Release Date: 
Friday, July 30, 2021

Honors alumnus aspires to a career in sports nutrition

Maitham Khanafer

Alumnus Maitham Khanafer started on his path to becoming a dietitian when he was just 14 -- inspired by the struggles of his grandfather.

“My grandfather struggled with diabetes, which led to kidney problems in his final years. His diet contributed to his problems, and he struggled to maintain a healthy lifestyle. This experience opened my eyes to how a person’s diet is a major factor for living a healthy lifestyle, which sparked my interest in nutrition,” said Khanafer.

A native of Lebanon, Khanafer is the youngest of three. He completed high school overseas and immigrated to the United States when he was 18. Khanafer completed coursework at Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland, OH before transferring to HFC.

HFC’s great professors and reputation were attractive

During his time at HFC, Khanafer was a member of the Henry Ford II Honors Program. He also worked as a student chemistry tutor and biology student lab assistant. He was clear about his decision to continue his education at HFC.

“The reputation, great professors, resources, and the opportunity to do activities outside the classroom all contributed,” he said. “I enjoyed the Honors Program and I got to do some extra work outside my field of study.”

After a great education at HFC, he transferred to Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti.

“I felt 100 percent ready for EMU,” said Khanafer. “Since my major is science-based, I had great professors at HFC for courses like basic nutrition, biology, anatomy and physiology, and chemistry. The Honors Program was also very interesting; I got to take courses with very intelligent students who helped push me to my limits and beyond.”

Ethical performance enhancement for athletes

Khanafer is currently working on his bachelor’s degree in dietetics at EMU, with a projected graduation date of 2023. He is a member of the EMU Honors College. He chose to transfer to EMU because of its dietetics program.

“EMU’s dietetics program is largely hands-on. By the time I graduate, I will have fulfilled the 1,200 hours of training required to take the national registration exam and become a registered dietitian. That was one of the main reasons I chose to go to EMU,” he said. “It is also a mid-sized school, which is perfect for me. There are lots of opportunities to learn and get out of my comfort zone. I became a campus tour guide in my first semester at EMU. I get to work in a professional yet fun environment, which is a great setting to grow.”

Khanafer’s ultimate career goal is sports nutrition, where he would like to work with elite athletes to help them ethically enhance their performance.

“I am highly interested in working with combat sport athletes or soccer players,” he said. “My other interest is in clinical nutrition and would like to work in a hospital setting, helping patients suffering from obesity, or other health-related problems like diabetes and kidney failure.”

The Fight Dietitian

Currently, Khanafer is participating in an online internship with The Fight Dietitian in New Zealand.

“The Fight Dietitian helps combat-sports athletes with their nutrition. They currently work with some of the best mixed martial artists, including world champions,” said Khanafer.

The field of dietetics offers a lot of variety, which makes it a very attractive field for Khanafer.

“As a dietitian, I can work in a variety of different settings, whether it’s with athletes, in a hospital, a private practice, a school, or in food service management,” said Khanafer.

“Despite the challenges life has thrown at him, Maitham has never been afraid to accept responsibility and face things head on," said HFC biology professor Dr. Gregory Karapetian. "He is a hard worker who is dedicated to making himself the best he can be with a clear interest for the sciences and academics. Maitham was always a pleasure to be around and to have in the classroom.”