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Maureen Keane, MS

Campus: 
Washington
School of Natural Health Arts & Sciences
Department of Nutrition & Exercise Science

Briefly describe the work you do now.

I am a health and nutrition writer. I have published many successful books, and I am always working on getting new books published. On a typical day, I work on some aspect of a new book proposal. When the proposals are finished, my agent forwards them to publishers.

What is your background?

As a child I always loved science, but it never crossed my mind to get a degree in nutrition or even to take a nutrition course. I was a bit of a hard-science snob, and back then nutrition was relegated to the home economics departments of universities. I was only interested in hard sciences, not interior decorating or textiles, and my days were filled with microbiology, chemistry and physics and their endless labs. It was this desire for hard science that eventually led me to Bastyr.

I received a Bachelor of Science degree with a major in biology from Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. My first job was in industrial microbiology with a soft-drink company. I worked in quality control and oversaw the microbiological "purity" of the product at four plants. Then I was hired by Wayne University Medical School to oversee a CDC study on venereal disease. My work at the medical school resulted in two studies being published that credited my name.

How did you find your way to Bastyr?

I took time off to have a child, and then decided to pursue a career as a nutritionist. The problem was I wanted a program with a whole-foods approach, but also one that taught nutrition as a science. I was researching schools at the library when I came across a flier on the bulletin board about an open house at someplace called Bastyr. At first I was afraid it was going to be like one of those so-called holistic nutrition schools you see advertised in the back of health magazines, but I was impressed with the caliber of the faculty and a presentation by alumnus Dr. Michael Murray. He embodied what I wanted to be.

How did you get into this career?

I got my start as a writer by accident. Cherie Calbom, another master's student, and I wrote a booklet on juicing over the summer that was included with a juice extractor made by a local company. Juicing had become so popular by the time we finished the booklet that we decided there was a good chance we could sell a whole book on juicing. The result, Juicing for Life, ended up being published by Avery Press and was in the top 10 best-selling trade paperbacks in 1993. It still sells well today.

Soon afterward I found an agent to represent me, and since then I have had 14 books published with his help, all with major publishers. Some of these were written under my name — I ghost wrote one for a doctor — and I wrote a series of five books with another Bastyr graduate, Daniella Chace. Both What to Eat When You Have Cancer and Smoothies for Life became best-sellers. Last year I updated the cancer book and rewrote What to Eat When You Have Diabetes, and I have several new books in the works. I have also written a number of chapters in other people's books and write a monthly health column, Sláinte, in the Celtic Connection, a West Coast paper.

After graduation I took a year-long certificate course in nonfiction book writing to further hone my skills.

What did you appreciate most about your degree program?

I most appreciated the self-reliance taught by our instructors. We explored the "why" as much as the "what" of nutrition. Instructors gave us the tools to continue to teach ourselves after graduation. As a writer I have to get my information from primary sources — medical and nutrition journals. I have to be able to evaluate statistics, have a strong knowledge of nutritional biochemistry, and be able to translate this information into simple language my readers can understand. All this I learned at Bastyr.

Bastyr, especially Lori Silverstein, the former head of the nutrition department, gave me confidence in myself. In 1992 I was invited to present a paper based on my thesis research at the 25th anniversary convention of the Society for Nutrition Education. I presented my study and held my own among the other more "allopathic-oriented" nutrition researchers.

What's next for you? Where would you like to place your energies?

My goal right now is to write another best seller, so I am working on ideas for my next book. I need to get my website up and running (keanenutrition.com). It only has a few pages now and needs a makeover.

How did your Bastyr degree prepare you for your career?

It was at Bastyr that I learned the basics of my profession. If my career was a tree, Bastyr would be the roots. It's up to me to see that the tree blossoms and bears fruit. But if the root system is bad, that tree is going to be stunted no matter what is done. I also wrote a lot of papers at Bastyr. This taught me how to concentrate on a topic and write accurately and quickly. Through my thesis work, I learned how to do real research, and this influences everything I write.

Interviewed October 2009

Portrait of Maureen Keane, MS
Maureen Keane, MS