Jordan Anthony had achieved her lifelong goal of working in public relations (PR). Her firm managed celebrities like Jimmy Kimmel and Jack Black. Anthony helped coordinate talk show appearances and red carpet events.
“I’ve always had an attraction to the hustle and bustle of the entertainment industry,” Anthony says. “But when I got there, I realized it wasn’t my calling.”
At the time, Anthony would occasionally take her grandma, who was in treatment for breast cancer, to follow-up medical visits. During one appointment, they met with a dietitian. “She talked to my grandma about how healthier eating habits could help her tolerate chemotherapy better,” Anthony says. “I thought, ‘whoa,’ they’re using food as medicine.”
That experience would change the trajectory of Anthony’s career.
From PR to nutrition: a slow journey
Anthony’s undergraduate degree in communications was from USC, so that’s where she started searching for a master’s program in nutrition. She quickly found the Master of Science in Nutrition, Healthspan and Longevity at USC’s Leonard Davis School of Gerontology.
The program excited Anthony, but the prerequisites intimidated her. “I didn’t take any science classes as an undergrad and never thought I could be good at science,” she says.
So, she put her dreams on the back burner and kept working in PR. After nearly two years, Anthony made a deal with herself. She’d take two prerequisite classes at Santa Monica City College. If she got A’s in those classes, she’d quit her job, move in with her parents and return to school full time.
“I worked all day, took classes at night and managed to get two A’s,” Anthony says. “I quit my job and immersed myself in finishing the prerequisites.” It took her a year and a half and seven junior colleges to find the coursework she needed. She finally started at USC Leonard Davis School in 2018.
MS program offers broad training and path to RD certification
The MS in Nutrition, Healthspan and Longevity is a two-year program. The first year focuses on coursework.
Not having any medical background, Anthony was nervous about the clinical classes. Her professors, such as clinical professor of medicine Kurt Hong, MD, helped her overcome her fear. “Dr. Hong made complex topics, like disease states and calculating tube feeds, easy to understand, interesting and fun,” she says.
In year two, students complete more coursework plus the 1,200 hours of fieldwork needed to take the Registered Dietitian exam. “The fieldwork component is a unique benefit among schools that offer master’s programs in nutrition,” Anthony says. “Usually, you receive your master’s degree and have to apply for field placements on your own. USC coordinates this for you.”
The fieldwork placements include a broad range of settings, such as:
- Community nutrition
- Medical nutrition therapy
- Private practice
- Sports nutrition
Coming into the program, Anthony wasn’t sure what she wanted to do. “Through the fieldwork, I had the opportunity to try out all the different things I could do with this degree,” she says. “Field placements also provided an opportunity to make connections. Many of my classmates came out of the program with job offers from their fieldwork sites.”
Finding work during the pandemic
Anthony graduated in the spring of 2020 when there were few job options due to the pandemic. Though her goal was not to work in a clinical role, she accepted a job in November 2020 in long-term care.
“I wanted to be on the frontlines and help in any way I could,” Anthony says. “I traveled around to nursing homes, assessing pressure sores and calculating tube feeds. COVID-19 hit the nursing homes hard — the work was emotionally difficult.”
Fortunately, Anthony’s dream job was just around the corner.
Securing a place in corporate wellness
Anthony knew she wanted to combine her creative PR background with her nutrition education. While still in school, a friend connected her with a dietitian at a gaming corporation called Riot Games. Anthony shadowed her and became fascinated with practicing nutrition in a corporate setting.
“I knew those jobs were few and far between, so I sent her my resume and kept in contact,” Anthony says. “When I was working in the nursing homes, I saw a generic ad for a corporate wellness professional without mention of the company name. I emailed the dietitian at Riot Games to find out if she had any information about the job. I didn’t hear back but received a call from her boss. It turned out that the job opening was at Riot Games. The dietitian had left and had given her boss my resume.”
Anthony has been at Riot Games since April 2021 and loves the work. As the on-site dietitian, she coordinates everything nutrition-related across company locations in Santa Monica, St. Louis, Seattle and Redwood City. Her job duties include:
- Educating employees with blog posts and campus-wide placement of nutrition information
- Ensuring snack pantries have a range of healthy options
- Posting nutrition facts for all foods served on campus
- Setting up weekly tabling events to talk to employees about nutrition-related topics
- Working with the culinary team to develop meals served on the Riot Games campus
As the company champion for healthy eating, Anthony’s communication and PR skills have been indispensable. “A big part of this job is approaching people and talking to them,” she says. “My background in PR has made that easy for me.”
A future of possibilities
When she thinks about the future, Anthony envisions starting her own consulting firm. “Corporations are realizing the importance of helping their employees maintain good health and how that can enhance productivity,” she says. “I’d love to work with companies that don’t have dietitians. I could offer services such as wellness talks, curation of meals, and individual consultations with employees.”
But for now, Anthony is happy to continue learning and growing. She also gives back to USC Leonard Davis School by participating in alumni panels and volunteer events. “USC is so special to me. Whenever there’s an opportunity to be involved, I’m always there.”
To learn more about the Master of Science of Nutrition, Healthspan and Longevity degree program at the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology, call us at (213) 740-5156.
Top photo: Stephanie Kleinman