Scheduled: RD Exam!

After over 1200 hours of supervised practice throughout my dietetic internship at WVU, I am finally eligible to take the RD (Registered Dietitian) exam! It’s been a long, long road, but this comprehensive exam is the final step towards becoming a Registered Dietitian.

The RD exam consists of 4 domains:

DOMAIN I: Principles of Dietetics (12% of exam)

A. Food Science and Nutrient Composition of Foods

B. Nutrition and Supporting Sciences

C. Education and Communication

D. Research

E. Management Concepts

DOMAIN II: Nutrition Care for Individuals and Groups (50% of exam)

A. Screening and Assessment

B. Diagnosis

C. Planning and Intervention

D. Monitoring and Evaluation

DOMAIN III: Management of Food and Nutrition Programs and Services (21% of exam)

A. Functions of Management

B. Human Resources

C. Financial Management

D. Marketing and Public Relations

E. Quality Improvement

DOMAIN IV: Foodservice Systems (17% of exam)

A. Menu Development

B. Procurement, Production, Distribution, and Service

C. Safety and Sanitation

D. Equipment and Facility Planning

E. Sustainability

I have scheduled my exam for one month from now (mid-July). I already ordered Jean Inman’s review course and CD’s and have been slowly reviewing the material. I also have two RD exam prep apps on my iPhone for studying on the go. However, I would love to hear any tips/suggestions/advice from anyone who has already taken the RD exam! Please feel free to comment below. ūüôā

Ah, I’m so nervous/scared, but now it’s off to study! Wish me luck ūüôā


FNCE 2012: A Student’s Perspective

As a part of my dietetic internship at WVU,¬†I¬†had the fabulous opportunity to attend this year’s Food and Nutrition Conference & Expo (FNCE)¬†in Philadelphia, PA.¬† FNCE is the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetic’s annual meeting where over 8,000 Registered Dietitians attend to meet top industry experts, learn about food and nutrition trends, and stay up-to-date with nutritional research.¬† There is also an expo where over 350 food and nutrition companies promote and¬†showcase their products (and give away lots of free goodies!).

Because this was my first FNCE¬†meeting, I was ecstatic to be in a large, buzzing¬†room of other¬†dietitians and dietetic students. I even called my mother during the event and told her “I was in nutrition heaven”. ¬†ūüôā

Check out some pictures I took during my first trip at FNCE!

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The Dr. Dean Ornish Program for REVERSING Heart Disease

Dr. Dean Ornish on the cover of Newsweek.

During this week of my clinical nutrition rotation at Charleston Area Medical Center, I have had the privilege to shadow the dietitian who works with the Dr. Dean Ornish Program. ¬†I knew a little bit¬†about the program previously, but I did not fully understand the wonderful health outcomes it truly has, not only in reversing heart disease, but¬†in improving the overall quality of someone’s life.

Who is Dr. Dean Ornish?

Dr. Dean Ornish is a physician and president and founder of the nonprofit Preventative Medicine Research Institute¬†in Sausalito, CA as well as Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. While he was a medical student in the 1970’s, he began conducting research on the prevention of¬†Coronary Artery Disease, which included lifestyle modifications¬†such as a low fat, whole-grain, plant-based diet, smoking cessation, moderate exercise, stress management techniques, and psychosocial support.

For the next 30 years, he has conducted scientific, clinical research proving that his program aids in the reversal of heart disease. He has since written several books¬†and had dozens of television appearances on shows such as The Oprah Show, The Dr. Oz Show, and Larry King Live. He is also a consulting physician for former president, Bill Clinton. After the former president’s bypass surgery, Ornish¬†encouraged him to make similar lifestyle changes and to consume a plant-based diet.¬† Recently, Ornish¬†also published a research article showing that these lifestyle changes can slow, stop, or reverse the progression of prostate cancer. Ornish’s¬†compelling, groundbreaking research has proven that his four-tiered lifestyle changes can¬†actually¬†turn back the hands of time in the development of heart disease.

Dr. Dean Ornish, creator of the Program for Reversing Heart Disease.

The Dr. Dean Ornish Program

There are four main components that comprise the Ornish program: exercise, nutrition, stress management, and group support. All of these components work synergistically to help heal the heart from the inside out.

1. Exercise

Includes moderate exercise such as walking, cycling, and strength training.

  • The program encourages aerobic exercise for a minimum of 30 minutes a day or for an hour every other day for a total of 3-5 hours of aerobic exercise per week.
  • If medically appropriate, participants are also encouraged to engage in strength training exercise 2-3 times per week.

2. Nutrition

The lifestyle change requires a low-fat, whole foods nutrition plan that is high in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. The diet also requires the elimination of all animal products and fish except for fat-free dairy and egg whites.

