More often than not, it’s receiving scary news or a moment of fear that prompts a dramatic change in lifestyle. For 2010 graduate Sera Snyder, it was learning she had a rare tumor in her stomach.
After working with another Integrative Nutrition grad, Sera was inspired to enroll in the Health Coach Training Program. In addition to discovering her path to wellness following surgery, she also launched a new career that she’s passionate about after having worked in an unfulfilling career for several years prior. Read more of Sera’s story and how she’s educating medical professionals about integrative care for cancer patients in her new role.
What were you doing before Integrative Nutrition?
Prior to attending Integrative Nutrition, I worked in financial asset management in both sales and analyst roles. I worked in the financial industry for seven years and while I was successful in the industry, I felt very unfilled, lost, and frustrated. I was unhappy and kept thinking, "If I'd just get the next big promotion, I'd be happy."
What led you to explore Integrative Nutrition’s program?
In 2008, I was diagnosed with a rare tumor in my stomach. It was, at the time, the most devastating thing that had ever happened to me and I had no idea how I would get through it. I had met a local Philadelphia health coach, Ali Shapiro, just before my diagnosis. I originally sought out Ali to help with body image issues that had plagued me my entire life. After I decided to have surgery for my tumor, I knew I had to work with Ali to help me with my eating and healing before, during, and after surgery. This decision was one of the best of my life. Not only did Ali help me with nutrition, but she also helped me spiritually through my journey. After working with her, I knew IIN offered a philosophy I needed to know more about, so I enrolled in the next HCTP program.
What happened since you enrolled in Integrative Nutrition’s program?
Since working with Ali and attending IIN, my life has changed significantly. In general terms, it has offered me the opportunity to build my life with purpose, passion, and happiness. Specifically, it helped me transition my life from a career that I loathed to a career that I love and feel energized to do.
I am currently the Professional Relationship Manager for Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) in Philadelphia. I discovered CTCA after my time at IIN and found that it was everything I was looking for. CTCA is truly a special organization; the experts there focus on more than just a patient’s tumor. They also focus on the whole person and doing anything possible to help patients fight their cancer and maintain a high quality of life throughout treatment.
What did you learn at Integrative Nutrition?
I learned so much at IIN; it’s hard to narrow it down. I think the most important thing I learned at IIN is that you can live your life with passion everyday and make a career of it. I struggled for most of my life with my body and body image. I tried every diet I could, starved myself, binged and purged food, and it wasn't until IIN that I realized that my weight and my body was not what was deterring my happiness— it was my lack of "life" in my life, lack of purpose and meaning. Through IIN's tools, I was able to find that meaning and now I am truly happy.
What do you love about the school?
Simply put, I loved the people at IIN. The students were the most inspiring individuals to spend time with. It was energizing to be in a room full of people that spoke the same language and had such a passion for helping others live their best life. The teachers were also amazing. I learned so much from the diverse individuals that we were fortunate to hear from every weekend. Additionally, I loved watching, listening to, and learning from Joshua. He has such an energy and charisma about him; you just have to listen and be inspired.
Is there a need for Health Coaches where you live?
I think there is a need for Health Coaches everywhere. I do certainly see a need for Health Coaches for people living with cancer and those who are in the recovery stage. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is so important to recovery and healing. I would be very interested in speaking with Health Coaches that are working with people living with cancer or that have an interest in this area, as the more support and guidance we can give, the better outcomes we will see.
What do you love about your work?
I love that I have the opportunity to make a positive impact on people every day. I know how scary it is to be diagnosed with cancer and how difficult it is to find good doctors and people you trust to manage your care. I have never seen another model like CTCA’s that takes such wonderful care of patients AND offers them everything they need under one roof. After I went through surgery, I had a Health Coach, an acupuncturist, a massage therapist for my scar tissue, and a therapist for the mental clarity of what I went through. At CTCA, all of these physicians and clinicians work together as a team to care for patients.
I know that by spending my time educating medical professionals about CTCA, I can have a direct impact on the life of those fighting cancer. My hope is that I can eliminate some of the fear, pain, worry, anxiety and hopelessness for patients by making sure their referring physicians know that CTCA exists as a an option for them.
Tell us about your practice.
CTCA offers patients a completely integrated model of care: patients are surrounded by an entire care team made up of a medical oncologist, naturopathic oncology provider, dietitian, care manager, and a host of other support clinicians. Nutrition is an important role of the care at CTCA. Approximately, 95% of our cafeteria is organic and each patient has a dietitian they meet with every time they come to the center. CTCA is also an early adopter of cutting-edge technologies that help patients get back to their busy lives sooner.
My role at CTCA is to educate medical professionals like Health Coaches, doctors and nurses about the work that CTCA is doing. When I recovered from my surgery, I struggled with receiving the comprehensive care I needed and certainly did not have a team that worked together to ensure I was taken care of. CTCA offers the best care for people living with cancer. I know this first-hand, because I have transferred my care here and this team has helped me feel the best I’ve ever felt.
If you are interested in learning more about CTCA and how you can partner with them, contact Sera at firstname.lastname@example.org.