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Alumni News Kevin Storr February 17, 2023

Written by Rebecca Lipscomb

Larissa Francis grew up in the suburbs of Detroit and earned a bachelor’s in Criminal Justice/Law Enforcement Administration from the University of Detroit Mercy. She was working on a master’s degree in intelligence analysis and criminal profiling when she was hired by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and sent to its Chicago field division, where she worked as an undercover agent for nearly six years. Larissa chose to leave when she and her husband were expecting their first of four children. “I really wanted kids,” she says, “and I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom.”

So how did she go from the ATF to UAB?

“I’ve always been fascinated with nutrition,” Larissa says. “I had an eating disorder from 16 to 30. I struggled a lot.” She spent time in a residential facility in Chattanooga, Tenn., and built a bond with the registered dietitian there. When her eldest son was diagnosed first with cancer and then with a rare autoimmune disease as a toddler, her interest intensified.

Larissa Francis Fun Facts“He couldn’t be vaccinated, so whenever he got sick, it was a big deal. I started looking at how to incorporate food in the best way to keep him healthy, and that sparked my interest in how food could be healing.” Larissa knew that she wanted to pursue a master’s degree but had no background in science or nutrition. She did her research and found that “UAB is one of the only graduate programs that will take you as you are,” she says. “I was able to do it all online, which was absolutely incredible. I spent the morning taking care of my kids and my evenings doing homework.”

In December 2022, Larissa graduated with her M.S. in Nutrition Sciences, completing the Dietitian Education Graduate Certificate Program (DEP-C) through the Lifestyle Management and Disease Prevention track, which enabled her to take the RD credentialing exam. She also received the Outstanding Graduate Award. Larissa recently accepted a position with eating disorder treatment provider Monte Nido & Affiliates as a PRN registered dietitian and hopes to return to UAB to pursue her PhD in Nutrition.

“The friendships I have formed have really been incredible. The caliber of people in this program can’t be beat.”

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