  • The composition of¬†the Ornish diet is typically around 70% carbohydrate, 20% protein, and 10% of calories from fat¬†(take note that the average American consumes ~35% of calories from fat). Therefore, the diet is VERY low in fat in order to¬†reduce the “stickiness” of the blood and to improve heart function.
  • No meat, poultry, or fish.
  • No caffeine (with the exception of¬†green tea due to it’s health benefits from polyphenols and antioxidants).
  • No more than 10 mg of cholesterol per day
  • One serving per day of a ‚Äúfull-fat‚ÄĚ soy food. A full-fat soy food is one that contains¬†>3 grams of fat per serving, with none of the fat coming from added fats or oils. Always read the label for portion sizes and ingredient content.
  • Food products with added fat (such as soybean oil or canola oil) is allowed 3 times per day as long as a product has ‚̧ g of fat per serving.
  • Whole grain bread and pasta products with ‚̧ g of fat per serving.
  • There’s no counting calories, however portion control is strongly recommended.
  • Limiting alcohol consumption is encouraged to not exceeding one alcoholic drink per day.
  • The addition of¬†a fish oil supplement and a senior multivitamin is encouraged. Why?? Because fish oil has been shown¬†to reduce¬†the risk of heart disease and a senior multivitamin has no iron and contains¬†more Vitamin B12¬†(which may be¬†lacking in the Ornish¬†diet due to the elimination of meat products) compared to a regular multivitamin.
  • Where’s the protein? Legumes, wheat products, and soy products with ‚̧ g of added fat

The Ornish Diet Food Pyramid.

Ornish Diet Sample Meal Plan


  • 1¬ĺ egg white zucchini frittata
  • 1/3 cup each‚ÄĒblueberries, strawberries, blackberries
  • ¬Ĺ cup non-fat milk
  • 1 slice whole-grain bread
  • 1 cup herbal tea or decaf coffee-alternative


  • 1-7/8 cup mango-beet salad
  • 1-7/8 cup vegetarian chili
  • 1 slice corn bread


  • 5/8 cup green pea guacamole
  • 6 whole-wheat pita bread wedges
  • ¬Ĺ cup red grapes


  • 1-7/8 cup fennel and arugula salad with fig vinaigrette
  • 2 cups whole-wheat penne pasta with roasted vegetables
  • 2-1/3 cup fruit-and-yogurt trifle
  • Glass of wine or sparkling water

Nutrition Analysis of Sample Meal Plan

3. Stress Management

The program is not going to eliminate stress from everyday life, but it teaches participants to better manage their stress. Stress management techniques include stretching, yoga, relaxation, deep breathing, guided imagery, and meditation.

It is recommended for participants to practice stress management techniques for about 60 minutes everyday.

4. Group Support

The participants have regular group meetings where they learn to better their communication skills with one another as well as within their personal relationships. Group support is meant to create a social network who will encourage and support each other along the journey.

Group support sessions are meant to help participants in:

  • Rediscovering inner sources of peace, joy, and well-being
  • Learning how to communicate in ways that enhance intimacy with loved ones
  • Creating a healthy community of friends and family
  • Developing more compassion and empathy for both yourself and others


Does the program actually work? …YES. It’s scientifically proven.

Dr. Ornish¬†has published dozens and dozens of research articles in premier scientific journals proving that this program not only helps participants lose weight, but is the only program that has been proven to REDUCE heart disease without surgery or medications.¬† If you would like more information on Dr. Ornish’s published research¬†articles, click on the link here¬†to read the full versions.

In order to give a general sense of the benefits, here are the latest findings from all of the 3,780 patients who went through Dr. Dean Ornish’s Program for Reversing Heart Disease via Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield in Pennsylvania, Nebraska, and West Virginia as of October 2011:

  • The average patient lost 13.3 pounds in the first 12 weeks and 15.9 pounds after 1 year
  • Significant reductions in systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure, total cholesterol, triglycerides, and LDL-cholesterol after 12 weeks were still significant after 1 year
  • Exercise capacity increased from 8.7 to 10.6 METS after 12 weeks (18% increase) and to 10.8 METS after one year (24% increase)
  • Significant reductions in depression and hostility (the emotions most strongly linked with heart disease) after 12 weeks that were still significant after 1 year
  • Hemoglobin A1C in diabetics decreased¬†from 7.4% at baseline to 6.5% after 12 weeks and 6.8% after one year (complications of diabetes such as blindness, kidney failure, heart disease, and amputations can be¬†prevented when hemoglobin A1C is less than 7.0%)
  • 96.5% of patients reported¬†improvement in severity of angina (chest pain) after 1 year

Who can benefit from this program?

  1. Those who are contemplating, or have already had, bypass surgery.
  2. Those with a history of cardiac events or surgery and want to minimize the chance of a recurrence.
  3. Those who have been diagnosed with coronary artery disease or diabetes.
  4. Those with significant risk factors for heart disease, such as: a family history of heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, and central or abdominal obesity.

How long is the program?

There are two program options:

1.) The Reversal Program: This is a one-year treatment program. The first 12 weeks are more intensive and include meeting two times per week for four hours each. Sessions include lectures, group exercise, stress management, nutrition education, and group support sessions. As the year progresses, the amount of time committed to on-site sessions decreases.

