By Astrid Inniss

UTMB was recently granted candidacy for accreditation for a dietetic internship from the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics. The new program will be part of UTMB’s Department of Nutrition and Metabolism in the School of Health Professions. The program is now accepting students for the fall 2013 term.

The new dietetic program will offer two tracks, a combined master’s degree and dietetic internship and an internship certificate program.
The master’s in nutrition and metabolism combined with supervised practice experience will offer students both an advanced degree and eligibility to take the Commission on Dietetic Registration Examination for Dietitians.
The certificate program is for students who already have a post-baccalaureate degree but who seek the clinical training needed to take the exam to become a registered dietitian. The program will accept five interns beginning fall 2013 for the certificate program, and 10 for the combined MS/Dietetic Internship Program in summer 2014.
The dietetic internship requires 1240 hours of supervised practice in four major areas:
  • clinical nutrition
  • food service/management
  • community nutrition
  • research
The program will partner with registered dietitians at UTMB and other institutions to provide interns a rich and varied experience. Affiliate institutions for clinical and hospital food service supervised practice include Shriners Children Hospital in Galveston, Kindred Hospital in Webster, Huntsville Memorial Hospital and Harris Health System. 
Community facilities include UTMB WIC Clinics, Galveston County Community Action Council – Head Start, Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston Meals on Wheels Program and the Houston Food Bank. Various school districts such as Houston, Clear Creek, Dickinson and Galveston Independent School Districts will offer supervised practice in the area of school food service. Facilities that will provide supervised practice in research include Baylor – USDA/ARS Children’s Nutrition Research Center, NASA, and the Institute for Translational Sciences Clinical Research Center. The UTMB dietetic internship has a strong research component that makes it highly competitive with other dietetic internship programs in the area.
There are three major steps students must take to become registered dietitians: 
  1. Complete a minimum of a bachelor’s degree from a United States regionally accredited university or college or foreign equivalent, and coursework through an ACEND-accredited didactic program in dietetics. 
  2. Complete a minimum of 1200 hours of supervised practice through an ACEND-accredited dietetic internship or an individual supervised practice pathway offered through an ACEND accredited program.
  3. Pass the national examination administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration.
In addition, registered dietitians may go on to acquire certifications in specialized areas of practice such as nutrition support, gerontology, pediatric or renal nutrition and diabetes education. In addition, many states have licensure laws for nutrition practitioners.
Dietitians are able to work in a variety of places such as hospitals, clinics and other health-care facilities, community and public health settings, food and nutrition-related industries and businesses, sports and corporate wellness programs as well as government agencies and private practice settings. Dietitians with advanced degrees may work at universities or in areas of research. Both tracks offered at UTMB will expose interns to the many opportunities and career paths that dietitians may choose to pursue. 
Astrid Inniss, associate director of nutrition and director of UTMB’s dietetic internship led the program’s accreditation efforts
UTMB dietetic internship preceptors Glenda Blaskey, Blair Brown, Paul Evans, Rochelle Mullins, Jane Louis, Rachel Desonier, Kathleen Lipko, Alice Fang, Christopher Messenger and Astrid Inniss, dietetic internship program director.
Astrid Inniss, director of UTMB dietetic internship, and Blair Brown, dietetic internship preceptor, discuss feeding strategies for a patient.
Registered Dietitian Chris Messenger providing guidance to a staff member who is preparing the cafeteria for lunch service.
Dietitians Rachel Desonier, and Alice Fang review a patient’s chart in EPIC.