Niti Shah

HNFM Student

Niti Shah head shot

Program & Concentration: Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine

Hometown: Born in Bhavnagar, India; currently living in Dallas, Texas

Expected Graduation Date: Winter 2020

Prior Education or Experience: Bachelor’s in Physical Therapy

Bio: Niti obtained her bachelor’s in physical therapy from Maharaja Sayajirao University (also known as MSU) in Baroda, India. During her clinical rotation and internship at SSG hospital, which has an outpatient count of upward of 900,000 annually, she had extensive exposure and hands-on training. She was also selected to work on a public health initiative started by the Government of India during her internship. After graduation, Niti worked as a lead physical therapist in an outpatient clinical setting where she analyzed rehabilitative needs and formulated a patient plan of care and treatment goals for medically complex patients (children through geriatric). She then pursued a diploma in yoga education (200 hours of yoga training) from Bhavnagar University, where she first learned and later taught yoga practices while working full-time. After getting married, Niti and her family moved to the United States and have been in Dallas since. Around 2012, her family had a couple of ER visits, which caused her to look deeper into what she was feeding her family. This ignited her passion for food as medicine and also inspired her to share lessons learned with the rest of the world through her blog, Family Health SOS.

Why did you choose UWS?

After becoming a food and health blogger, I realized that while there is an abundance of information out there and getting reliable information is a challenge. I was convinced to follow the path of becoming a nutritionist after watching Mr. Michael Stroka’s (CEO of the American Nutrition Association) interview with Dr. Mercola about the impact of whole foods nutrition practices. While looking through the list of accredited programs on the certified nutrition specialist (CNS) website, the UWS human nutrition and functional medicine (HNFM) program immediately jumped out due to its unique program name. While doing more research and learning that HNFM is the only program with Institute of Functional Medicine (IFM) affiliation in the country and has functional medicine woven into the curriculum, I was convinced to pursue my masters at UWS. The fact that the program is evidence-based was also more compelling for me.

What has been your favorite class/instructor?

This is difficult to answer as all the instructors and classes have been amazing and without a doubt, the strength of the program has been its top-notch instructors from around the globe. Three instructors, however, have left an indelible mark with their teaching style. Beginning the program with an introduction to functional medicine with Dr. Etcheverry laid a strong foundation in the world of functional medicine. It was overwhelming at first, but what I learned in the short 11 weeks was nothing short of transformational. Dr. Walsh’s whiteboard lectures and his in-depth biochemistry knowledge ignited a love in me for the subject of biochemistry, which I had dreaded prior to his teachings.

I also admire Dr. Zwickey and her interactive teaching style, which has made learning complex immune imbalances and autoimmunity a breeze thanks to live Q&A calls that make it a deep learning experience.

What has been your experience with learning in HNFM’s online learning environment?

I would summarize it as a true 21st-century experience. I absolutely love it and cannot imagine otherwise. Flexibility to learn on my own time when I am in the learning mindset with pre-recorded lectures and the ability to pause the lectures and soak in the wealth of information and take notes is a big plus. With all the pros there are a few cons. I miss the social connections and interaction during the first term, as discussion forums cannot recreate the classroom atmosphere. Later on, some of my classmates went on to form WhatsApp and Facebook groups which have made up for the cons and have made learning fun and social too. Also, the online learning environment has made it possible for me to learn from the best instructors around the globe and not be restricted by geographical location.

What has been the most surprising or eye-opening part of attending UWS?

Dissecting all components of foods in whole food nutrition and supplementation with Dr. Redwood made me understand the true power and impact whole foods can make. There are plenty of myths and misinformation that need to be dispelled and with the knowledge from my courses, I feel armed to be able to do so. The evidence-based approach has brought in cutting-edge information to the program.

What do you hope to do after graduation?

I would like to practice as a clinical nutritionist putting my learning into action and making a positive difference in the lives of patients with chronic and/or autoimmune diseases. I want to be able to propagate the power of nutrition to transform health.

What is your favorite activity to destress?

I love Zumba. Exercise has to be fun and so cannot imagine a better way to work out with dance and music as in Zumba. Playing cards and board games mixed with laughter with my family is another de-stressor for me. Lastly, I also discovered going on a walk with a friend to be medicinal.