2.) The Spectrum Program: This is a six-week education-only program based on Dr. Ornish’s best-selling book, The Spectrum, which can be tailored to suit almost anyone who wants to make healthy lifestyle changes.

Okay, so how much will this cost me?

The 1 year program costs over $8,000, BUT luckily most participants have their insurance providers cover 100% of the programs costs! Medicare, Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield, and PEIA all cover the Ornish program for qualifying individuals.

Where are Ornish program locations?

Most programs are located in Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Go to the website to find specific locations near you!

The Ornish 10-Year CAMC Celebration!

Just last week, Charleston Area Medical Center (located in¬†Charleston, WV) celebrated it’s 10th anniversary¬†of hosting the Dean Ornish Heart¬†Disease Reversal¬†program! Read more about the 10 year celebration in this newspaper article¬†printed in The Charleston Gazette.

Jim Perry and John Linton try some of the healthy food last week at the 10-year celebration of the Ornish¬†program, which is offered¬†through CAMC¬†Memorial Hospital. Perry and Linton were part of the program’s original group that started to reduce the effects of and prevent heart disease.

CAMC had the privilege to have Dr. Dean Ornish speak at the celebration via Skype!

Learn more about the benefits of the Dr. Dean Ornish program in this video!

A Week of Clinical Nutrition at Teay’s Valley Hospital

I am spending this entire week focusing on clinical nutrition and medical nutrition therapy at Teay’s Valley Hospital.¬† Teay’s Valley Hospital (TVH) is a small, 70-bed, rural hospital located in Hurricane, WV.¬† Associated with Charleston Area Medical Center, TVH is located about 25 minutes outside of downtown Charleston, WV.

I have had the opportunity to work with the on-staff registered dietitian. One of the biggest adjustments I have had to make is the transition from electronic charting to PAPER charting!¬† I have always been used to reading a patient’s medical record electronically, so the process of paper charting was completely Greek to me.¬† But I think it will be beneficial for me to experience how things are run in different types of¬† hospitals.¬† And the paper charting wasn’t as hard as I thought it was going to be…even though it sometimes felt like I was deciphering through hieroglyphics! ūüôā

As the weeks of my clinical rotation roll by, I am slowly beginning to become familiar and comfortable with the daily roles and responsibilities of being a clinical dietitian. And thank goodness, because isn’t that the purpose of the dietetic internship?! Like they always say…practice, practice, practice!

Clinical Nutrition Topic of the Day: Congestive Heart Failure

Throughout the past 5 weeks of rotating through the acute, in-patient setting, I have been exposed to the dietary implications of a very common disease state: Congestive Heart Failure or CHF (not to be confused with the abbreviation, CF, or Cystic Fibrosis in my previous post).

The general definition of CHF is when the heart is unable to deliver oxygen-rich blood to the rest of the body. This can be due to:

  1. A weakened heart muscle
  2. Stiffening of the heart muscle
  3. Diseases that increase the body’s oxygen requirements that are beyond the capacity of the heart

Signs & Symptoms

  • Fatigue and reduced activity
  • Fluid overload
  • Edema of the legs and/or lungs – This is caused¬†by inadequate blood flow to the kidneys, resulting in aldosterone and antidiuretic hormone secretion…which both act to conserve fluid.¬† Aldosterone acts by increasing sodium resorption and antidiuretic hormone acts by conserving¬†fluid in the distal tubules of the nephron.
  • Shortness of breath – Due to fluid overload of the lungs. Shortness of breath usually worsens at night or at rest.
  • Increased urination
  • Mental confusion, memory loss, anxiety, insomnia – Due to decreased blood supply to the brain.
  • Malnutrition, anorexia, decreased appetite, feeling of fullness, nausea, constipation,¬†abdominal pain – Due to fluid overload of the liver. These are some of the most pertinent symptoms to a clinical dietitian because it leads to many nutritional complications and dietary changes.

Risk Factors

  • Gender – During middle age, men are at a higher risk for CHF than women.¬† However, elderly women are at a higher risk than elderly men.
  • Race – The highest incidence of CHF¬†is as follows: black women > black men > Mexican-American men > white men > white women >¬†Mexican-American women
  • Hypertension
  • Diabetes
  • Coronary Heart Disease
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Obesity
  • Left ventricular hypertrophy (enlargement of the left ventricle of the heart)
  • Myocardial Infarction (a heart attack)
  • Excessive dietary sodium
  • Medication noncompliance
  • Arrhythmias
  • Pulmonary embolism

Nutritional Implications of CHF

Because many CHF patients are malnourished, edema can falsely cause their body weights to appear normal or higher than their true weight. Thus, the dietitian should first determine the dry weight of a CHF patient. Thus, the dietitian should determine a patients weight before eating and before urination at the same time each day.  Other determinants of malnutrition, such as serum prealbumin, albumin, and transferrin may appear low due to dilution of extracellular fluid.

