Prior Education or Experience: Jessica (Nomi) Spain attended University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and then after a break (which involved moving countries three times, getting married and having four kids), transferred her credits to Excelsior University and finished with a Bachelor of Science, concentration in psychology. Nomi had always been interested in food and nutrition, so while completing her bachelor’s, she took nutrition courses through San Diego State University Extension. Nomi credits this experience with providing her a direction for future studies. She spent one year doing a yoga certification, and followed up by going to Duke Integrative Medicine at Duke University and completing their Health and Wellness Coach training and certification. Nomi then became certified through the National Board of Medical Examiners and the National Board of Health and Wellness Coaching to become a board-certified coach.
Tell us about what you have been up to since graduation? What are you doing now?
I graduated in spring of 2021. It’s hard to believe I was writing discussion forum posts, research papers, and cramming for final exams not too long ago. In the last year I have been working towards finishing my Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS) hours. I sat for and passed the board-exam for CNS. I have been watching my business grow. I work with private clients, run nutrition groups, and speak regularly on health and nutrition. I have spoken before private groups and institutions locally as well as internationally (via Zoom). I’ve also partnered with other professionals and run two and four week nutrition mindset groups where I provide daily videos and support around health habits. I have continued learning by taking courses offered from some of the instructors that were at UWS. Who can ever get enough of Dr. Bryan Walsh?! I have more projects coming up in the future. Stay tuned!
Where does your passion for human nutrition and functional medicine care stem from?
My passion for nutrition started in 2003 when I was living in Hong Kong. I had been raised in the states on a traditional western diet. I started reading and exploring different approaches to health. Then SARS hit and it really prompted me to take my health seriously. Eating healthy, exercising, meditating and practicing yoga all became a part of my life. When I got married and started a family I brought these ideas into how we raise our children. At one point I was working as a mentor with young women in a gap-year program. One thing I noticed when I started working with the institution was that in our first year we had one girl who had a diagnosis of anxiety (this was back in 2009/2010). Eight years later I noticed that an anxiety diagnosis seemed to be the norm. One of the things that I observed with these girls was that they had a very erratic sleep schedule and that each year the dependence on phones increased. I started giving workshops on how sleep can improve mental health and how to manage one’s digital usage. I realized that while supporting adolescents as they transition to adulthood was something that I loved. I observed that most teenagers did not have the basic skills needed to navigate their personal health. That prompted me to train as a yoga teacher, to train, get certified, and become affiliated with Duke Integrative Medicine as a health and wellness coach, and pursue my master’s in nutrition. One observation I see today is that many of the young adult clients I am working with are also dealing with health anxiety that is fueled by misinformation on the internet and social media. Providing them with facts, individualizing their nutrition so they know what applies specifically to them, and cutting through the fiction enables them to be healthier and happier. Today I lecture in a number of gap year programs and teach the basics nutrition and wellness, in addition to providing more individualized nutrition recommendations for clients of all ages. My goal is to reach as many people as possible and teach them the most essentials of health and then support them in making essentials easy to implement so they are free to focus on doing what they love.
What is your favorite memory from your time as a UWS student?
I made some great friendships that have continued until today. These friends supported me through UWS coursework, CNS studying, continue to encourage and support my business growth, let me bounce ideas off of them, and are still study partners for other courses I am taking. When I first started at UWS an older couple moved in next door. We were chatting about what brought them to our neighborhood and our lives. They mentioned that their son was studying nutrition. It turns out that he was a student at UWS in the nutrition program. What a tiny world!
How did your time at UWS prepare you for your career and life?
As much as I didn’t always enjoy writing weekly discussion posts with multiple primary sources of research to support what we learned, it definitely made me a better learner and researcher. I miss access to the database! The level of education, the top instructors, and the writing gave me a strong foundation and confidence. One of the things I learned is to know what I don’t know. If the program had not been so thorough I think I could have walked away thinking I know it all. However, I know that there is still so much more to learn, that nutritional biochemistry is a rapidly developing area of science, and that there will always be more questions and research. This enables me to give relevant information to my clients to guide their health journey, but also to keep an open mind and keep learning.
What was your favorite part about the online format of the program
My favorite part of the online format was that it enabled me, as a busy mom to four boys, to learn according to my schedule. During the first part of corona when all of Israel was on lockdown and the schools had switched to Zoom I would get up at 3:30 am to study before their day started. It sounds crazy now that I think of it but it worked. As a parent there is never enough time to get it all done but being able to work on my own schedule was a huge help.
What is a piece of advice you’d offer to current UWS human nutrition and functional medicine students?
In the online courses I would recommend to make friends with your classmates. Online learning is missing the social interaction that makes learning fun and more dynamic. Reach out to others in the program, start a whatsapp group or have Zoom meetings where you study together or just meet for coffee and chat. Reach out to your student advisor throughout the program. Dr Hinton was my advisor and a good source of information and support.
What made you choose UWS over other schools?
When I was looking at the course offered at UWS I remember telling my husband how exciting they all sounded. The courses and instructors offered at UWS are top quality. I was so impressed with the courses offered. I wanted to take all of the electives!
What is your favorite way to relieve stress?
My number one favorite way to relieve stress is to go on a long run through the streets of Jerusalem before sunrise. The city is quiet and beautiful, and it sets me up for an awesome day.