Mary Laura Holleman
When I was a young teen in Mississippi the concept of health was not given the emphasis as was appearance so when my friends and I became aware of a fashion phenomenon named Twiggy we were all determined to look her. If you don't remember Twiggy: she was naturally very slender without curves, described variously as androgynous, boyish, and "stick thin." My peers and most girls of our generation literally starved ourselves. If we ate over 500 calories a day we were failures. Phrases such as "you can't be too rich or too thin" were popular. Hello Eating Disorders!
In the midst of this my logical mind looked at the full figures of my mother, aunts, and grandmothers and realized a disconnect. I was trying to change my body shape but common sense dictated that it just wasn't going to happen. Trying to make sense of thinness versus health led me to pursue an education in nutrition and I earned a Bachelors Degree in nutrition from Mississippi State University in 1977. Several years later I decided to pursue a Nursing education and ultimately earned a Masters Degree in nursing education from University of South Alabama.
Meanwhile I was able to find jobs that allowed me to use my nursing knowledge or my nutrition knowledge but not both until I was hired by the Bay County Health Department in Panama City, Florida to manage a chronic disease prevention grant. There I found my true calling as a diabetes educator. I sat for and passed the Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE) exam for the first time in 1996 and have been fulfilled working in that capacity ever since. However, one item that I felt was missing from my resume was creation and execution a diabetes education program that was worthy of recognition by the American Diabetes Association. This deficit was rectified at Twin Cities Hospital in Niceville where I created and executed a program that was recognized by the American Diabetes Association. While I was at Twin Cities I mentored a brilliant dietitian named Deanna Howard-Gonzalez who taught me as much as I taught her.
I later moved with my husband to southeast Alabama so he could be closer to his job as an instructor helicopter pilot at Fort Rucker. At that point I accepted for a job in an internal medicine clinic in Dothan which allowed me the same freedom to create, execute, and bring to recognition a diabetes education program but this time clinic based rather than hospital based. Here, for ten years, I medically managed the diabetes patients for fourteen providers until my husband's death in 2017 when I retired.
Following retirement, I moved back to the Florida coast, bought a house, and tucked into the job of being a retiree. I was subsequently lured out of retirement to work for the Emerald Coast Diabetes and Nutrition Center (remember that brilliant dietitian, Deanna? well, she is also persuasive). Spare time is spent with my two rescue dogs, shopping, reading, traveling, experimenting with recipes, hanging with friends, and being on, under, or near the water.