As an overall goal, CHF¬†patients should follow a “heart-healthy diet”. This can either be the DASH diet or a diet that is low in saturated fats, trans fats, and cholesterol, and high in fiber.

Nutrition Prescription:

  • Weigh a patient with¬†CHF regularly – This is to monitor anorexia, weight loss, and excess fluid retention.
  • <2 g or 2000 mg of sodium per day¬†– Sodium is restricted because excess sodium only leads to more fluid retention.
  • Fluid restriction – This is usually determined by the physician, but fluid intake is typically restricted to <2 L/day, <1500 mL/day, or <1 L/day¬†depending on the severity of the disease.
  • Adequate energy intake¬†– One of the common complications of CHF is for patients to lose their appetite quickly or become short of breath, leading to decreased energy intake.¬† The recommendation is to use 31-35 kcal/kg of body weight¬†to determine¬†energy requirements (CHF¬†patients have higher caloric and protein¬†needs due to increases in energy expenditure typical of the body being in a catabolic state). Thus, dietitians need to encourage the importance of¬†consuming adequate calories to prevent cachexia and weight loss.
  • Potassium, Magnesium, Calcium ,and Vitamin D – CHF puts individual at a higher risk for¬†lower levels of these vitamins and minerals due to low activity levels, impaired kidney functioning, and prescription drugs that alter¬†their metabolism.
  • Limit or avoid alcohol – Not only will alcohol add more fluid to the diet, but it also raises blood pressure. If alcohol cannot be avoided, limit intake to <2 drinks/day for men and <1 drink/day for women.
  • Limit or avoid caffeine

Source: AND Nutrition Care Manual

Beverages may be included with meals unless satiety is a problem. Pudding and milk would count toward the fluid intake. If your doctor has limited your fluid intake, the total fluids you drink must be within the amount allowed for the day.

Approximate Nutrient Analysis

Calories: 1,832
Protein: 93g (19% of Calories)
Carbohydrate: 293g (61% of calories)
Fat: 40g (19% of calories), Saturated Fat: 10g
Sodium: 1,525mg
Potassium: 3,750mg
Cholesterol: 80mg

Recommended foods for CHF patients.
Source: AND Nutrition Care Manual

Foods not recommended for CHF patients.
Source: AND Nutrition Care Manual


L. Kathleen Mahan & Sylvia Escott-Stump. Krause’s Food & Nutrition Therapy, 12th Edition

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Nutrition Care Manual.

Clinical Nutrition Topic of the Day: Cystic Fibrosis

Cystic Fibrosis (CF) is a debilitating disease that affects secretory cells that produce mucus, sweat, and digestive juices.  CF is genetically inherited as an autosomal-recessive trait that mostly occurs in the Caucasian population, or about 1 in 3,500 births.  The treatment and early detection of the disease has aided in a drastic improvement in the survival rate (the average life expectancy is 37 years), even though some individuals are not diagnosed until the late teens.  A defect in the CF gene, located on chromosome 7q, causes mucus to become thick and sticky, which plugs up many essential ducts and passageways.  CF predominately alters the proper functions of the lungs and pancreas.

Respiratory Symptoms and Complications

  • Wheezing
  • Coughing up sputum and mucus
  • Shortness of breath
  • Decreased ability to exercise
  • Infections with various different strains of bacteria, which causes many hospitalizations and decreases prognosis

Digestive Symptoms and Complications

  • Pancreatic insufficiency – This is due to the production of thick mucus, which blocks the secretion of digestive enzymes from the pancreas into the small intestine. This leads to the inability of the digestive system to metabolize and break down fat consumed though the diet. Also, pancreatic insufficiency can often lead to Cystic Fibrosis-Related Diabetes (CFRD).
  • Bulky, foul-smelling stools
  • Cramping
  • Poor weight gain and/or failure to thrive
  • Intestinal blockage
  • Constipation
  • Steattorhea
  • Gallstones (blocked bile ducts)
  • Rectal prolapse

Medical Treatments of Cystic Fibrosis

  • Many medications – Antibiotics, mucus-thinning drugs, bronchodilators, inhaled medications, and pancreatic enzymes.
  • Chest physical therapy – Such as a clapper or an inflatable vest that shakes the chest cavity to loosen the mucus.
  • Surgical procedures – Nasal polyp removal, oxygen therapy, endoscopy and lavage, lung transplant, feeding tube.
  • Counseling – Nutritional and/or psychological counseling may be recommended for patients and their families.

Nutritional Implication of Cystic Fibrosis

Due to the GI tract’s inability to break down and absorb fats, CF patients are at a high risk for malabsorption and malnutrition.¬† Because each CF patient manifests the disease differently in terms of the age of the patient, severity of the disease, stage of their treatments, lung function, GI function, and other complications, nutrition interventions are very individualized from patient to patient.

