CAFNR Celebrates Women’s History Month: Q&A with Melissa Joy Dobbins

Dobbins is a CAFNR Column award winner and CAFNR alumna

Melissa Joy Dobbins speaks to a crowd at the 2022 CAFNR Column Awards
Melissa Joy Dobbins speaks to the crowd as she is recognized at the 2022 CAFNR Column Awards.

Melissa Joy Dobbins, MS, RDN, CDCES (MS Nutrition Education and Coordinated Program in Dietetics ’93) is CEO of Sound Bites®, founded in 2011. She is a registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator, podcaster, speaker and spokesperson who helps people make well-informed food decisions based on facts, not fear, so they can enjoy food with health in mind. She is a media trainer and communications coach to food, nutrition and wellness professionals. Her program is consistently rated as a top nutrition podcast and has more than 200 episodes.

In fall 2022, she received the College of Agriculture, Food & Natural Resources’ Column Award for Distinguished Alumni, the only award specifically for alumni presented by the college. The awardee class includes one graduate from each of CAFNR’s six divisions, reflecting the six historic columns at the University of Missouri.

In honor of Women’s History Month, we asked Dobbins a few questions about her distinguished career, women who have inspired her along the way, and how she is supporting the next generation of women in her field.

Tell us about your current or most recent role and what you enjoy about it

I’m the founder and CEO of Sound Bites® Inc., a food and nutrition communications business, where I promote sound science, smart nutrition and good food through media interviews, social media outreach and presentations. As the host of the Sound Bites® Podcast, I interview a variety of credible experts on topics ranging from fad diets to farming and help people make their own, well-informed food and nutrition decisions based on facts, not fear. As a media and communications trainer, I help other credible healthcare professionals create and deliver compelling, evidence-based messages that engage and empower people to enjoy their food with health in mind.

What I enjoy the most is combining my communications expertise with my interest in agriculture to lead sustainable nutrition conversations and facilitate productive dialogues about food and farming. I also enjoy educating and encouraging other dietitians to boost their communication skills and leverage them to help bring more visibility to the field of dietetics and help people make meaningful changes to improve their health.

Share with us a woman who has inspired you in your life/career

In my second job out of graduate school I was an outpatient dietitian and diabetes educator. It was my favorite job and my favorite boss I ever had. My boss, Jeanne Erfft, taught me how important it is to take time to really get to know your coworkers and colleagues. Building relationships, learning from others and collaborating on projects are not only important, but truly rewarding both professionally and personally.

How do you strive to set an example for the next generation of women leaders?

I prioritize relationships and collaborations in my work – especially with other women – and role model those values to my peers and students. I never criticize others in a public forum or perpetuate negativity within my profession. I reject the notion of competition and foster the spirit of collaboration in my profession.

What advice do you have for women entering your industry?

Build and nurture relationships. Learn from and support others. Follow your gut when it comes to difficult decisions. Share your time and talents with students and newer dietitians. Don’t be afraid to say no and have firm boundaries – no one else can do that for you.