Dietetic Internship Program partners with Lipscomb Athletics to hire full-time sports nutritionist
Lacey Klotz |
Lipscomb’s Dietetic Internship Program (DIP) has been providing the required clinical experience for soon-to-be registered dietitians for 15 years, but as the dietetics field has expanded and adapted, particularly over the past decade, the DIP has grown with this trend, stepping up to the plate to provide new opportunities in a rapidly growing field: sports nutrition.
For the past year, a unique partnership between the DIP and Lipscomb Athletics has provided dedicated sports nutrition services to Lipscomb’s student-athletes and real-world career experience for select dietetic interns.
In addition, the DIP has received approval from the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics to expand the program and provide six interns for the sports nutrition concentration during the 2017-18 year, said Anne Lowery, director of the DIP and associate professor in Lipscomb University’s College of Pharmacy & Health Science.
This partnership also makes Lipscomb the first private university in Tennessee to have the full-time services of a sports nutritionist on campus, according to the Collegiate & Professional Sports Dietitians Association.
“The last ten years has seen a tremendous advancement and unprecedented growth in the field of sports nutrition,” said Roger Davis, dean of the College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences. “Through a strong relationship with Athletics, Ann Toy, a former collegiate athlete, will lead the program development and research in the field.”
Sports nutrition is one of the rapidly expanding areas of the dietetics profession as its benefits are being recognized in professional sports, college sports, the Olympics and even the military.
Although sports nutrition jobs are constantly growing in popularity, there are rarely enough internship positions available nationwide to meet the rising need.
“It's a very unique opportunity for a dietetic intern to be able to spend 10 weeks in a specialized sports nutrition rotation,” said Ann Toy, who since January 2016 has served as the full-time, on-campus sports dietitian and director of university sports nutrition.
“So often students interested in entering the field have an unrealistic idea of what a career in sports nutrition actually consists of; it's much longer hours than expected, there is more food service than they realize, the counseling and education techniques are different than you will find in other nutrition fields. Management, communication and leadership skills are a must. Interns getting a chance to work along side a full-time sports RD lets them get the full experience. They are assigned specific teams within the department and act in the role of an RD, taking full ownership and responsibility for that team during their time with me,” Toy said.
Toy, who was previously an assistant volleyball coach at Lipscomb from 2013-16, has already married her passions for sport and nutrition in Lipscomb Athletics for years, helping the women’s volleyball team improve their general understanding and interest in nutrition as it impacts their performance. In her new role, Toy teaches two courses in the Nutrition department, as well as coordinates the dietetic interns as they work alongside teams in Lipscomb Athletics by creating meals plans, providing healthy snack options at food stations and educating student-athletes, coaches and athletic trainers on proper nutritional fuel and hydration.
In 2015, Lowery and graduate assistant Catherine Luedtke conducted a research project where they worked with student athletes, coaches and athletic trainers from Lipscomb’s NCAA Division I athletic department to help educate them on topics including macro- and micronutrients, hydration and nutrient timing. Lowery discovered the D1 athletes and coaches were very receptive to the information aimed to help performance and recovery. An article highlighting their findings and the impact the project had on the partnership with Athletics for a sports dietitian was published in Sports, Cardiovascular and Wellness Nutrition’s Pulse newsletter in Summer 2016.
Determined to enhance Lipscomb’s dietetic internship program, Lowery sought to create a sports nutrition concentration within the current program to help increase the opportunities for and exposure to skills in the sports nutrition field.
“This new partnership is pioneering a creative solution to offer sports dietitian services to Lipscomb athletes, while also providing a preceptor for sports nutrition interns who are within the College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences,” said Lowery. “This model works because both departments understand the benefit this position offers as a training site and for the individual athlete and athletic teams.
As an NCAA Division 1 athletic program, Lipscomb Athletics has seen a dramatic increase in benefits in the past year including improved performance, reduced injuries, quicker recoveries and all-around healthier athletes who are able to devote more time to their studies, says Lipscomb Athletic Director Philip Hutcheson.
“Over the past two years, the NCAA loosened regulations around additional benefits that can be provided for student-athletes, and those changes directly affected the world of nutrition,” said Hutcheson. “With Ann Toy and the dietetic interns serving and educating our athletes on best practices, we have been able to accomplish specific goals and meet additional needs of teams and student-athletes.
“Having a full-time registered sports dietitian is also an extremely valuable recruiting advantage because it signals to recruits, parents and coaches that we are doing everything we can to optimize performance,” he said.
The development of the internship program and partnership has also led to other unique opportunities for the college and university as a whole. This spring, sports nutrition interns will partner with graduate students from Lipscomb’s Exercise and Nutrition Science program and a supplement supplier to conduct research on athlete body composition and probiotic use. During the 12-week study, the interns will help gather body composition data collection, analyze dietary recalls and distribute the supplement on a daily basis to the athletes participating in the study.
“We are constantly pursuing opportunities to serve and educate our community; and we will be partnering with Lipscomb Academy in the spring to help expand their efforts to educate, support and improve performance in their high school athletics as well as working with local youth sports team and organizations in the Nashville area,” said Toy.
Lipscomb University hopes to be a model for other universities who want this competitive advantage and may not have considered untapped resources such as dietetic internships.
To learn more about Lipscomb's Dietetic Internship Program, click here.