Nutrition, Wellness and Lasting Health: a Conversation with Dr. Neal Malik

Neal Malik, DrPH, MPH, RDN

Neal Malik, DrPH, MPH, RDN, has a personal passion for sharing information about nutrition, exercise and wellness. A prolific author and a regularly featured healthy lifestyle expert on television and national radio, Dr. Malik will now be leading the new Master of Science in Nutrition for Wellness program at Bastyr University California.

Dr. Malik recently spoke with us about the concept of wellness, what makes the Nutrition for Wellness program so unique, and what it was that brought him to Bastyr University:

When we talk about the Master of Science in Nutrition for Wellness program, what exactly do we mean when we say “wellness”— and why is that piece so important?

“Many nutrition programs focus on treating patients after they’ve been diagnosed with a disease. However, our program’s emphasis is helping people maintain optimal health through nutrition and lifestyle behaviors.

“The term ‘wellness’ specifically refers to the actions an individual takes to improve their overall health. We are born with a certain amount of potential and wellness asks, ‘What steps are you taking to achieve that potential?’ The Nutrition for Wellness program creates health and wellness innovators.  Our students will obviously have a strong foundation in nutrition education, but they will also be able to provide others with relevant and accurate health information, and motivate groups to achieve optimal wellness — a.k.a. their highest potential.”

What are some of the career paths or professions that someone with this degree might pursue?

“One of the strengths of this program is the variety of career options available to our graduates. In fact, the demand for nutrition-related services will likely exceed the supply of nutrition practitioners over the next decade. It has been predicted that within the next five years, there will be a shortfall of 18,000 full-time nutrition professionals! We prepare students to help meet these needs. Our graduates will be prepared for cutting-edge careers in corporate wellness, community health, group nutrition education, as well as nutrition marketing and communication roles.”

What drew you to Bastyr?

“Bastyr is one of the most respected universities in the nation. Its faculty is very distinguished and the students are so excited about health and wellness. For me, this was the environment I wanted to be in.

“A few months back, I was speaking to the department chair at a very well-known local university and mentioned that I would be joining Bastyr University’s faculty. She immediately said, “Oh, I LOVE their program — they have such a well-rounded curriculum!” How could I not want to be a part of that?!”

What’s your favorite part of teaching about health and wellness?

“Nutrition and wellness are topics people are really passionate about. New data are always being published, which makes this an ever-changing field and that’s exciting to me.

“I also have a personal connection to nutrition and wellness. Before I began my career, I had the unfortunate experience of being diagnosed with a chronic disease. I was a sophomore in college studying psychology, and needless to say, after receiving this news I was pretty depressed and felt quite sorry for myself. At the time, I was not following what many would consider a very healthy lifestyle … let’s just say fast food was a daily occurrence. But after conducting some informal research, I quickly realized how important nutrition and lifestyle contribute to not only the improvement of most health conditions, but also to a better quality of life overall.

“It was this realization that propelled me into a completely different field of study altogether: nutrition and wellness. I wanted to help others prevent disease so that they didn’t have to go through the pain and anguish I experienced.”

Why is Bastyr University California the ideal place to study the concepts of nutrition and wellness?

“Bastyr University is internationally recognized as a pioneer in natural medicine and the largest accredited university for natural health arts and sciences in the U.S. Our nutrition degree program is unique because we implement a whole-food approach in our curriculum. This means our graduates will not only understand the science behind nutrition and its effects on the human body, but also how to create recipes and design healthy menus. In fact as part of the degree, students will take courses in Whole Foods Production, Therapeutic Cooking and Cooking Demonstration.

“I wish this program was around when I was getting my degree! Earlier in my career when I was a health educator conducting nutrition and weight management classes, the question I received most often was, ‘Do you have any healthy recipes you can recommend?’ I can’t tell you how many hours I spent researching healthy recipes. If I had gone through this program, I would have had the educational and practical foundation to create my own recipes for my classes. And I must add that it’s a nice perk when you are able to study in such a beautiful environment: sunny San Diego, California!”

What would you like a prospective Nutrition for Wellness student to know about the program?

“I can say with confidence that by joining this program, students will truly be on the cutting edge of the fields of nutrition education, wellness and disease prevention. Graduates will be recognized as nutrition, food and wellness experts, and will have the educational and practical experiences to help them make a positive difference in other people’s lives. When students join our programs, they’ll find that faculty are accessible and ready to go the extra mile to help them succeed.”

What are you most excited about when you imagine the future of nutrition and wellness?

“What excites me most is how many diseases we can prevent and how many lives we can save just by educating and motivating others to make small changes in their daily routines. In my experience, people often feel as though they need to make dramatic changes to their lifestyle in order to achieve optimal health, but that’s not necessarily true. Whether it’s walking for two more minutes each day or swapping that daily soda for seltzer water, these little changes over time can have a tremendous impact. I’m living proof of that.”

Learn more about applying to the Master of Science in Nutrition for Wellness program and visit Dr. Malik’s profile.