For the last installment of our MCA Clinic guest speaker interviews, we have Carmen Gust. I have been the luckiest man in the world to have spent the last 13 years getting to know Carmen as we are happily married. We have been dating since our time as college students and I have had a first hand look at how smart, driven and motivated Carmen is. While working as a pharmacy technician and student over the course of the last 15 years, she has gain very valuable knowledge of health and nutrition and how it ties to our everyday lifestyle. Below is my interview with her about her passion for health and nutrition. Enjoy.
Me: Carmen, give us a little of your background.
Carmen: I am originally from Marshfield, Wisconsin, which is located near the center of the state. I completed my undergraduate degree at the University of Wisconsin—Madison in Communicative Disorders. There I met my husband, Freddie Owens, and followed him around the country for a few years while he followed his passion of coaching.
After six moves in eight years (yes you heard that right) we settled in Massachusetts where we currently reside. I began pharmacy school in August of 2015 and have just finished up my second year at Creighton University School of Pharmacy and Health Professionals.
Me: Why did you decide to go into pharmacy and what triggered your passion for the topic?
Carmen: I definitely took the road less traveled to get to where I am now, but it all seemed to work out for the best. I have worked in a pharmacy since my undergraduate time at Wisconsin-Madison in 2003 and I continued to pursue jobs in that field. I knew that I wanted to further my education, but I was finding it difficult to integrate four years of schooling into this crazy world of coaching and multiple moves across the country.
I was fortunate to have discovered an amazing program through Creighton University that enables students to participate in pharmacy school from wherever they may be in the country/world. I watch all of the classes virtually from my home and complete the same classes that the local campus students attend. Once I heard about this program, I knew my dream of attending pharmacy school could be a reality. This program has been remarkable and has enabled me to further my pursuit of becoming a pharmacist.
My passion for pharmacy really began when I was working at a community health center and non-profit hospital when I lived in Montana. I saw that medications are vital to so many people and with that came copious amounts of people that were unable to afford their medications. I worked with patients to obtain their medications free or at a low cost from the pharmaceutical companies. I learned that every person had a story.
A lot of people like to say that people are “milking the system,” but I challenge those with this mindset to work in a free clinic and get to know the patients. Most have just fallen on hard times and are trying desperately to get out of them. Most are not able to dig themselves out without medications that are vital to their everyday living. For me, this is where pharmacy shifted from being just a job and morphed into my passion and my why.
Me: Why are health and nutrition often overlooked by people?
In my opinion, health and nutrition are overlooked because we live in a society that is so focused on being skinny and overall health is often ignored. People tend to think they are doing all the right things by following the latest diet trends, but those diets may not actually be healthy and nutritional. Just because the pounds are shedding, does not mean that you are healthier.
For example, when I was in college I went on a low-carb diet. I would eat bacon and eggs every morning with a slab of turkey and mayo for lunch. I remember my roommate saying, “That can’t be healthy,” with a look of disgust. My reply was, “Well, I’m losing weight!” The diet had potential to be healthier, but I was eliminating entire food groups by not incorporating enough fruits and vegetables.
I also think that every single person is different and each persons' body was meant to be at a certain weight. Losing weight is easy for some people and really difficult for others. I would love if society could move towards focusing on making healthy choices, rather than the number that's on the scale. I believe this could lead to less cases of hypertension and type II diabetes and better overall health and longevity.
Me: What advice would you give coaches and athletes in regards to starting or maintaining a healthier lifestyle? (Food choices, exercise, etc)
Carmen: One piece of advice I would give to busy coaches would be to stop eating out. Avoid convenient drive thru foods and hot dogs at the concession stands. Most of these foods are loaded with sodium, sugar, fat and hold little nutritional value.
When you are out recruiting, make one of your first stops a visit to the local grocery store and pick up some healthy options like fruit, veggies, or low-sugar protein bars. Salads are also a great option to pack for lunch. Eat the snacks you bought instead of candy or nachos from the concession stands. Coaches spend a lot of time sitting while watching or coaching games. Unhealthy eating compounded with inactivity is a recipe for disaster.
Me: Carmen, thank you for your time as always. I will try to keep this professional, but I love you and I am very proud of you. We look forward to seeing you at the MCA Clinic.