A serendipitous career in health and nutrition

18 Apr

Keecha Harris isn’t sure why – or even if – she chose the field of dietetics.

“Maybe I chose dietetics,” she said. “But being an entrepreneur, I think it chose me. It was clear that I wanted to do something, but I wasn’t always quite sure what.”

And then one day in her community nutrition class at Iowa State, Harris remembers chuckling.

“The thought came to my mind that I really want to touch the lives of thousands of people, but I don’t want to see them,” she laughs. “I had no concept of public health at the time. I did not know that there was actually such a thing, and I can remember thinking, ‘You really are crazy, and you should stop listening to the voices in your head!’ But I knew in that class that this was what I wanted to do.”

Harris is now president of Keecha Harris & Associates, a public health consulting firm, and she works on issues such as food and nutrition, community development, rural development, and educational policy.

Originally from Atmore, Ala., Harris came to Iowa State as part of the Women in Science and Engineering program. She started as an industrial engineering major, but after about six weeks in that program she recalls walking out of a drafting class: “I had on my orange dress and my gold sandals, and I was like, ‘This is not for me.’ I wanted something with people. I had always been very interested in food, in cooking, in nutrition, and, to some extent, health. So I went to nutritional science but switched to dietetics, and that was my place.”

Harris graduated from Iowa State in 1996 and went on to earn both a master’s and PhD in public health from the University of Alabama Birmingham. She is a former national spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association and an internationally recognized nutrition columnist for msn.com. She was named a 2010 “Top 40 Under 40” by the Birmingham Business Journal.

In her current role, Harris travels throughout the United States – she estimates she travels at least 140,000 miles a year – helping to improve the quality of services provided to people in health, education, and life skills resources. Home is now Birmingham, a city she values for its food, cultural activities, and “a really fabulous YMCA.”

3 Responses to “A serendipitous career in health and nutrition”

  1. Paternal Candor (@paternalcandor) April 19, 2012 at 3:46 pm #

    I’m happy to hear that Mrs. Harris has taken her passion to the point of enjoyment and helping others. She must put 100% into her work and have the people benefit from what she does. Perhaps her firm could consult with New York State to improve the quality of services that we have here. Congratulations, Mrs. Harris. All the best to you!

  2. gcevans April 21, 2012 at 2:16 am #

    What an interesting article, Keecha. I just knew you did something world-changing in your work! Thanks for providing the link.

  3. Regina B. Gohagan May 19, 2012 at 7:57 pm #

    Proud of your accomplishments and this article is great. It is my pleasure to have known you before you were Dr. Harris. By the way, you look great in “blue” altho I know that your signature color is “red.”

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