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Dr. Emily Patten: From Classroom to Commissioner

Dr. Emily Patten recently received a prestigious position of influence within the field of dietetics. It all started sitting in a BYU classroom years ago. 

Associate Professor Emily Patten from the Department of Nutrition, Dietetics, and Food Science was recently elected as a commissioner for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. This position within the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) is a prestigious opportunity for Patten to help shape the credentialing and continuing education of dietitians around the world.

Patten says that while everyone has an opinion about nutrition, those opinions are often not evidence-based. The CDR protects the public from ill-informed opinions by positioning professional dietitions and nutritionists as the best sources of nutrition information.

Taking on the role of commissioner, Patten feels that she is following in her mentors’ footsteps. “I had really good mentors who showed me that there are bigger things and that you should participate in making the world better,” she reflects.

A Life-Changing Undergraduate Experience

“I really take it all back to my undergraduate experience at BYU,” says Patten about her career. “I still have vivid memories of sitting in class as a student. [My experiences at BYU] led me to be curious and interested in the world around me."

Patten is convinced BYU has one of the strongest programs in the country. “It does such a nice job of preparing people for whatever is next for them,” she says. “I’ve always said, BYU dietetics is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, not because I think other things haven’t been harder, but it just prepared me for so many things.” Her experiences as an undergraduate became the reason why she pursued a PhD—Patten wanted to come back to BYU dietetics.

Photo of Emily Patten. Brown/blonde hair, light skin, white shirt and royal blue sweater/jacket on top. She smiles at the camera with a gray background.
Photo by BYU

While taking a management and dietetics class her senior year, Patten recalls, “It was like my heart beat for the first time.” She realized that “real change comes with strong leadership.” The class helped Patten decide to dive into the management realm of dietetics. She has since studied various topics like work-life balance, topics within dietetics management, and challenges faced by the field due to its predominately female composition.

Patten feels that her professional career has been directed by the divine. “I didn’t have any examples of women in my life who had pursued PhDs and who also had families, so it felt like unchartered territory. I just felt very guided along the way to do what I’m doing.” Faith continues to be an important part of Patten’s life. “I feel like my faith has helped me prioritize how I spend my time and trust that I can do hard things,” she says.

When not on campus, Patten enjoys spending time with her three young children, biking and hiking in the great outdoors, and listening to Taylor Swift.