"Dietetics is at the center of many overlapping domains of knowledge," says Dr. Francene Steinberg, Professor and Chair of the UC Davis Nutrition Department. With assistance from Joan Frank, Dr. Steinberg directs the Didactic Program in Dietetics, which forms the core of the Clinical Nutrition course work. The program, developmentally accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Dietetics Education, is the first step toward becoming a Registered Dietitian, and covers nutrition science, food science, medical nutrition therapy, human physiology, public health and wellness, business and food service management, the social sciences and general education courses.
Future dietitians at Davis are taught by the country´s best nutrition scientists. "We place great emphasis on rigorous science courses," Dr. Steinberg says. "It’s a definite benefit of studying here."
Students especially enjoy their upper-division medical nutrition therapy classes. Using case histories based on real patients, they conduct nutrition assessments, plan diet modifications and nutrition education, and practice writing chart notes to communicate with other health professionals. "It’s a chance to integrate their knowledge from basic nutrition, physiology, and adult learning theory in the setting of disease pathology," Dr. Steinberg says. Outside the classroom, students are encouraged to find paid or volunteer positions in clinical nutrition, community nutrition, and food service management. Many students also gain hands-on exposure to nutrition science by working part-time in campus research labs.
The program attracts people from a wide variety of backgrounds. A few enter the major as freshmen, but the majority of Clinical Nutrition students are juniors and seniors, including many who transfer from other institutions. "We´re working hard to increase our program´s ethnic and cultural diversity as well," Dr. Steinberg says. "The population we serve as professionals is very diverse. It´s important to connect culturally with our clientele."
After leaving UC Davis, many graduates complete accredited internships in dietetics to qualify for the exam that certifies them as Registered Dietitians. Dr. Steinberg says that at this stage of their education, Davis students stand out. "Internship directors value the type of training we provide," she says. "We also hear from program graduates that they really come to appreciate the hard work we put them through." Graduates who chose not to become Registered Dietitians pursue educational and professional paths that include other health professions, graduate study, and work in the business world. A list of jobs held by alumni of the Clinical Nutrition major is available online.
By Erin Digitale