-by Adam Sachs
My time as a dietetic intern is coming to a close. It has been almost a whole year since starting this program and my fellow interns and I will soon be starting our careers. Now that I have completed all my rotations and competencies, it is really interesting to look back and take note of all the accomplishments and experiences I have had throughout the year. Thinking back to some of the questions the other interns and I had at the start of the program, I’d like to give some first hand answers that pertain to my experience.
Q1: Would I get the opportunity to listen to current research and studies being published in field?
A: Yes! On a very regular basis, the interns would attend class days, conferences, and other special events throughout Maryland. We often were able to listen to lectures about new research and prominent studies in the field of dietetics. Some of the conferences that stick out in my mind were the Johns Hopkins Bayview class day and the DC Metropolitan Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (DCMAND) annual meeting. The Johns Hopkins class day contained lectures on eating disorder treatment and rehabilitation, dietary management of obesity, and surgical management of obesity. The DCMAND meeting had professionals from all around the DC/Maryland area. The conference had some great lectures on the current state of probiotic research, as well as a new study on protein synthesis related to consumption of dietary protein in conjunction with exercise.
Q2: What event during the internship would really stand out to me?
A: In late April, during my foodservice rotation, my partner Julia and I hosted a Hawaiian luau for the Veterans living at the Loch Raven VA. We designed the menu and cooked all the items to be served to about 40 of the current residents of the long-term care facility. The staff at the VA really put their best foot forward to help us and the veterans seemed to be having a great time. We were busy most of the day, so we did not get a chance to speak to many of them, but later that week, we went around to conduct surveys about the event. There was an overwhelmingly positive reaction towards our event, and it was so amazing to see many of the veterans faces light up when talking about how much they enjoyed our theme meal.
Q3: What are some of the ways the internship will prepare me to find a job in the field?
A: One of the best things about this internship is how much exposure I gained in the Maryland area. The UMD internship is not a site-based internship, so we completed rotations all around the state of Maryland, as well as the DC metro area. Every rotation was an opportunity to form a connection with a new preceptor in a variety of dietetic settings. Going from a clinical rotation to a foodservice rotation, then to a technology rotation really allowed me to experience unique perspectives at each location. I found it very helpful to learn from a variety of preceptors at different sites, especially because I was not sure which aspect of dietetics I would like to focus on when I began the internship.
Q4: What will the technology rotations be like and how will they assist me in dietetics?
A: Technology rotations are a unique aspect of this internship. Technology and social media are becoming more integrated in our daily lives as well as the field of dietetics. Our technology rotations really allowed me to see how dietitians can use tech skills to help patients and/or clients. It was great to gain experience creating online nutrition resources, conducting online webinars, and identifying reliable information on the internet. I was able to practice some of these skills during my rotation at the International Food Information Council. One of their main focuses was to create and distribute scientifically backed nutrition information to the general public, which was especially important given all of the inaccurate information available online. One of the blog segments I worked on examined current fad diets such as the “alkaline diet” and the “Tom Brady diet,” in order to bring to light any unsupported claims or scientifically inaccurate information they contained. During my rotation at Wellness Corporate Solutions, I gained experience with another communications tool; I helped develop a webinar which was designed to allow busy individuals to receive some nutrition and diet education from the comfort of their homes, or during breaks at work.
Q5: What will be the most important thing I will learn?
A: One constant concept I encountered in my rotations is that people usually have more going on than just their nutritional status. Dietitians are meant to figure out how a person’s diet is affecting their health and how it can be changed to make a positive impact, but everyone has their own unique set of circumstances that affect how they eat. Not only that, but people are also much more complex than a textbook case of diabetes or heart disease. They may have more than one disease, or their diet may be heavily influenced by their cultural, social, or economical status. Throughout the year, I presented three case studies on real patients I had worked with in my rotations. One of the hardest things to initially wrap my head around was seeing the big picture in a patient’s situation. Looking past just their medical history and delving deeper into what factors of their specific life contribute to their nutritional status. After trying to collect as much relevant information as possible, I could then start to see how to help the patient in a way that will work for them.
Hopefully some of these Q & A’s give you a little more insight into my year as a dietetic intern and have been able to convey a portion of the experience I have had throughout this program. It is hard to believe that I will be graduating about a week from now, but I am looking forward to the next phase of my life in the field of dietetics. I want to thank the internship staff, my fellow interns, and my many preceptors for all the support and guidance they have given me throughout this year!