Regardless, the nutrition management of CF patients typically include:

  • Controlling maldigestion and malabsorption with pancreatic enzymes – Digestive enzymes, or enteric-coated enzyme microspheres, are consumed orally and released in the duodenum. The dosage of these enzymes depends on the degree of pancreatic insufficiency and the amount and type of food consumed. The more fat being consumed in a meal will results in a higher dosage of enzymes in order to metabolize the fat.
  • Meeting increased energy needs – Energy needs will vary depending on the patients age, gender, BMR, physical activity, respiratory function, and severity of malabsorption. (Some tips to increase energy and calories are suggested below)
  • Promoting appropriate weight gain – Nutritional supplements are often recommended in order to increase energy intake and promote weight gain.
  • Vitamin/mineral supplementation – Typically, fat-soluble vitamins (vitamins A, D, E, and K) are poorly absorbed in CF patients and may need to be taken as a supplement or a multi-vitamin. Also, osteoporosis is also common because vitamin D aids in the absorption of calcium.¬† Therefore, CF patients may have increased calcium needs.

Scandishakes are a common nutrition supplement recommended by dietitians for patients with CF who have increased energy needs.
Scandishakes contain ~600 calories when mixed with eight ounces of whole milk. That’s a lot of calories in a small volume of fluid, which is great for CF patients trying to gain weight!

Here are some nutrition tips for individuals with CF:

  • Eat as often as possible
  • Prepare foods with, or top foods with, high calorie-condiments such as extra butter, margarine, dressings, gravies, creamy sauces, heaving whipping cream, peanut butter, and whole milk to foods and recipes whenever possible
  • Add dried skim milk powder to add protein to sauces and beverages
  • Add extra cheese to pizza, baked potatoes, soups, pastas, etc
  • Add extra deli meats to sandwiches
  • Top bacon to burgers
  • Milkshakes, milkshakes, milkshakes
  • Add instant breakfast mixes to milk-based drinks
  • Add nuts to cookies, cakes, pancakes,
  • Add nuts, eggs, meats, and creamy dressings to salads
  • Breaded meats and fish adds calories


L. Kathleen Mahan & Sylvia Escott-Stump. Krause’s Food & Nutrition Therapy, 12th Edition

Determining the Nutritional Risk of a Patient

As part of the nutrition assessment process, the dietitians at CAMC need to determine the nutritional risk of a patient by using a scoring method. A patient who is scored at a higher nutritional risk is put at a higher priority in terms of follow-up and monitoring. Thus, the higher the risk score, the closer the follow-up time frame.

The nutritional risk and follow-up criteria are shown below:

Determining the Level of Nutritional Risk

Criteria Score
Nutrition Support (enteral/parenteral nutrition) 6
Admitting Diagnosis (this can be a number of different things such as pancreatitis and chronic renal disease) 2
Weight Loss 2
Oral intake <50% OR NPO/Clear liquid > 5 days 2
Dysphagia 2
Albumin <2.5, Pre-albumin <16 2
Vent dependent 2
Skin breakdown/Deep tissue injury 2
BMI <18.5 2



Time Frame for Follow-Ups Based on Level of Nutritional Risk

Score Level of Risk Follow-Up
< 8 High 5 Days
6-8 High-Moderate 5-7 Days
4-6 Moderate 7 Days
2-4 Moderate-Low 7-10 Days
2 Low 10 Days

The Start of My Clinical Rotation at CAMC

Yesterday was my first day at Charleston Area Medical Center, which is located¬†in Charleston, WV (which is thankfully a bit flatter than what I’m used to in Morgantown!).¬† CAMC¬†is a large, trauma-1 center comprised of¬†four different hospitals:¬† Memorial Hospital, General Hospital, Women and Children’s Hospital, and Teay’s Valley Hospital.¬† For my 6-week¬†clinical nutrition¬†rotation, I will be interning specifically at Memorial Hospital. Memorial Hospital has one of the greatest heart programs in the United States, performing over 1,600 open-heart bypass surgeries each year. The hospital also has a comprehensive¬†cancer department as well as a diabetes center, family medicine and internal medicine clinics, Vascular Center of Excellence and general medical-surgical inpatient services.

My first two days at CAMC¬†consisted of meeting the employees in the nutrition department, conducting meal rounds, learning the tray delivery system, acquainting myself with¬†the electronic medical record system, and understanding¬†the ins-and-outs of¬†a dietitian’s role in this particular institution.¬† So far I have been shadowing¬†the dietitian and learning the nutrition care process, but by the end of the rotation I will be expected¬†to perform these tasks on my own as “staff relief”…and I CAN’T wait for that!

I am looking forward to getting to know the hospitals, the dietitians, the interdisciplinary care team, and the patients throughout my rotation here in Charleston!

CAMC Memorial Hospital, which is the specific hospital I will be interning at during my clinical nutrition rotation.


