Bio: Paula is a second-year graduate student at the University of Florida’s MS-DI program in Gainesville, Florida.
- Can you tell me about the UF MS-DI program in dietetics? What made you choose this field of study?
- The UF MS-DI program is a comprehensive Master of Science in Dietetics and Nutrition program designed to prepare students for a successful career as registered dietitians. The program encompasses a blend of academic coursework, hands-on experience, and research opportunities to provide students with a solid foundation in nutrition science, medical nutrition therapy, food service management, and community nutrition. The program emphasizes evidence-based practice, research, and the application of the latest advancements in nutrition to ensure that graduates are well-equipped to address the ever-evolving challenges in the field of dietetics.
- My pursuit to become a registered dietitian is propelled by my genuine passion for helping others lead healthier lives through nutrition-centric modalities. Ultimately, my dream is to work in a functional medicine clinic where we lead clients on the path of healing using a holistic approach, promoting mind, body, and soul coherence.
- What were some of the most valuable courses you took during your program, and how did they contribute to your understanding of nutrition and dietetics?
- Among the courses I’ve taken, some of the ones I found most valuable were advanced medical nutrition therapy, advanced metabolism, and global nutrition. Advanced MNT and advanced metabolism enriched my comprehension of the clinical and biochemical aspects of nutrition. On the other hand, global nutrition provided me with insights into the nutritional status and determinants worldwide, especially the unfortunate challenges faced by low-income countries.
- Did you have any specific research or internship opportunities related to nutrition during your studies? If so, can you share a memorable experience or project you worked on?
- During my time as an undergraduate student at UF, I had the opportunity to intern at the Field and Fork farm as a harvest and outreach intern. My collective experience there was truly memorable and fulfilling — planting produce seeds and tracking their growth up until harvest was my favorite part! Working alongside fellow interns, I was involved in various tasks, including overseeing harvest, post-harvest processing, and delivering the produce to the Alan and Cathy Hitchcock Pantry located in at UF. Being an integral part of feeding the campus community filled my heart with immense joy!
- Have you been involved in any volunteer work related to nutrition or dietetics? How has that experience influenced your career aspirations or understanding of the field?
- During my undergrad, I also had the pleasure of interning and volunteering at the Veterans Association. In this role, I collaborated with a Registered Dietitian to create weekly menu and recipe booklets for veteran cooking classes, along with nutrition education handouts covering diverse nutrition-related topics. I even had the opportunity to host a grocery tour to demonstrate healthy eating choices to veterans! This experience underscored the significance of meeting healthcare patients where they are at — being receptive to their individual and cultural dietary preferences is crucial to ensure diet adherence and patient satisfaction.
- Can you share a challenging situation you encountered in your academic or work experience related to nutrition? How did you handle it, and what did you learn from it?
- During my practicum diabetes rotation at a hospital near the UF campus, I encountered a challenging situation involving a Hispanic mother with gestational diabetes. She had been following a diet plan recommended by her primary care physician, but it did not align with her cultural preferences and traditional Hispanic foods. Recognizing the importance of cultural sensitivity in nutrition care, my preceptor and I decided to address the issue. We scheduled a meeting with the patient and her family to discuss her dietary needs and preferences. During the session, we actively listened to her concerns and gained insights into the significant role her cultural foods played in her life. Using this valuable information, we collaborated to develop a diabetic-friendly meal plan that incorporated her favorite Hispanic foods while ensuring it met her nutritional requirements. We focused on portion control, healthy cooking methods, and balanced meal combinations that would help manage her blood sugar levels effectively. From this experience, I learned the significance of cultural competency in providing effective nutrition counseling. It reinforced the importance of considering individual preferences, cultural practices, and beliefs when designing dietary interventions. By tailoring the plan to suit her cultural preferences, we were able to foster better diet adherence and positively impact her overall well-being!
- What are some of the key skills you have developed throughout your educational and professional journey in nutrition? How do you believe these skills will benefit you in your future career?
- Throughout my educational and professional journey in nutrition, I have developed several key skills that I believe will be valuable in my future career as a RD:
- Nutrition Counseling:I have gained experience in providing effective nutrition counseling, which involves active listening, empathy, and motivational interviewing. This skill will allow me to build strong relationships with clients, understand their unique challenges, and support them in making sustainable dietary changes.
- Interdisciplinary Collaboration:I have had the opportunity to collaborate with healthcare professionals from different disciplines. This skill will be valuable in my future career as an RD, as I will often work as part of an interdisciplinary team to provide comprehensive patient care.
- Compassion and Empathy:My journey in nutrition has instilled in me a deep sense of compassion and empathy for individuals seeking to improve their health through dietary changes. These qualities will be the foundation of my approach in providing caring and supportive nutrition counseling.
- Adaptability:Nutrition and health needs can vary greatly from one client to another. My experiences have taught me to be adaptable and flexible in tailoring nutrition interventions to suit individual circumstances and preferences.
- Critical Thinking:Through coursework and my research project, I have developed critical thinking skills to evaluate scientific literature and evidence-based practices. This skill will enable me to stay informed about the latest advancements in nutrition science and provide the most up-to-date recommendations to my clients.
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