From the very beginning of her career as a registered dietitian, Chimene Castor, EdD, RDN, LDN, CHES, FAND has been intently focused on making a difference. After completing her bachelor’s degree and working her first position as a long-term care dietitian, a light bulb went off.
Chimene saw geriatric patients with conditions that she hoped could be prevented.
“Pediatric behaviors lead to geriatric conditions, and I thought if I went into education I could change the way people eat, starting with children,” Chimene said. So she went on to get a Master’s and a Doctoral degree in health education.
Putting Her Health Education Degree Into Action
In the midst of completing these degrees, Chimene worked as a consultant dietitian with Dietitians On Demand and she started teaching nutrition. First at Prince George Community College, then as an adjunct at Trinity Washington University and finally at Howard University, where she is now.
Chimene teaches dietetic students in Howard’s coordinated program, which she said has been an amazing, hard, learning experience.
Chimene says so herself: “I am not the nurturing type, but I have compassion for our students to excel in the field of dietetics. It is critical that we push our students to reach their potential. Our dietetics program is running strong at 90-97 percent.”
The students do not always like the push, but once they graduate from the program Chimene said she gets cards and a thank you for “pushing” them.
One of the things Chimene has done is to leverage resources by joining and volunteering with several boards around the community to gain access to organizations in exchange for resources and learning materials.
“Because I worked hard for them, I expected them to work hard for me,” Chimene said. She does pre-tests and meets with students on weekends to bring up their skills in areas where they are behind.
Chimene said it was so intense at first, and the students were unsure of her new methods.
“There was no love there,” Chimene said and laughed. “But after they passed their board exams they were grateful, and that’s when the thank you cards roll in,” Chimene said.
For five consecutive years, 100 percent of Chimene’s students passed the RD exam on their first try.
Year after year Chimene makes a difference in the lives of dietetic students, but she doesn’t stop there.
She is developing a global health certificate program and a health education certificate program at Howard. Plus, she’s working to develop a diabetes intervention program to honor the legacy of her late father.
“Instead of getting stuck in the pain of his death, I wanted to use it to fire me up,” Chimene said.
Spending 15 years in long-term care taught her to see the value of life. Seeing people day after day with chronic conditions, who don’t have access to simple things, like their fingers, inspired her to take action.
“I had this amazing older woman tell me: ‘Don’t just live, live. Think about how you can be a light to someone, don’t just live for yourself.’ And I took that to heart,” Chimene said.
To her fellow dietitians this National Nutrition Month, Chimene has a message, especially for new dietitians or those trying to figure out what’s next: “Don’t try to figure out what is next, just do something and do it well. Do the best you can do now. If you see a need, take care of it, don’t wait to be asked.”
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