Alumni Spotlight Luke Trembley, RD, IBCLC, MPP Candidate

Luke Trembley, RD


Thank you for inviting me to share my career path after Bastyr. My name is Luke Trembley. I graduated from the BSNDPD program in 2015. Then I did my dietetic internship through Iowa State University the following year and sat for the exam and have been a registered dietitian ever since. I am now the WIC Program coordinator for Clark County, Washington, for four WIC locations that I oversee, and we currently have about 6700 WIC participants. WIC stands for women, infant children, and it is a federally funded program similar to the food stamp program. However, WIC focuses much more on nutrition education, breastfeeding support, referrals, and ensuring that our clients connect with healthcare providers, dentists, and housing support. So, it is a great community health program that goes beyond just giving them money for food.

What led you to do the nutrition and Dietetics program at Bastyr?

At first, I was interested in the ND program, so I was working towards that. Then life happened, and I decided to explore dietetics and found that I enjoyed it. It is a good steppingstone for the future, and I am still exploring becoming an ND, but I am doing RD work now and very much enjoy it.

How did your studies direct you in your career trajectory or how did the education at Basyr help you see where you might be in the future?

I was honestly interested in the clinical side and thought I would work in a hospital setting, but I really found a love for community service. When I was at Bastyr, I did a lot of volunteering at different organizations, including the YMCA. I really loved meeting people where they are at versus in a hospital bed where they have other things on their minds. Working in the community is extremely rewarding and you get to see the difference you make in people’s lives.

What were your career interests as you developed into your career?

It goes back to that clinical versus community service aspect of things. The dietetic internship focuses on the clinical aspect primarily. Usually, you get just two weeks of community service. When you are taking a nine-month program, two weeks isn’t really that much exposure. And I came to realize that if we can engage them before they get to their breaking point, the better the outcome. And sometimes, supporting them in their nutrition journey is just making sure they are connected, for example, with a dental resource, a dentist that accepts their insurance because that’s entirely related to adequate nutrition. Being able to eat correctly and not having mouth and jaw pain. And insurance is not easy to navigate. If they are on state insurance, not many dental clinics accept their insurance. There are a lot of hoops they have to jump through in the medical world, so we do a lot to support them.

What would you say if you could go back and talk to yourself as a first-year nutrition student? What would you have told yourself?

Do not undervalue yourself because of your newness to the career field. Students bring so much relevant knowledge and updated knowledge. I like to tell student interns who come through my clinic that just because I have eight years of experience does not mean my knowledge is any more valuable than theirs. Once you get into the workforce, especially if you are working in a government program, typically, you lag by maybe 20 years compared to the current best practices because policies take a long time to change. You are dealing with extensive systems, so do not discount what you bring to the work.

I understand that you were on campus not too long ago and took some courses through the Simkin Center?

WIC has a focus on breastfeeding support, and one of the programs that we are encouraged to attend after we’ve been here a while, especially if we are working on our lactation consultant certification, is Bastyr’s lactation training. I participated in the training because it provided more in-depth knowledge than other resources.

Suppose you were talking to a first-year Dietetic student, and they already know they have a keen interest in community health. How could they enhance their time while still a student if they want to enrich that part of their education?

You know, the biggest thing I tell interns and new staff is to shadow as many different dietitians as possible. We all have our cadence, our catchphrases we use and the ways we approach clients, and there is not one right way. There is always a multitude of correct ways to approach each situation. It could vary based on the day and the problem, so the more you can shadow and absorb from other dieticians, the better.

When I was at Bastyr, I volunteered at the YMCA for a while with a dietitian, and that was a wonderful way to start seeing the community and what the community actually needs. Learning at Bastyr is great, but while you are learning, having some outside experience and volunteer work is good so you can start seeing how you can apply what you are learning.

What would you say to a student in the nutrition program who may be feeling overwhelmed with the program and struggling to keep the dream alive and their attitude in check? What wisdom would you share with someone in that space?

You know the program can be rigorous sometimes, and there are seasons. You will go through seasons of it being challenging, and then you will go through seasons of some reprieve. And know that it can be a roller coaster at times. Expect that and plan for it. Take some time to yourself in seasons where it is a little bit slower. Try not to wait till the last minute to study. Try to do your best to find balance. Combine outdoor therapy with study sessions if that works for you. At Bastyr, it is fantastic because you’re in a state park. You can hike with your study buddy and practice counseling techniques with them. Combine things with the outdoors, as much as you can.

If you are a student or new graduate in the nutrition field who is interested in the community health sector, what do you think are the top qualities and skill sets that make someone successful?

The biggest thing I look for in candidates is a willingness to learn. Learning from the clients you serve, not just the job itself. The most significant learning experience, or the best, is when you are in front of a client, learning about them, and applying your knowledge. Always be open to exploring new areas. Know that every client will be different, no matter how similar they may seem to another client. It takes being open-minded and listening, lots of listening. What you may want to discuss could be what the client needs or not. If they have got a lot of other worries, they could care less about how much fruit and vegetables they are eating. They may be going home and not have power because they cannot pay their bills, or whatever the situation, so listen to their unique needs.