Monday, February 9, 2015

MyPlate: Behind the Scenes as an Intern

A few weeks ago, I completed a 5-week rotation with the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP), better known as the brains behind USDA’s MyPlate.  Working with and learning from the creators of MyPlate was an amazing experience that showed just how rewarding and diverse a career in nutrition informatics can be.

The mission of CNPP is to “improve the health of Americans by developing and promoting dietary guidance that links scientific research to the nutrition needs of consumers.”  CNPP carries out this mission to improve the health of Americans through its various projects such as the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) and SuperTracker.  I was extremely lucky to be able to work with this government agency in the weeks leading up to the much anticipated release of the new 2015 DGAs (which was a pretty BIG deal since they are only released every 5 years!).   I was even invited to sit in on DGA planning meetings filled with health and nutrition professionals from all over the country. 

My rotation with CNPP was one of my favorite rotations thus far.  I truly felt that I fit in with the staff and my opinions and work were well appreciated.  The staff were gracious enough to let me assist with a large number of current projects and promotions.  I gained a true appreciation for each and every member of the CNPP team after sitting in on many of their meetings.  I now understand just how much work it takes to keep a successful government agency running smoothly. 

In the five brief weeks I was at CNPP, I learned a few valuable lessons that can be applied to any dietetic internship rotation:
  •  Don’t be afraid to ask questions.  Opportunities like this only happen every so often.  Ask as many questions as possible to learn as much as you can while you are there. 
  •  Be organized and independent.  The fast-paced nature of this rotation taught me about the importance of being organized and working efficiently.  Without organization, I would never have been able to complete the many project I was involved with in a timely manner.  Working efficiently also helps to speed up the completion of projects, without having to sacrifice any effort, leaving more time to explore all that the rotation has to offer!
  •  Be a team player.  Every aspect of this particular rotation involved active participation and teamwork.  It is more important to show that you have the ability to work well with others than to prove you are the best intern ever created.  By respecting other people’s input and dividing the work evenly, I was able to successfully complete all of my projects. 
I hope the CNPP team learned as much from me as I have learned from them.  The experiences I gained from this rotation will follow me throughout my future career as a Registered Dietitian. Thank you to everyone who helped make this rotation so memorable!


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