Study, work, study, work

My foray into the field of nutrition started in 2007 as a freshman at the University of Vermont where I entered as a biology major, but quickly became bored and uninspired by this general area of study. After looking into what other programs were offered through the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, I followed my nose and enrolled in an introductory nutrition course and food science lecture with a cooking lab. Let’s be real, I really just wanted to pretend I was in cooking school. Just kidding…kind of. I remember being instantly hooked and jumped into my new Nutrition and Food Science major with excitement.

UVM- no place I'd rather be

UVM- no place I’d rather be

I have to clarify that my major was nutrition and food science, not nutrition and dietetics, which UVM did indeed offer. At the time I really had no interest in practicing dietetics or wanting to go through the year-long dietetic internship. I prefered to study food at its most basic level, taking courses in food manufacturing and the chemical science of food processing. Also, I knew that had I chosen to be a dietetics major, I would have had  less time to pick up a minor- Food Systems- or study abroad, both of which, turned out to play a major role in my college experience and contributed greatly to my philosophy as a nutritionist.

Studying and living abroad in Oaxaca, Mexico

Studying and living abroad in Oaxaca, Mexico

Avocado leaf tamales

Avocado leaf tamales

Chile Rellenos

Chile Rellenos






Graduation day arrived and along with receiving my diploma I received a phone call that would change my life. I was offered a position to be a nutrition assistant and Spanish-translator for the Stellar Farmers’ Market program with the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. It was my dream job of nutrition, farmers markets, and speaking Spanish all rolled into one. Nevermind that it was a part-time, temporary position and I’d only visited New York twice, I was going to take it!

Teaching portion size at the farmers' market

Teaching portion size at the farmers’ market

I could have never predicted that this job would inspire me to dive further into the field of nutrition and enter a Masters program at Teachers College Columbia University. Now this is where my journey to becoming a registered dietitian really kicks into high gear. Here is where, along with masters classes, I completed my DPD courses, which are the classes required for the Didactic Program in Dietetics and the subsequent dietetic internship (DI). At the end of four years of undergrad and two years of graduate school I successfully have taken the following nutrition courses, making me eligible for the DI:

  • Advanced Nutrition I & Advanced Nutrition II
  • Community Nutrition
  • Nutritional Ecology
  • Food, Nutrition, and Behavior
  • Nutrition Care Process & Medical Nutrition Therapy I & II
  • Nutrition and Human Development
  • Research Methods
  • Nutritional Epidemiology
  • Analysis of Current Literature and Research in Nutrition
  • Nutrition Counseling
  • Strategies for Nutrition Education and Health Behavior Change
  • Human physiology I & II
  • General/Inorganic chemistry
  • Organic chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Basic/Introductory nutrition
  • Statistics
  • Microbiology
  • Food, Society & Health
  • Food Science
  • Food Service Management

Now here I am, ready to apply to internships that will make me eligible to sit for our certifying exam. Horror stories have been told about applying to dietetic internships. Only around 55% of applicants get “matched” to DIs and the online application process is no picnic.

Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 9.22.27 AMMy experience using DICAS was easier than expected, but I can imagine that if I were applying to more than two programs it would be much more time consuming. Here are some suggestions I have for anyone completing the DI application and interested in following the #RDtobe journey:

  • Start researching early. Learn about the different types of programs offered and get a feel for which type of internship would suit you. Are you more interested in clinical or community nutrition? Do you want to spend 50 weeks in a hospital or rotate to different sites? Determining what area of dietetics you are interested in will help narrow down your choices.
  • Location and cost considerations. Decide if you want to stay put or would be willing to move for your internship year. I think it’s important to keep in mind that the DI is a great opportunity to make professional connections and it might be beneficial to intern somewhere you could also see yourself spending time and working once you’re an RD. But of course, cost is a huge consideration and moving may not be an option. DIs are EXPENSIVE. You are paying for this experience and are likely not able to work while interning. Scholarships and stipends are great, but very tough to come by. If cost is the determining factor, consider looking into distance DIs which are often less expensive, or make sure you meet those early deadlines for scholarships.
  • December 1st= ready, set, go! Get those transcript requests to schools sent off and ask for your letters of recommendation now. Registrar offices, bosses, and professors take Christmas vacation too, so if you’re the type of person who gets anxious and wants to submit their application well before the February 15th deadline, I highly suggest getting a jump on those items. You’re already stressing about where/whether you’ll get matched, so help yourself out now and get your paperwork in order!

Well, match day has happily come and gone and now I am gearing up to begin my DI at Teachers College Columbia University in the Fall. I am excited to finally delve into some real-world dietetics experiences and hopefully gain more insight into where my true passion lies in the field.

It has taken a lot of hard work up to this point and the journey is not over. Yet I feel it’s vital to earn a credential that qualifies me as an expert in a field where there is so much false information and misguidance from anyone calling themself a “nutritionist” . As an #RDtobe, not only is my goal to help prevent disease and treat poor nutrition status, but I feel that, no matter what area of dietetics I end up working in, I will be able to use the knowledge and skill set I’ve gained over the past few years to help people think and feel differently about food and health.

Flash forward!

Check out Casey’s DI Experience here