WVU’s Graduate Dietetic Internship Bootcamp, 2011 & 2012

Every¬†undergraduate senior in the dietetics major¬†knows the feeling of nervousness and excitement for the dreaded “DICAS¬†Match Day”.¬† This is the horrifying day when you find out whether¬†or not¬†you got placed with a dietetic internship, which is a required component¬†in order to become a Registered Dietitian.¬† Luckily, I had the honor of being accepted into the West Virginia University Graduate Dietetic Internship Program, and I was beyond¬†ecstatic.¬† There were so many reasons to be¬†excited because the WVU¬†GDI program¬†had all the features I was looking for:

1.) It is a¬†two-year combined master’s and dietetic internship program.¬† This means I would receive over 1200 hours¬†of supervised practice experience that is required¬†to take the R.D. exam as well as having the opportunity¬†to earn my Masters of Science degree¬†in Human Nutrition and Foods. The perk of a combined¬†program, such as WVU, is that I am able to get my master’s and¬†dietetic internship completed quickly¬†in just 2¬†years.

2.) Internship rotations.  When I was applying to internships, one of the biggest factors in my decision was the different internship rotation sites. I thought all of the internship sites at WVU sounded very interesting! To learn more about the WVU rotation sites, click here.

3.) Research, research, research. I am a very inquisitive and curious person, and I knew I wanted to incorporate research into my internship experience. I chose the thesis option of the masters degree, meaning I will receive a research project, perform laboratory work, find results, and write a thesis.  I am especially excited to have the opportunity to attend a large scientific meeting in Boston, MA in April 2013.  Experimental Biology is an annual meeting for the fields of anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, pathology, nutrition, and pharmacology to discuss the strides and contributions made to the field of science. I am nervous and excited because I will be presenting a student research poster at the meeting!

4.) West Virginia is a melting pot of opportunities for dietitians looking to make a difference and have an impact on the health of the community.  Unfortunately, WV is the second most obese state in the U.S. and heart disease is the number one killer among West Virginians.  Therefore, being a dietetic intern at WVU opened up many doors in order to educate and improve the lives of those in the Morgantown and surrounding areas.

5.)¬† I love the big school atmosphere! Coming from Penn State to WVU¬†was not that much of an adjustment for me in terms of size, the number of students, and the college-town atmosphere.¬† The Mountaineers, football games, tailgates, cheering your team on during March Madness…what’s not to love?

6.)¬† Close to home.¬† I’m not going to lie, I am kind of a¬†homebody and I like spending time with my family.¬† It was very important to me that Morgantown was only an hour and a half away from my home in¬†Pittsburgh.¬† An added bonus is my younger brother is currently¬†in his undergrad at WVU. It was very reassuring knowing I would have a family member, not only in the same town, but who could “show me the ropes” of Morgantown and the culture of WVU.

When I saw I had been matched with¬†the internship, the first thing¬†I did was, well…call my mom.¬† The second thing I did was find out¬†who the other interns¬†would be¬†in my internship class (and “friend” them on¬†Facebook of course!).¬† Next came finding an apartment and the big move to good old Morgantown, WV…well it’s¬†not that big of a move from Pittsburgh, but many of the other¬†interns come from all over the country.


Being a fresh college graduate ready to embark on the start of my career,¬†my first taste of the WVU¬†GDI¬†program was called¬†“bootcamp”.¬† A dietetic internship BOOTCAMP!? Oh no, sounds scary right?¬† I was definitely scared and nervous on¬†that first day, but my nerves were soon put at ease.

The bootcamp idea was implemented by Dr. Melissa Olfert, DrPH, MS, RD, LD in her inaugural year as director of the GDI program.  Bootcamp began two weeks before the start of the fall semester, August 9, 2011 РAugust 19, 2011 from 8:00 AM Р5:00 PM at Zen Clay Cafe.

The purpose of bootcamp is for the interns to become better acquainted with:

  • The other first and second year interns
  • The professors and faculty
  • The city of Morgantown
  • The¬†beautiful WVU campus
  • The confusing PRT system
  • eCampus and MIX email system
  • Registering for classes
  • The expectations of a Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA)
  • Getting your WVU ID card
  • The GDI program and the student handbook

On the first day of bootcamp, the very first thing the interns were required to do was to take a personality test.¬† A personality test? What does that have to do with bootcamp?¬† The personality test was actually a fun icebreaker, it was a great tool to better get to know each other, and we learned what makes eachother’s¬†personality¬†“tick”. Each intern as well as Dr. Olfert¬†took Carl Jung’s personality assessment, more commonly known as the Myer’s-Briggs.¬† This assessment analyzed an individual based on 8 categories and places them into one of 16¬†personality types. The 8 categories are extroversion/introversion, sensing/intuition, thinking/feeling, judging/perceiving.¬† I am an ENFJ, which is known as “The Giver”. What is your personality type?


