you love chocolate chip cookies, lemon meringue pie, and New York
style cheesecake, Oxford's Melinda Wells Valliant may be someone
you need to meet.
in moderation," encourages Valliant, operations manager of
Baptist HealthPlex in Oxford since its opening in 2000. "No
food is off limits. But some foods - especially sweets - must
guru Susan Powter, Valliant won't yell "stop the insanity,"
although her degrees in nutrition and exercise science from The
University of Mississippi qualify her to help others through the
sometimes maddening process of developing a balanced dietary and
a bachelor's degree in nutrition form UM in 1988 and interning
at Oxford-Lafayette Medical Center (now Baptist Memorial Hospital-North
Mississippi), Valliant spent the early part of her career counseling
heart patients about proper nutrition.
as a student dietitian at Baptist provided that first glance at
the real world of health care," she said. "I've been
hooked ever since and really enjoy counseling patients, especially
those who've recently undergone serious surgery.
At Baptist HealthPlex, Valliant said she still
counsels patients bout proper nutrition, but mainly focuses on
encouraging and improving fitness habits needed to improve medical
"Baptist HealthPlex offers a social environment
where patients and those simply interested in the benefits of
exercise can receive one-on-one expert fitness counseling,"
she said. "We serve mostly older members of the Oxford community
and have counseled patients who have undergone bypass surgery
as well as patients with diabetes and heart disease."
Although working as a fitness coordinator was
not on her mind at first, Valliant said she is pleased to serve
the Oxford community in this capacity.
graduated I simply assumed all dietitians worked at hospitals, so that's
what I did. I spent more than 10 years counseling hospital patients
on proper eating habits.
"It was an enjoyable and rewarding experience,
but now I know dietitians have the option of working in many different
areas, including nursing, fitness centers, emergency care, pharmacy,
Valliant who works with UM graduate assistants and undergraduate
interns at Baptist HealthPlex, said she often encourages students to
find something they really like to do.
"It's not about finding the right job, it's about
finding a career you're happy to do every day," she said.
In close consultation with physicians and staff at the
Heart Care Center, clinically educated instructors at Baptist HealthPlex
offer a wide variety of advanced cardiovascular and weight training,
and classes for health-related conditions. Aerobic classes, cardiac
rehabilitation, fitness assessment, exercise prescriptions, and dietary
counseling are among the services offered to the more than 1,200 members.
The HealthPlex and Heart Care Center are divisions of Baptist Memorial
Valliant, a doctoral candidate in the Department of
Health, Exercise Science, and Recreation Management earned a Master
of Science in exercise science from UM in 1997. A member of the Mississippi
Board of Dietetics Association and American College of Sports Medicine,
she resides in Oxford with her husband, Stephen, and 14 year old son,