Tell us about yourself and your professional background (education, years of experience):
My name is Angel Cunningham, MS, RD, LD. I am so excited to be a provider here at FamilyCare Health Centers. I have worked in the field of health and wellness for over 10 years and have a true passion for health at all ages and stages. I have held a variety of professional hats over the years including Director of a childcare center; public health nutritionist as the Program Integrity Coordinator for the WVWIC State Agency; clinical pediatric dietitian; community dietitian, specifically providing nutrition education and nutrition therapy to individuals with intellectual disabilities; and personal trainer and health coach. My education includes a Bachelor of Science degree in Exercise Physiology from West Virginia University, and a bachelor’s and master’s degree in Dietetics from Marshall University. I also completed my Dietetic Internship through Marshall University.
When did you know you wanted to pursue a career as a dietitian?
Working with children had the greatest impact on my decision to become a dietitian. Children learn through play; but in order for them to explore, grow and develop, proper nutrition is vital. Being able to guide and advise children and their families on how to develop healthy eating habits was a strength I knew I had, and eventually I decided I could and should do more. So, I decided to go back to school.
What do you think is the most important skill that an RD should possess?
The most important skill an RD should possess, beyond the plethora of nutrition knowledge, is conveying empathy. Being able to understand and connect with the patient gives all providers the insight they need to respond effectively and appropriately with compassionate treatment.
What drew you to FamilyCare?
FamilyCare’s mission is to improve the lives of people in the communities we serve by treating their illness and helping them stay healthy. This closely aligns with my own vision, which includes improving the lives of the people in my community by treating and preventing chronic health conditions through food and nutrition.
What impact do you hope to make at the organization? Where do you think you can have the biggest impact on patients?
My enthusiasm is my biggest asset and I pride myself on my ability to reach people in West Virginia to aid in their journey toward a healthy life. I wish to empower the patients I serve to feel confident in their ability to make the most healthful decisions for themselves and their families. You hear a lot of people talk about creating generational wealth and that is fantastic, but here at FamilyCare, I hope to teach my patients how to create generational health.
Why is it important for other providers to know the impact of having an RD within our network?
Think of food as medicine. Why? Because food can be a valuable tool in the prevention and treatment of disease.
Explain to us how having a healthy diet may reduce health concerns (tell us something that we may not know or an interesting trivia about healthy eating)
Research suggests that a diet low in added sugar, salt, trans-fats and highly processed foods while high in fruits, vegetables and whole grains, contributes to protection against many chronic health diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. But the beauty of a “healthy diet” is that one size does not fit all. There are many ways to achieve a healthy diet. In fact, all foods within moderation can fit into a healthy eating pattern. There is no such thing as “bad” food, but there are foods that have more benefits than others. The trick is to make the best decision for your body, the majority of the time. This includes eating a wide variety of beautiful flavors and colors, limiting adding sugar, and choosing healthy fats and lean proteins.