The Road to RDville: Great beginnings

Happy Monday! It’s the start of my second week of grad school…are you excited? That’s OK, because I am. I thought it might be a good idea to talk a little bit about what in the heck it is I’m actually doing, both for interested current readers and for anyone who stumbles upon this blog looking for information on becoming a Registered Dietitian.
OK, here goes. I’m enrolled in the Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Nutrition Sciences at the University of Washington. It is not technically it’s own department (yet), so for now it falls within the Department of Epidemiology within the larger School of Public Health. My program is on its way to becoming its own department, in part because nutrition science is taking on an increasingly important role within the School of Public Health. Not surprising, considering that many diseases of public health concern, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, cancer and heart disease, are affected by what we eat. And then there are issues of food safety, which concern both nutrition and public health.
There are 22 students in my class, which is the largest class to date. They come from all over the United States, as well as Iran, India, China and Korea. Some of my fellow students are pursuing a Master of Nutrition Science (MS). They fall under the umbrella of the university’s Graduate School. Students such as myself who are pursuing a Master of Public Health Nutrition (MPH) fall firmly under the School of Public Health, and so have additional public health course requirements. In addition to the core nutrition curriculum that all nutrition grad students take, I’m taking additional coursework in epidemiology, health services and environmental studies.
But wait, there’s more! I’m also enrolled in the Graduate Coordinated Program in Dietetics (GCPD). You can be in the Nutrition Science Program without being in the GCPD, but you can’t be in the GCPD without being in the Nutrition Science Program. Got that? The GCPD offers the coursework and supervised practice experience that’s required to be eligible to sit for the Registered Dietitian exam. To become an RD, you have to pass the exam (and get your degree). There are some schools who offer GCPD’s (not sure how many). Other schools split up the coursework and the supervised practice. In those cases, students who successfully complete the dietetic coursework get a DPD certificate, and then they have to go find a dietetic internship (DI) either through a national matching program, or on their own, I suppose. There is a serious shortage of dietetic internships in this country, so I’m glad I’m in a GCPD!
Getting into the Nutrition Sciences Program is competitive, but the UW’s GCPD is even more so: There are only 12 spots per year, because that is all UW is accredited for by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly known as the American Dietetic Association until about a week ago). So I feel extra super lucky, yes I do! (Not that I didn’t work my butt off to get here, but no matter how good of a candidate you are, you never know who else is applying and how great they might be.)
Yes, it’s all a little confusing, and honestly, bits of it didn’t become clear to me until orientation last week! But there are fantastic people coordinating the MPH and GCPD students in my program, streamlining what could have been duplicate requirements (for example, all MPH students have to do a field practicum, but those of us in the GCPD will have a public health component that satisfied that requirement).
Let’s see, what else? There are amazing, amazing things happening here. There’s the Center for Public Health Nutrition (UWCPHN) and the Center for Obesity Research (UW-COR), which just got another big grant renewed to study food environment, diet quality and disparities and the role they play in obesity. Exciting stuff!
I’ve had three days of class and I can’t believe how much I’ve learned, about everything from research study design to how the health insurance system works to how tiny little parts of our cells (mitochondria) affect how we age. OK, this is the last time I’m going to say it….exciting!
As a final bit of housekeeping, I’m planning to continue posting M-F, but we’ll see how that shakes out. If I miss a single day, I won’t announce it, but if I need to take a break for a few days for some reason, I’ll give a heads up. I know I enjoy a bit of predictability in the blogs I visit, so I intend to extend the same courtesy to you.