Alum Spotlight: LJ Fitzpatrick and Oncology Nutrition

NYU Steinhardt News

Alum Spotlight: LJ Fitzpatrick and Oncology Nutrition

 

We recently spoke with LJ Fitzpatrick, alumna of both the Dietetic Internship and MS in Clinical Nutrition programs in the Department of Nutrition and Food Studies, about her background, her time at NYU Steinhardt, and her career in Oncology Nutrition at Cedars Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles.

Tell us about yourself and what initially brought you to the Nutrition & Food Studies department:


My name is LJ and I am an RD and Board Certified Specialist in Oncology Nutrition. I am a true foodie, but also have a deep appreciation for nutrition and the sciences surrounding it. I love to read, be active outdoors, and explore Los Angeles, which is where I currently reside.

I’m from the Lower East Side of New York City, and went to the University of Connecticut for my undergraduate degree. When I graduated, I went on to complete my dietetic internship in the Nutrition and Food Studies Department at NYU Steinhardt. I graduated from NYU with a MS in Clinical Nutrition in 2015. I was initially drawn to NYU based on its amazing reputation, location, and intense academic curriculum. Moreover, I jumped at the opportunity to double my productivity - while at NYU, I was able to work toward my Masters while completing my necessary practice hours to become a Registered Dietitian. 

Did you come to NYU as a career-changer, or have you always been in the food and nutrition space?

Fortunately, I have always been interested in food and nutrition. However, a lot of my classmates attended NYU for the sole purpose of changing careers. It was interesting to have that kind of stark contrast. In retrospect, my exposure to career-changers only justified my decision for studying nutrition. It was something that I was always inherently ardent about, even in my undergraduate career at the University of Connecticut where I studied Nutritional Science.

What is your favorite memory from your time at NYU Steinhardt?

This is an incredibly difficult question as NYU was full of positive opportunities - for education, yes, but also for professional growth and networking! If I had to choose, I would say that the Dietetic Internship program at NYU is one of my favorite memories overall - and one of the best decisions - I have ever made. It was so fulfilling to share new knowledge and expertise with others who were on the same career path as me. I also met many friends, who I still keep in touch with, and attended classes with individuals from all different ethnic and career backgrounds.

I loved the projects and variety of different course options we were presented with. I am eternally grateful to Professor Charlie Mueller who was instrumental in helping me with my thesis, and teaching me Research Methods, which piqued my interest in wanting to become more involved in nutrition related research. I loved the food and nutrition lab that we got to take with Kristy from Rouge Tomate. That lab exposed me to all of the different types of cooking methods, ingredients, and cultural cuisines used worldwide. Not to mention, it was a great opportunity to sharpen my knife skills, and it was really cool to learn from one of the only culinary RDs out there; I always looked forward to that class!

Tell us a little bit about your current position.

I currently work at the outpatient Cancer Center of Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, CA. I routinely work with gynecological, neurological, breast, head and neck, colon/rectal/anal, lung, leukemia, lymphoma, renal, and testicular cancer patients. I meet with patients during their chemotherapy infusions as well as by appointment. I help these patients before, during and after their therapies that can include chemotherapy, immunotherapy, radiation and surgery. 

My primary role as an Oncology RD is to help get them through their nutrition impact symptoms, or the side effects they could be experiencing throughout treatment as studies have shown negative outcomes for patients who lose more that 6% of their body weight. I also help to guide each patient using evidence based practice with their vitamin and mineral usage throughout treatment, avoiding those that are contraindicated during therapy. I also specialize in using the Ketogenic diet with a specific tumor population. Lastly, I have been co-developing a Phase I Clinical Trial looking at dietary interventions and glioblastoma multiforme, and am currently working on retrospective case studies on it as well. 

How do you think your time at NYU Steinhardt helped impact and shape your career path?

NYU Steinhardt helped shape my career in a multitude of ways. The education I received there helped further develop and foster my background knowledge (and passion!) for nutritional science.

NYU’s necessary, comprehensive, and demanding course work, which had to be completed before any hospital rotations, helped increase my understanding and comprehension of Medical Nutrition Therapy. The professors I was lucky enough to have while attending there truly helped grow and encourage my appreciation for nutrition. My Teaching Assistants  and peers were also instrumental in helping broaden, shape, and reinforce my interest within specializing in the oncology field. NYU Steinhardt also helped me discover my desire and zeal for nutritional research, which was monumental when creating protocols and getting involved in research as an RD at Cedars.

NYU truly set me up for a successful career trajectory, and would highly recommend the program to any aspiring RD-to-be!