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Extension dietitian makes healthy choices doable

By Susan Collins-Smith
MSU Extension Service

RAYMOND, Miss. — A career as a registered dietitian wasn’t what Qula Madkin had in mind when she started college, but she has no doubt it was meant to be.

“I didn’t even know what a registered dietitian was when I was younger,” Madkin said. “In college, my goal was to become a physical therapist.”

When the requirements to apply for the physical therapy program changed, Madkin, who was a freshman at Mississippi State University at the time, decided she needed to pursue a different degree to avoid taking on more student loan debt.

“I remember it like it was yesterday,” said the Purvis, Mississippi, native. “I went through my undergraduate course catalog and highlighted in pink the classes I’d taken to decide what I would major in. Lo and behold, food, nutrition, and dietetics came out on top.”

As a nutrition instructor with the MSU Extension Service, Madkin helps develop, coordinate and distribute materials related to nutrition, wellness and the ServSafe food safety certification program. She also provides training and technical assistance to all Extension agents with nutrition education responsibilities.

Madkin is a registered and licensed dietitian with more than 17 years of experience working with health, wellness promotion and nutrition coordination in community, private, clinical and academic settings. Madkin is a certified diabetes care and education specialist, and she completed training in the Commission on Dietetics’ Adult Weight Management Program.

She credits her diverse background for her ability to engage people and help them make healthy changes.

“My focus is always on the individual, family or community and what their needs are,” Madkin said. “I want to help people better understand how to be healthier, not just how to lose weight. I believe approaching a lifestyle change must be doable and relatable. So, my goal is simple: provide folks with reliable information they can use that fits their lifestyles and meets their needs.”

Madkin said Extension’s model is ideal for understanding and providing what people need.

“Extension agents know their counties, their clients, what the needs are and what works,” she said. “I support them by providing the most up-to-date, evidence-based resources that are specific to or can be customized to Mississippians.”

Madkin is working to develop new statewide nutrition programs, Extension-developed recipes and other educational materials to focus specifically on local needs. She leverages Facebook, Twitter and the Extension for Real Life blog to share research-backed messages about nutrition and healthier lifestyles — something she believes is critical to reach people.

“More and more people use social media as their go-to for all information, and there is a lot of misinformation about nutrition and health out there,” she said. “Through social media, Extension can provide trusted information related to nutrition.”

Paula Threadgill, retired associate Extension director of 4-H and Family and Consumer Sciences, said Madkin’s varied work experience makes her the perfect fit for this role.

“Qula has worked with a variety of clients on several nutritional issues, and that gives her a great deal of perspective for developing and evaluating our food and nutrition programs,” Threadgill said. “I am excited about having her in this position and look forward to what she can help bring to our communities across the state.”