy, and it’s much tougher to help somebody build healthy meals if you’ve never done it yourself.
If a student is interested in eventually working in a hospital, it’s also helpful to be a team player since you’ll have to work alongside nurses, doctors, social workers, and other professionals.
Could you describe what a typical week looks like for you?
My class at NYU is once per week for approximately three hours. The first half is lecture-based, and the second half we spend discussing a hot topic or trend in nutrition. Usually I’ll spend one day per week preparing for the class. This includes making adjustments to my PowerPoint presentations and gathering information to facilitate the class discussion. Some weeks, I’ll also have written assignments to grade.
The remainder of my week is split between working for Montefiore Medical Center and creating content for Clinical Nutrition University. I’m at the hospital from 6 AM-2:30 PM on Monday through Friday, and then work on my own project in the late afternoon and at night. Clinical Nutrition University — a YouTube channel with videos designed to educate dietetic interns — is currently a hobby, but something I intend to turn into a business in the future.
What’s the best book in your field you’ve read recently, and what’s the best book you’ve read recently for pleasure?
The best book I’ve read recently in my field is Human Metabolism: A Regulatory Perspective, by Rhys Evans and Keith N. Frayn. It provides a more comprehensive overview of metabolism than any textbook I have seen, and it does it in a way that’s easy to understand. It’s not big or bulky, and the information flows in a way that keeps the reader engaged. I highly recommend this book to students who are pursuing nutrition studies. It won’t teach you what to eat, but it will teach you exactly how the body processes food from the time you see it until the time it leaves your body, among other relevant subjects.
Outside of my field, the best book I’ve read is Marketing Made Simple, by Donald Miller with Dr. J.J. Peterson. Throughout my career so far, I’ve seen how a strong social media presence can attract new and unique opportunities. This book provides strategies to establish yourself as an authority on a subject, highlight your work online, and attract paying customers.
Thank you to Mitchell Zandes for participating in our Q&A series! Getting to know professors at your school is an important part of the college experience and can help you decide on your best college fit in the college admissions process. Explore the upcoming presentations on our website or set up a complimentary consultation to learn about our services. Whatever your question, Collegiate Gateway is happy to help!