Tell us your education, your background, and your current interests.
I am currently a senior nutrition major at Baylor University in Waco, Texas set to graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Family and Consumer Sciences in early August. Only a few days later I will start orientation for the DI/MS program at University of Tennessee Knoxville, where Karen Wetherall, MS, RD, LDN, is the internship director. My faculty thesis advisor will be Hollie Raynor, PhD, RD, and in January 2013 I will begin serving as a graduate teaching assistant for one of Lauren Gellar’s, PhD, RD, undergraduate nutrition courses.
My current interests are mainly in the behavioral health nutrition field and eating pathology, which includes a complicated, and fascinating, overlap of nutrition and psychology. Intervention and prevention measures are crucial with this population group, and require an understanding of the impact their mental health, medication, and family situation might have on their nutritional status.
How did you become interested in nutrition and behavioral health?
I have always found food to be a complex and fascinating part of life, but its importance has been magnified in the people closest to me. My sister has eosinophilic gastritis, my father has type two diabetes mellitus, and my mother has hypothyroidism. Some of the people closest to me have struggled with various, severe eating disorders, and these conditions led me to delve deeper into the intricacies of behavioral health nutrition. I run long-distance, with a couple stints of cross-country in high school and college, and found that the fuel I put in my body has an enormous impact on my performance and mental attitude. I have personally observed and experienced how proper nutrition can lead an individual to a pivotal turning point, after which their lives are changed forever and for the better. Needless to say, the combination of my experiences and innate zeal for healthcare naturally led me to pursue a Nutrition Sciences major.
Tell us about your experience as a peer nutrition educator in college.
This role has provided me with the opportunity to develop my own style of problem solving when dealing with the students and faculty who come to me with their nutrition conundrums. It has been immensely rewarding to develop rapport with my clients, and watch them learn and improve over the course of our appointments. With the knowledge gained from my classes, and a growing appreciation for the combined effect of an individual’s mental and physical status on their entire life, I have grown in my abilities to utilize motivational interviewing with clients. Their issues ranged from celiac disease, time constraints, avoiding the freshman 15, alcoholism, and more. My experiences in this position have heightened my enthusiasm for the holistic medical nutrition therapy discipline and the necessary lifestyle changes.
What other experiences have you had as a nutrition major that have been particularly meaningful or helpful to you?
One of my favorite work experiences was my position as assistant cook at Camp Redcloud, a mountain adventure camp, in the summer of 2010, which allowed me to have several unique experiences: leading shifts, adjusting food preparation for the 9,200-foot altitude of Colorado’s San Juan mountains, assisting my supervisor with placing food orders with Sysco, and preparing special orders for the children with food allergies. From the first day I arrived, and well before I had time to adapt to the elevation, we began cooking meals for the first week of training the counselors. The amount we served over the course of the entire summer varied from fifty to over three hundred hungry campers, depending on the week. The lessons I learned from that position and my fellow employees have proven invaluable in both food production and in my interactions with peers and professors.
Another experience I immensely enjoyed was shadowing a registered dietitian at Cedar Crest Hospital & Residential Treatment Center where I confirmed my passion for the role of dietetics within a psychiatric unit. I was allowed to assist the dietitian, and even do several basic consults with both adults and children, help with charting, and offer advice to some of the teenagers. I loved being able to connect with the patients, and feel the excitement will continue onto graduate school, after which I will be even more qualified!
What are your professional goals? Once you become a registered dietitian, what kind of work do you want to do?
In the long run, I look forward to gaining experience and knowledge of treatment and counseling of a wide variety of patients. During this process, I will grow closer to understanding what area I wish to eventually specialize in, through independent studies and research with qualified faculty. After I attain my Registered Dietitian credential, I want to serve humankind and raise awareness for interdisciplinary treatment: emphasizing the whole person by addressing each client’s mental and physical health. Ultimately, I would like to work in an inpatient or outpatient eating disorder clinic, as that area is one I am very passionate about.
Is there anything else you would like to share with other students?
Find what you are passionate about, think outside the box, and get involved! If you can’t find an area you like to volunteer or work in, then you might need to reconsider your major. Nutrition is a challenging subject, but I think you will find that it is worth it – and it is not just about cooking! Sign up for different Dietetic Practice Groups (DPGs), start networking and learning more about your area of interest, and stay updated on research and products.