By Janel Shoun on 7/8/2011
When there are less than 40 people in the nation practicing full-time in the specific field you want to enter, finding a job right after graduation is not likely to be a slam dunk. However, Rachel Stratton, a graduate student in Lipscomb University’s Dietetic Internship Program, did just that, landing her dream job at the University of Oregon just days after graduating from the program.
|Director of the Dietetic Internship Anne Lowery (left) and sports nutritionist Rachel Stratton (right)
Lipscomb’s Dietetic Internship Program was expanded from eight interns to twelve in fall 2010 after gaining a full-time director and approval from the Commission on Accreditation for Dietetics Education, and Stratton was one of the latest group to complete the program
As a former athlete at the University of Portland in Oregon, Stratton was interested in becoming a collegiate sports dietitian, but according to the Collegiate and Professional Sports Dietitian Association (CPSDA), only 25 universities in the nation have a full-time dietitian on staff, a situation the association is working to change.
Sports nutrition is the latest method to give teams that competitive edge, Stratton said. “Twenty years ago, it was the strength and conditioning coaches that were the new wave to make your teams better than the rest. Then injuries started happening and illnesses, and it was not until the mid-1990s, that (the University of) Nebraska implemented its sports nutrition program,” Stratton explained.
The CPSDA was formed officially just one year ago, and collegiate sports nutrition is definitely a growing field, say experts.
“One of the hottest areas in health and fitness today is sports nutrition. Top athletes in the nation are now not only looking to their trainer, but to their nutritionist to keep healthy and succeed on the field,” said Karen Robichaud, director of Lipscomb’s exercise and nutrition science graduate program, created in 2009 in response to the demand for more nutritional knowledge among fitness trainers and coaches.
“We see the demand for professionals who have both physical training expertise and nutrition expertise every day as our graduate students are placed in high-level jobs,” she said.
For Stratton, she rose above the pack due to the fact that she was qualified to sit immediately for her registered dietitian exam (thanks to her Lipscomb internship); her master’s coursework in both exercise and nutrition at Lipscomb; her personal history as a college athlete; and pure initiative.
Stratton, from Vancouver, Washington, played college basketball for the University of Portland. After graduating in 2008, she decided she wanted to become a dietitian. “With everything I know now, I could have been a better athlete back then,” she said. “But now I want to help other athletes at the college level to be better athletes.”
So she moved to Tennessee to finish up coursework in nutrition at Middle Tennessee State University and was then selected for Lipscomb’s dietetic internship, a 10-year-old program that is one of only three such programs in the Middle Tennessee area.
A dietetic internship is the primary path, required by the American Dietetic Association, to sit for the registration exam to become a registered dietitian, said Anne Lowery, director of Lipscomb’s Dietetic Internship Program. Lipscomb’s internship consists of at least 1,200 supervised practice hours working beside some of the best registered dietitians in the greater Nashville area. “Internships are highly competitive, with only about 50% of nutrition majors being accepted into a program,” Lowery said. Lipscomb receives 75 to 85 applications each year for the 12 available spots, she said.
Just after graduation in May, Stratton attended the CPSDA annual meeting in Scottsdale, Ariz., and there she introduced herself to the new assistant athletic director for the University of Oregon. He was a sports dietitian himself and was hiring two full-time people to replace him at the university.
Stratton’s credentials won her the job and she will be working with the women's basketball, volleyball, softball, track and tennis teams as well as the men's basketball team. She will be working with the athletes on weight gain/loss issues and other medical nutrition therapy issues as well as overseeing the university’s nutrition bar program for its athletes, she said.
“You can’t out-train bad nutrition,” Stratton said. “If you want to be the best you can be, you have to put the best foods in your body. You can’t fill your car with garbage and expect your car to go full-speed.”
While Lipscomb’s Dietetic Internship Program has a focus on medical nutrition therapy, the faculty strive to address the specific career interests of the participants, Lowery said, such as providing the 2010 dietetic interns with the opportunity to attend a two-day conference held on Lipscomb’s campus by Nancy Clark, a sports nutritionist known nationwide for her work with athletes.
And interns are also required to take eight credits in the exercise and nutrition science graduate program to fulfill the program. Additional courses in the hybrid program can count as practicum hours for those who want a further competitive advantage in the sports nutrition field, she said.
“We are looking forward to future opportunities to partner with other dietetic professionals in our community in order to grow our program and continue to produce excellent entry-level dietitians, including those in the growing field of sports nutrition,” Lowery said.
Both the Dietetic Internship Program and the exercise and nutrition science graduate program are part of the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences.
For more information on Lipscomb’s Dietetic Internship Program, contact Anne Lowery at 615.966.5746 or by email at Anne.Lowery@lipscomb.edu
. For more information on the exercise and nutrition science graduate program, contact Karen Robichaud at 615.966.5602 or by e-mail at email@example.com