When Angel Planells, MS, RDN, CD, decided to become a dietitian, he felt he was plunging into a “woman’s world.” He was, after all, one of three men in both his didactic and master’s programs. Planells says male dietitians don’t always feel welcome in the field but, as chair of the National Organization of Men in Nutrition since 2012, he and other members are working to change that. “We think it’s a noble mission to recruit and retain men in the field,” he says.
In his other role as RDN for the VA Puget Sound Health Care System’s home-based primary care program, he feels more than welcome. “I work with our nation’s veterans; it is a population that is very appreciative of our health-care efforts.”
Tell us about your work. Who are your audiences? What need does this work help serve?
It is truly an honor and a privilege to work with our nation’s Veterans. I currently work in the Home Based Primary Care program, which provides comprehensive, interdisciplinary, primary care in the homes of veterans with serious medical, social and behavioral conditions for whom routine clinic-based care is not effective. Our primary goals are to try to safely maintain the veteran’s independence and quality of life, while also minimizing emergency room visits, hospitalizations and long-term care placement, all of which saves taxpayers money. We work in a truly interdisciplinary environment and the registered dietitian nutritionist is a valued member on the care plan team.
As the Chair for the National Organization of Men in Nutrition (NOMIN), we value and respect the diverse viewpoints and individual differences of all persons. We are trying our best to fight the good fight for all dietitians, not just the men. We need to embrace change — such as tightening job markets, limited internship opportunities — and try our hardest to recruit more males and ethnic diversity into our profession. We also need to do a better job of promoting each other and lifting each other up. People often joke that my catchphrase is: “Promote, promote, promote!”
What inspired you to undertake this work or project? Include when and how you became involved.
I moved from New Orleans to New York City in August 2002 to take my DPD classes at New York University. It was quite apparent after Day 1 that I was getting involved in a “woman’s world.” I was one of three males in the program.
Moving to Teachers College, Columbia University to finish my master’s degree, I was also was one of three males. One of my former instructors at TC told me about NOMIN and so I joined. I shortly served as the secretary in 2009 but had to resign after a family medical emergency. I have served as the chair since June 2012.
We end up losing lots of men who come into the field for a number of reasons: One, they feel it’s a female-oriented profession. Two, many men want to go into a sports-related field or physical and occupational therapy. And three, limited internship spots — in which case they get out of the field altogether.
One project NOMIN will be working on is a social media video with a variety of males in the profession showcasing a variety of fields with the goal of recruiting and retaining men in the profession. Our goal is to show this video in every classroom with nutrition programs, as well as showcase it in high school classes. We will be making a Kickstarter page to try to properly fund this effort.
What do you personally find most rewarding about your efforts?
Working with our nation’s veterans. It is a population that is very appreciative of our health care efforts. Some special moments include a veteran who we, as an interdisciplinary care team, helped to lose 200 pounds through dietary intervention.