Alumni Spotlight: Breanna Campbell (BS ’14)
Nutrition Sciences alumna Breanna Campbell is using her passion for and experience in nutrition and dietetics to make an impact across populations in North Texas.
Breanna Campbell (then, Breanna Brinkley) began her freshman year at Baylor with her sights set on dental school. But after taking a health and wellness course with a six-week nutrition section as a part of her curriculum, Campbell began to rethink her preconceived career path. A professor recommended she take a nutrition sciences course that would give her more exposure to the program while still counting toward her current major.
“I fell in love,” Campbell recalls. “I thought, ‘This is it. You can still help people. It’s not teeth, but this is something I’m passionate about.’ It was health science and food, and I knew it was perfect for me.”
After switching majors and graduating with a degree in Nutrition Sciences from Baylor in 2014, Campbell went on to complete her master’s degree and her dietetic internship at Texas Women’s University on the path to become a Registered Dietitian.
Reflecting on her Baylor experience, Campbell reveals a deep appreciation for her professors, her classmates, and the unique opportunities that came with the program. This includes serving as a Peer Nutrition Educator, a position that allowed her to, under the oversight of a Registered Dietitian, provide basic nutrition advisement to her fellow students.
Today, Campbell works as a Registered Dietitian for Southwestern Health Resources’ nutrition program, a joint venture between UT Southwestern Medical Center and Texas Health Resources aimed at better providing education and empowerment to individuals managing chronic conditions.
“We do a lot of patient education as well as the clinical work helping those with diabetes or renal disease or a cancer diagnosis,” Campbell explains. “But we also make nutrition programs, so we’re working on grocery store tours or with local farmer’s markets to create resources to help the populations around DFW. We’re trying to help people before they have to be hospitalized and to keep them from having to go to the hospital.”
Campbell also recently became Board Certified in Oncology Nutrition. She shares how this particular population has found a special place in her heart and in her practice as a dietitian.
“It’s a very scary time for them. With a lot of their treatments, doctors are telling them what medications to take and they do the surgeries and the radiation, and the only thing they are given control over is food,” she said. “I often see people scared to eat or who will just eat things that made them feel gross to get the needed calories.”
Working with oncology patients, Campbell has also noticed a gap that sometimes exists between a patient’s background and culture and the recommendations being provided to them. She often observes individuals from Black, Latino, or other cultures receiving handouts about “plain” Western food and then struggle to stick to the recommendations, especially if the foods are unfamiliar or if they already have a poor appetite.
Campbell’s goal is to educate individuals from a broad range of cultures on how they can still incorporate the foods they know and love into a healthy and nutritious diet—a goal that is much needed given the current demographics of her profession.
According to a recent survey by the Academy of Nutrition Dietetics, only 3% of nutrition and dietetic professionals identified as Black or African American and 6% identified as Hispanic or Latino. In contrast, the Dallas County population is estimated to be 23.8% Black or African American and 41.4% Hispanic or Latino.
As a Black woman, Campbell understands the value of representation for her patients. She recalls walking into a patient’s room as they tried to explain their food preferences to a doctor and her presence providing immediate relief.
“I would walk in, and they would be like, ‘She knows!’ I think sometimes they feel more heard or understood just by me knowing the type of food they’re eating. Then, they’re more willing to listen and take my recommendations.”
In addition to pursuing her oncology nutrition certification, these experiences have also prompted Campbell to expand her knowledge of cultural food and nutrition. In particular, she has been studying Mexican American and other Latino food cultures to better understand her patients’ backgrounds and how the food they eat impacts their health.
“If we want to evolve to become better practitioners—whether we’re in nutrition or doctors or pharmacy—we need to be able to reach out patients by understanding their backgrounds,” she says.
For those considering a future career in nutrition and dietetics, Campbell strongly encourages connecting with someone in the field to learn more about the profession.
“I know it’s not always easy being young and reaching out to someone who is so huge in your mind, but a lot of dietitians and nutrition health professionals are excited to see the next generation who want to get in their shoes,” she says. “Just reach out. Even if it’s shadowing someone for 30 minutes, you will learn so much.”