In our latest blog, we caught up with NCHPAD Nutrition Research Coordinator Dr. Christine Ferguson, a Registered Dietitian and researcher who has been with NCHPAD since August 2021.
Christine’s primary role with NCHPAD is with the MENTOR program, but she is also involved with a weight management program called State of Slim Everybody, and she is also in the process of creating a healthy grocery shopping program and video materials for people with disabilities and diabetes.
When she’s not at work, Christine loves reading and spending time with her family outside – especially helping her daughter “make a fun mess” while painting. Read our full interview below.
Tell us about your background and education. What brought you to NCHPAD?
I am a Registered Dietitian (RD) by training, and I received my degrees from the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa.
At the end of my PhD Program, I learned about NCHPAD’s MENTOR program, and I immediately knew I wanted to be involved in such a beneficial program that also had a focus on the importance of nutrition.
How long have you worked with people with disabilities?
I’ve worked with people with disabilities at every job I’ve had since I was 16. As a dietitian, I started working with people with disabilities in the clinical setting about six years ago.
What program or programs do you work with? How long have you worked with that program?
I primarily work with the MENTOR program, and I am involved in the development of a specialty weight management program for people with disabilities after they complete the MENTOR program called State of Slim Everybody. I am also working on creating healthy grocery shopping program and video materials for people with disabilities and diabetes called NAVIGATE.
What do you do with MENTOR?
For NCHPAD, I am on the program evaluation side. We have excellent RDs who deliver MENTOR, so I am behind the scenes monitoring attendance, questionnaires, areas for quality improvement and more.
What expertise do you bring to MENTOR?
My expertise is in inclusive nutrition for people with disabilities. I enjoy working with people to make practical lifestyle changes that can improve their health and wellbeing.
What is your favorite thing about NCHPAD or MENTOR?
One of the many wonderful things about NCHPAD is that it has the unique ability to help people across the entire United States. My favorite thing is talking directly with MENTOR participants and hearing about their experience with the program and the impact it has made on their life.
What’s your favorite NCHPAD resource or video series?
I really enjoy NCHPAD’s recipe series on YouTube. The ones I have used the most involve pesto because I always seem to have extra greens at the end of the week, and I love pesto pasta!
What are you most looking forward to in this program?
I have heard from so many participants that they wish MENTOR was longer or if there was something they could do afterwards to keep the motivation going. I am really excited about the specialty programs that will soon be available for participants after the MENTOR program that will be more specific to their needs and/or interests.
Share a success story. Tell us about a time when you really saw your program working in the life of a participant.
I taught the nutrition classes for a cohort of MENTOR participants last year, and I had a participant who attended every class and was engaged by asking questions. We had great discussions as a group about adapting the kitchen space to be more accessible, and she said by the end of the program that she was spending more time actively preparing meals, which allowed her to have more control over making healthy substitutions.
She reached out a couple months after the program and said that she learned so much from the program and is feeling better too!
What hobbies do you have outside of work?
I enjoy reading and spending time with my family outside. My daughter is interested in painting, so I enjoy joining her and making a fun mess 😊 .
What’s your favorite food, favorite thing to cook or favorite recipe?
It’s not surprise I love food – it’s one of the many reasons I pursued nutrition and dietetics. If I had to narrow it down, I would choose sushi or Korean BBQ.
I also grew up baking with my grandmother, so my favorite recipes are any I’ve made with her like pecan pie or Mississippi mudcake.
What’s your favorite music, movies or tv shows?
- Music: I like a variety of music, but lately I have been enjoying WILLOW, Chance the Rapper and Remi Wolf.
- Movies: I am a sucker for romantic comedies, and I could probably watch The Proposal a hundred times and still laugh.
- TV Shows: My favorite has to be New Girl!
What’s the last book you read? How was it?
I just finished Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir, and it was great science fiction novel.
Who or what inspires you?
Professionally, I am constantly inspired by NCHPAD’s director, Dr. James Rimmer, to think outside the box and exude passion for the work we do with people with disabilities. Personally, I am inspired by Michelle Obama and her family for many reasons. It stuck with me when she said, “For me, being Mom-in-Chief is, and always will be, job number one,” as I work through balancing my own career while being a mom.
What’s your favorite quote?
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” – Hippocrates.
If you could switch careers for a day, what would you choose?
In another life, I would love to open my own coffee shop!
What’s one thing (not related to your job) that you could teach someone else how to do?
I enjoy (easy) gardening, and I can teach someone to propagate succulents.