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Hello everyone! I am here to ask about possible career paths in the form of ACEs. I'm feeling pretty overwhelmed with the amount of options and also with how to create a path with the background I already have.

I am 28 years old, a Registered Dietitian and now MPH student in the U.S. I chose the nutrition route when I started college because I knew I wanted to work with people in some "prevention" capacity, and also wanted a job that could be flexible. I loved nutrition at the time and chose this. I had a lot of doubts through school with all of the hardcore science but ultimately fell in love with it again when I took courses like nutrition counseling, community nutrition and food policy.

I had some outpatient work in my first job and quickly realized the role that childhood trauma played in future health outcomes. I felt completely stuck giving nutrition counseling when I knew my patients needed so much more - like safe neighborhoods, access to food, healthy relationships, and adequate mental health help to name a few.
Fast forward a little more, and I ended up working as a dietitian in an Early Intervention program where I am also a service coordinator. We service mostly families that are low-income and from a variety of ethnic backgrounds. Although I do experience a fair amount of burnout, I do absolutely love the work. I speak Spanish and Portuguese as well and it's incredibly rewarding to build relationships with families in their own languages.

We ended up doing a training on ACEs as a way to begin tracking ACEs among our clients. I read The Deepest Well by Dr. Nadine Burke Harris and it was like EVERYTHING clicked for me. I wanted to continue my education to be able to combine nutrition and ACEs work. I considered so many different career paths - social work, school counseling, mental health counseling, and then eventually settled on an MPH because the systems approach to ACEs is so important to me.

I am still having some doubts on whether this was the right move, and am definitely not opposed to pursuing even more education in the future. I want to understand childhood adversity from a public health standpoint (especially for issues like food security), but also really love working 1:1 with people. I feel limited as a registered dietitian in the 1:1 setting (although I could do a lot more counseling trainings). I often envision myself as a school counselor and having great connections with students. I am inspired by this because of my own ACEs and the impact that my teachers and counselors had on me. In my mind, the connections between healthcare, communities and schools is so obvious and clear. Whatever I choose to focus on, I do know that addressing childhood adversity and practicing in a trauma-informed way will be at the center of it. If anyone has any tips, advice, guidance, etc, I would love to discuss!

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