During boot camp, first year interns have many points to consider:

  • Do I want to embark on the Thesis or Non-Thesis option of the master’s degree?
  • If the thesis option, what professor would I like to work with and what will my research project be?
  • If the non-thesis option, what would I like to¬†write my problem report about?
  • What professor do I want my adviser to be?
  • What professors do I want to be on my graduate committee?
  • What courses do I want to take?
  • How am I going to create my Plan of Study?
  • What courses am I going to be¬†a GTA for?
  • How do I want to customize¬†my¬†internship experience in order to¬†focus¬†it around¬†my personal interests?

There were many guest speakers during the 2011 bootcamp. The guest speakers and the topics they spoke about are listed below:

  • Mr. Mike Tranthram, RS, MPH – HACCP, Food Safety, Sanitation
  • Ms. Susan Arnold, MS, RD¬†– Information Literacy and WVU Library Resources
  • Dr. Jenny Douglas, PhD¬†– WVU Graduate Academy
  • Ms. Diane Keegan, MPA, RD, LD – Food Service Management
  • Dr. Liz Quintana, EdD, MS, RD, LD, CDE¬†– Dean Ornish¬†Porgram
  • Mr. David Friend, Mr. Dan Esposito, Ms. Cindy Alderson, Ms. Nettie¬†Freshour – Purchasing, Receiving, Storage, Inventory, Production, Distribution, Facility Planning
  • Dr. Cheryl Brown, PhD¬†-Sustainable Ag and Food Movements
  • Ms. Cathy Shaw, RD, LD – Geriatric Nutrition in Skilled Nursing Facilities
  • Ms. Brenda Fisher, RD, LD – WIC Program
  • Ms. Sharon Maynard, RD, LD¬†– Industry Carrers for RD’s
  • Ms. Lynn Ryan, CLC – Lactation Education
  • Ms. Monica Andis, MS, RD, LD¬†– Disabiities and Mental Health
  • Dr Pamela Murray, MD, MHP¬†– Adolescent Nutrition, Disordered Eating, Local Food Movements
  • Dr. Diana Vinh, PharmD – Lab Values, Point of Care Testing
  • Ms. Nettie¬†Freshour, MS, RD, CSSD – Sports Nutrition and Campus Weight Management and Fitness Programs
  • Ms. Peg Andrews, MS, RD, LD and the CAMC Outpatient/Inpatient Team – Clinical Overview for Outpatient and Inpatient
  • Ms. Sarah Edwards, RD, LD, CDE – Diabetes Education
  • Ms. Nicole O’Barto – Patient Counseling
  • Dr. Andy Wood, PhD, MBA – Advertising, Marketing, Entrepreneurship, and Leadership
  • Ms. Pam Hamilton, MS, RD, LD – Culinary Partnerships
  • Ms. Megan Govindan, MS, MPH, RD, LD¬†– ServSafe, Mock RD exam, Medical Terminology

WVU Graduate Dietetic Internship Bootcamp 2011
Pictured – Top, left to right: Emily Todhunter, Leah Gecheo, Roanna Martin, Jordan Bryant (2010 Intern).
Bottom, left to right: Kaitlin Mock, Mary Rodavich

Dietetic intern, Kaitlin Mock, learning first-hand the difficulties individuals face when trying to eat a meal with physical disabilities.

All the dietetic interns intently listening to a guest speaker at Zen Clay Cafe.

Meet the 2011 WVU Graduate Dietetic Internship Class!

Emily Todhunter

  • Hometown: Grand Forks, ND
  • Undergrad: University of Nebaska-Lincoln

Roanna Martin

  • Hometown: Lancaster, PA
  • Undergrad: Messiah College

Kaitlin Mock

  • Hometown: Pittsburgh, PA
  • Undergrad: West Virginia University

Leah Gecheo

  • Hometown: Kenya
  • Graduate:¬†WVU


WVU Graduate Dietetic Interns РBootcamp 2012
Pictured – Top, left to right: Kaitlin Mock, Emily Todhunter, Erin Smith, Jessie Popelka
Bottom, left to right: Remi Famodu, Shannon Ackerman, Mary Risch, Wendy Thompson, Mary Rodavich, Roanna Martin.

During my first year in the WVU GDI program, I had taken many graduate courses, been a GTA for several undergraduate nutrition courses, and completed as much research as possible for my thesis.  Over the following summer, I had just started my internship rotations when it already became time for bootcamp again! Wow, the first year of this program absolutely flew by.

