AAP-CA3’s Inspiring Women Feature on Dr. Marsha Spitzer
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AAP-CA3’s Inspiring Women Feature on Dr. Alice Pong
March 24, 2023

AAP-CA3’s Inspiring Women Feature on Dr. Natalie Muth

For Women’s History Month, we are recognizing chapter members who are making AAP-CA3 history.

Dr. Natalie Muth, MD, MPH, RDN, CSSD, FAAP, FACSM, is a pediatrician and registered dietician who is on a mission to help families improve their health. She is a founder and director of Children’s Primary Care Medical Group’s W.E.L.L nutrition clinic, the past-chair of national American Academy of Pediatrics’ Section on Obesity, and the vice-chair of the CPCMG Board of Directors.

Dr. Muth really walks us through the moments she was guided toward her true passion and profession while providing some authentic advice for those early in their careers. Please take some time to read her story.

  1. What are the most significant barriers you had to overcome?

“Canned sardines, outdated cereal, and TV dinners comprised my typical diet as a child. My family owned a small independent grocery store in rural Illinois. My dad would often bring home the food that could no longer be sold: the expired, dented, overstocked, and undersold—but, as my dad said, all perfectly edible. My mom was juggling a career and raising young kids, stressed for time and trying to balance a lot of demands. As such, she would commonly roll through the grocery store about once a month and left with two or three carts full of food. So, we did get fresh vegetables—it just happened to be around the first week of most months. I didn’t mind this too much. But for much of my childhood I struggled with eating and my weight.

 But by the time I was a teenager I was turning a corner. ‘Don’t ever give up.’ The words are attributed to the frog on my t-shirt who is strangling the stork who plucked him out of a small pond. When I was 16, this was one of my favorite shirts. There is no mountain too high. Or in my case, no canyon too deep. This was the shirt I wore on the morning that my mom and I began our unlikely 3-day journey to hike the Grand Canyon rim to base and back out – a breathtaking and grueling 20-mile round trip experience. Through much of my childhood most of my family and I had mostly unhealthy habits. While a change was already underway when my mom enlisted the help of a personal trainer to help us train for the experience (no way we could have done it alone), it was feeling the rain in my face, my whole body covered in dirt, 30-pound pack on my back and that final step of the 10-mile, 4000-foot ascent from the Colorado River at the base of the Grand Canyon to the South Rim where our journey started and would end, with my mom right behind me, that changed my life.”

  1. When did you know you wanted to become a doctor/pediatrician and who are some of your role models?

 “The inspiration I felt from my mom who accomplished something she could not have imagined doing a year earlier and the trainer, who stood by us and helped us set and achieve an ambitious goal, set me on a journey to help others find their own inspiration and path to improve their health, well-being, and strength of their most cherished relationships. This journey led me to many incredible places including the ambition and courage to go from a teeny rural midwestern town to the big city for college at UCLA where I knew no one – and landed me with a dream career as a pediatrician.

 Inspired by the trainer that helped transform me and my mom, as soon as I was old enough, I got certified as a group fitness instructor and personal trainer. I wanted to be able to do the same for others that she did for me! This also led me to the perfect job for me in college teaching fitness classes and personal training. I developed a passion for wellness, nutrition, and exercise and helping people to achieve their best selves no matter their starting point. I started college as a psychology major, fascinated by human behavior and soon added physiological sciences major given my growing fascination with exercise science. This led to many experiences with pre-med students and a growing realization I felt that, in order to most effectively pursue my passion, I would need to be a physician. But first, I wanted to have a foundation in nutrition and public health, so I pursued a Master of Public Health in Nutrition and became a registered dietitian before I went to medical school. That gave me a broader perspective and keener focus as I grinded through 5 years of medical school including a research year and 3 years of pediatrics residency. I was drawn to pediatrics and the tremendous potential to help positively impact and shape a child and family’s life from the beginning.”

  1. What are some of the leadership roles you currently hold, and can you speak to the importance of having more women in leadership positions?

 “My earliest experiences and my ‘why’ has guided me throughout my career and led me to some incredible leadership opportunities including serving as the founding Director of the W.E.L.L. Clinic at Children’s Primary Care Medical Group (CPCMG) where we provide a menu of patient-centered programs to help families optimize their health and wellbeing including an intensive behavioral lifestyle intervention for childhood obesity, a mindfulness program called CALM, a virtual teaching kitchen, nutrition consults for a variety of concerns, and resources and supports to address food insecurity. I am also the past-chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Obesity and vice-chair of the CPCMG Board of Directors. I am currently pursuing an MBA at University of San Diego to help me be a more effective intrapreneur and leader. 

 A working mom myself, who was raised by an ambitious working mom who felt pressure to ‘do it all,’ women often have different challenges and lived experiences that bring an important perspective to leadership.  I feel it’s important for there to be women in leadership positions to use this perspective to help our teams thrive and to serve as role models to other women who are just entering or beginning to rise in their career. I also think this valuable perspective can help organizations solve problems in different ways.” 

  1. What advice would you give to women who are going through medical school, residency, or who are early in their career?

“My favorite quote is ‘Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail’ by Ralph Waldo Emerson. I encourage women who are considering their career to spend some time considering their ‘why.’ What drives them? What is their passion? What does balance look like for them? And then, to ask themselves, ‘how can I take steps to realize that passion and ‘dream job,’ even if it’s never been done before?’”

  1. What are some initiatives/programs/efforts you would like to promote or want people to know more about?

 “Part of my passion and what drives me is writing and sharing what I’ve learned along the way with other pediatricians and families. 

 I’m excited to share with the other pediatricians reading this that on March 31 “’Clinician’s Guide to Pediatric Nutrition’ by Dr. Mary Tanaka and I will be available from the American Academy of Pediatrics. 

 I would also love for interested readers to check out some of my books for parents and families including ‘The Family Fit Plan: A 30 Day Wellness Transformation’ and ‘The Picky Eater Project: 6 Weeks to Healthier, Happier Family Mealtimes’ both published by the American Academy of Pediatrics, and ‘How to Raise Healthy Eaters: Starting Solids’ available as e-book on Amazon and my first book ‘Eat Your Vegetables and Other Mistakes Parents Make: Redefining How to Raise Healthy Eaters’ also available on Amazon. For professionals interested in learning more about nutrition, I’m also the author of the textbook ‘Sports Nutrition for Health Professionals’ published by FA Davis.

 More info is available on my website drnataliemuth.com or follow me on twitter @drnataliemuth”