Maternal and Child Nutrition graduate Katy Wright

Student Spotlight: Katy Wright

As a registered dietician working in pediatrics at the UC Davis Medical Center, Katy Wright has found the perfect marriage of her three loves: health care, children and food. As a child, she was convinced that she was going to become a doctor. In high school, she became an avid baker. It wasn’t until college that she discovered the field of nutrition and knew she had found her niche. But because pediatrics is a specialty area of nutrition, Wright had to seek out specific opportunities and advocate for herself to gain experience and expertise. With the help of a supervisor who supported her goals and completion of the UC Davis Master of Advanced Study in Maternal and Child Nutrition, Wright is now a board-certified specialist in pediatric nutrition and the primary NICU dietitian at UC Davis Health.

What led you to the UC Davis Maternal and Child Nutrition Program?

I had my heart set on the Maternal and Child Nutrition Program from the moment I learned about it. I was already a practicing dietitian at the time; however, I was only just beginning to specialize in pediatrics. I had little interest in going back to school full time or in completing a heavily research-based thesis. The Maternal and Child Nutrition Program fit my needs perfectly. It fit my professional interests, I could continue to work in the hospital full time and I was able to complete a project that was truly meaningful to me. As a UC Davis alumna, I already knew firsthand the quality of faculty, research and opportunities that would be available to me through this program. It was a no brainer.

What difference did the program make in your career?

The Maternal and Child Nutrition Program greatly expanded my perspective on the overlap of maternal and child health, public health programs, and policies that shape the way nutrition care is provided and perceived. Now, I can be a much better advocate for both my patients and for advancing my profession.

The program has also made me a stronger clinician and a more confident leader. I find myself using skills and pieces of knowledge that I gained from the program on a daily basis. I have a much more holistic view of maternal and child health than I did before, which allows me to understand my patients’ needs from multiple angles and has made me aware of the resources at my disposal to help them. This program has also connected me with experts in the field who I can continue to learn from moving forward.

This program is designed for working professionals. How were you able to apply what you were learning in the program to your work? And how was it juggling both work and coursework from the program?

Because my career and graduate coursework complimented each other, I was immediately able to apply what I was learning to my job. The classes fit into my schedule well because they were always in the evening, so I could continue to work full-time while earning my degree.

What unexpected challenges did you encounter and how did you overcome them?

The pandemic created countless challenges. I was lucky to have two quarters of instruction on campus, but the shift to online learning was a huge adjustment and the stress of working in a major regional hospital during this time has been trying as well. The situation also made it very difficult for myself and many in my cohort to complete our capstone projects in the ways that we had initially intended. Our program director, Dr. Heinig, was incredibly supportive and always available to work with us to adapt our courses to meet our ever-changing needs. She really values the opinions of her students and truly cares for everyone in a way that I have never seen before in a professor. Her constant support made all the difference in making what could have been a disastrous situation a very meaningful and rewarding experience.

Interested in the UC Davis Master of Advanced Study in Maternal and Child Nutrition?

Schedule a one-on-one appointment with an enrollment coach to learn more about the program and find out if it’s the right fit for your career goals. 

Would you recommend this program and if so, why?

Absolutely! The Maternal and Child Nutrition Program is truly unique and offers many opportunities, including specialized training in lactation, that are difficult to find anywhere else. The faculty is incredible and comes from diverse backgrounds that provides a highly well-rounded education within the sphere of maternal and child nutrition. I genuinely looked forward to each and every class session.

What do you find most rewarding about working with pediatric patients and their families?

Within the larger area of pediatrics, I specialize in neonatal nutrition, so I care primarily for premature infants. My job grants me the unique opportunity to help the tiniest patients imaginable grow every single day in front of my eyes. I find it incredibly rewarding to see the effects that my nutrition interventions can have on a daily, weekly and even monthly basis. I cherish the relationships that I build with families as I work with them to nourish their children to grow and thrive. 

Where do you hope to see yourself in the next five to 10 years?

I love my job as a NICU dietitian and I would love even more to expand my role to that of a dual dietitian and lactation consultant. Optimizing human milk feeding is a passion of mine. I hope to assist in creating new protocols aimed at improving human milk intake and lactation support in our NICU.

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