Based on some of my experiences,¬†here are some “pearls of wisdom” for other interns during their first year:

  1. Get AS MUCH done as your can during the first year because once the internship starts over the summer, you will want to give rotations 100% of your focus.  Some of the things you want to get a head start on during the first year includes classes, research, lab work, and writing your thesis or problem report.
  2. Time management in grad school is a little different from undergrad because you are given many more roles and responsibilities. You are going to have a lot on your nutritional plate, including graduate courses, presentations, being a GTA for undergrad nutrition classes, grading projects, giving lectures, conducting a research project, doing lab work, and writing your thesis.
  3. Absorb as much information as you can because everything you learn in grad school and during the internship directly applies to your future career.
  4. Be opened minded.¬† Some of the areas in nutrition I thought I was more interested actually ended up being just the opposite! For example, the first time I gave a lecture to a class of 150 undergrad students…I was absolutely terrified! But I am so glad I did it because I discovered that teaching and lecturing one of my favorite things to do and I am considering it as a possible career path!
  5. Customize your experience.¬†What you put into your masters degree and the internship is what you’ll get out of it.¬†There are very little limitations here. If you see a class you find interesting, but maybe doesn’t seem like it fits into your plan of study…go ahead and take it. If you want to incorporate a rotation into your internship that¬†seems interesting to you, go ahead and plan it and see where it takes you!
  6. Network, network, network. You have an unbelievable opportunity as a WVU intern to meets dozens of prominent dietitians in the WV area. Take advantage of this!! One of the benefits of networking is that you are now considered a colleague and a professional in the dietetics field. So get to know people, ask for advice, get their business card, and make contacts.
  7. HAVE FUN and do what you love. I love writing, social media, and blogging and I am clearly obsessed. It is my creative outlet and it adds some fun into my day.
  8. On a more practical note, here are some other bonus tips!
  • Don’t drive downtown on a weekday between 12PM and 5PM unless you like being stuck in traffic. Traffic can definitely be an issue in Morgantown, but it is easy to learn alternative routes (plus, the summer is much less congested compared to when school is in session).
  • All of my classes were on the Evansdale¬†campus and luckily I was able to walk there from my apartment. However, there are¬† year-round parking passes available to buy next to the AgSci Bldg and there is also an hourly pay lot.
  • Take advantage of the dietetic intern office to study and¬†do work. There are plenty of computers, a color printer, a mini fridge, and tons and tons of nutrition textbooks and reference materials¬†to your disposal.
  • The PRT¬†system is a great way to get from one end of campus to another. However, it tends to shut down a lot¬†unannounced…so make sure to check the PRT status on the MIX homepage.
  • Go to FOOTBALL GAMES! You’ll really get the true Mountaineer experience.
  • Join an intramural sports team and go to the¬†beautiful¬†new Rec Center, which was only built 10 years ago.
  • Adventure on the rail trail!¬† The 48 miles of¬†rail trail is a¬†gorgeous (and FLAT) place along the river¬†to walk and bike.
  • Experience the beauty of West Virginia.¬†Take a hike¬†through Cooper’s Rock¬†or go boating on Cheat Lake.

Anyways…back to bootcamp! This year’s bootcamp¬†took place from August 6, 2012 – August 17, 2012 (from 9 AM – varying ending times) at the WVU¬†Health Sciences Center.¬† In just¬†one year, bootcamp¬†was already changing and evolving in order to better suit the requests and needs of the interns.¬† Compared to last year, bootcamp¬†is much more relaxed, laid back,¬†and is more of a period of transition and adjustment from summer to fall semester. The new interns were given adequate free time to get many of the logistics worked out (MIX account setup, blog and ePortfolio¬†setup, WVU ID card, payroll setup, and meeting with their¬†potential¬†adviser).

Some of the first and second year interns getting to know each other at bootcamp.

Some of the first and second year interns getting to know each other at boot camp.

Some of the first and second year interns getting to know each other at bootcamp.

Some of the first and second year interns getting to know each other at bootcamp.

The second year interns were all given a 3-hour block of time where they presented on various nutritional topics. This gave the second year interns a chance to become more involved in bootcamp, provide guidance and interact with the new interns, and have independence with preparing a lesson and inviting guest speakers.

Second year intern presentation topics included:

  • Roanna Martin – Local Food Systems, Local Farmer’s Markets, Farm to Table
  • Mary Rodavich¬†– The Dietitian in Social Media (Blogging, ePortfolio, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest)
  • Emily Todhunter¬†– Diabetes Education, Meal Planning, Counseling Techniques.¬† Guest Speaker –¬†Dr. Liz Quintana, EdD, MS, RD, LD, CDE
  • Leah Gecheo – Childhood Obesity and West Virginia Programs. Guest Speakers – Dr. Emily Murphy and Kristen McCartney on childhood obesity programs
  • Katie Mock – Nutrition Conferences, Meetings, and Organizations

Meet the 2012 WVU Graduate Dietetic Internship Class!

Wendy Thompson

  • Hometown:¬† Grand Junction, CO
  • Undergrad:¬†University of Northern Colorado

Mary Risch

  • Hometown: Louisianna
  • Undergrad: Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, LA

Shannon Ackerman

  • Hometown: Morgantown, WV
  • Undergrad: Indiana University of Pennsylvania

Remi Famodu

  • Hometown: Bloomington, MN
  • Undergrad: Ohio University

Erin Smith

  • Hometown: Union, WV
  • Undergrad: WVU

Jessie Popelka

  • Hometown: Lincoln, NE
  • Undergrad: University of Nebraska-Lincoln