Living the Royal Neighbors Mission

Scholarship recipient Heidi O'Brien

I’ve always had a helpful and empathetic nature. I am the “helper” sibling in my household and have always found joy and purpose in helping others. Whether through Girl Scouts at a young age, high school clubs, or personal volunteer choices, volunteering has been a priority because of the joy it brings me and those I serve. While completing my undergraduate degree at the University of Arkansas, I focused my time in the university cafeterias with Razorback Food Recovery to safely package leftover food to donate to local shelters. Now, at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, my experiences have been clinically based, from volunteering at blood pressure testing centers to screening for hypertension.

Throughout my time volunteering in hospitals, cafeterias, gardens, and many other environments, I learned the importance of impacting others in areas of their lives where they need it most. It is so fun and fulfilling to create change in a way that may seem simple but can change entire lives.

I have always wanted to find a career where I could utilize my helpful and empathetic strengths, but I wasn’t sure how to mesh these with my passions. When my older sister started her graduate degree in Nutrition and Dietetics, I discovered the perfect combination of my interests in nutrition combined with my ability and desire to help others. Within this profession, proper nutrition education is vital to assist patients with chronic disease, nutrient deficiencies, and difficult relationships with food.

Throughout my academic career in Nutrition and Dietetics, I’ve had volunteer and work experiences in numerous hospitals, with private care patients, and within sports dietetics. It has allowed me to broaden my nutrition education background while also helping others learn about the wonders of nutrition and its capabilities in improving quality of life.

I owe so much of my academic success to Royal Neighbors and their generosity over the past four years. They have believed in and supported my passions since my sophomore year of college and made it possible for me to attend graduate school after completing my undergraduate degree. The ability to  continue my education to strengthen my academic and professional experiences will not only broaden the field opportunities for me in the future, but it will allow me to ensure that I am providing the best care for my patients.

I will strive to continue Royal Neighbors’ emphasis and passion for community service in my future careers. I am thankful for all the opportunities this organization has provided me.