“One of the biggest things I learned is how a storm like Katrina really brings out the best and the worst in people and is a true test of a person's ability to survive a traumatic event with grace,” says registered dietitian Nancy Brumfield. In 2005, she and the staff at the University of South Alabama Medical Care in Mobile learned that even a sound disaster preparedness plan cannot anticipate every scenario. Her recollection of sleeping next to the ice machine in order to prevent theft illustrates the challenges she faced in the wake of the storm.
“The ceiling caved in during lunch service and we had power outages,” says Brumfield. “It helps to have someone who knows how to think on their feet and adapt to working in an environment that may be compromised in its infrastructure and availability of resources like staff, food, water and sanitation.”
Though she still works as a part-time supervisor at the University of South Alabama Medical Care, she now focuses on clinical practice (which she calls her “first love”) at the university’s Mitchell Cancer Institute. There she works with patients undergoing chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
“I became an RD because I was personally interested in how what you eat affects your health and ability to fight disease,” says Brumfield. “I also had a grandmother and several other relatives who struggled with diabetes, and I saw how frustrated they became in sorting through confusing diet information with no resources to assist them.”