Saturday, December 12, 2015

Finding Your Voice Through Podcasting

The University of Maryland, College Park Dietetic Internship is one of the only programs with a nutrition informatics emphasis. I am very happy to be a UMD Dietetic Intern, especially because I have so many opportunities to enhance my technology and communication skills. Whether I am learning about different coding languages such as HTML, managing an e-portfolio, or rotating through different facilities like the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP) or a long term care facility, I always run into nutrition informatics in every areas of the dietetics practice. 

During technology days at UMD, Interns work on e-portfolio websites, learn about different tech tools, listen to guest speakers present on topics related to informatics, and more! Every couple of weeks interns have to meet e-portfolio milestones which includes things such as adding content about rotations, posting a resume, or embedding twitter widgets to personal websites. One thing I have never done before this internship began was record a podcast. As a part of our e- portfolio milestones, we have to record a podcast on an interesting topic and post it to our websites.

The homepage of my e-portfolio website

My first podcast is on the current malnutrition issues in Ghana, West Africa. This was a great learning opportunity for me especially because it allowed me to research and gain more knowledge about malnutrition and how it affects not only mothers, but children as well. Researching this topic exposed me to the many international public health organizations and how they work together to combat malnutrition in Ghana and other developing countries. I enjoyed it, and can't wait to record my next one!

There are many kinds of audio recording softwares to choose from, but UMD interns choose to use Audacity. Audacity is a free, easy to use multi track audio editor and recorder for Windows, Mac, and other operating systems. For a beginner like me, this is a great software to use.

Here are some podcast pointers before you get started:

Inspiration. Listen to successful podcasts. This is helpful for those just getting started.

Provide information of value. Value can come in the form of education, information, inspiration, motivation. Record on a topic that is trending in the dietetics world!

Time. Create a podcast that is not too long or not too short. Give listeners a reason to come back.

Be enthusiastic. Find your voice, add some excitement to your podcast, be energetic not monotone.

Market yourself. Post your podcast on your website, mention it in your email signature, promote on social media.

Whether or not podcasting is your thing, it gives you a chance to practice your communication skills; a skill necessary in the world of dietetics. Research a topic that excites you, find your voice and give it a try, you never know who is listening.

Listen to my first podcast, Malnutrition in Ghana!
Follow my Internship experiences on Twitter at @ValerieAgyeman

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Choosing My Own Path

         The UMD Dietetic Internship is composed of many different rotations.  Some weeks you'll be in Baltimore City and the next the heart of DC.  So be prepared to travel, sit in the wonderful DMV (DC, Maryland, Virginia) traffic, and download podcasts to listen to or find your favorite local radio stations.  While I'm not a fan of long commutes, I found the multiple locations in this program allowed me to have a wide range of experiences.  My first few weeks consisted of community based rotations.  A week at DC School Lunch and one at the Department of Aging.  My final community rotation was set to be at DC Food Bank.  While it sounded like a fun rotation, being a Baltimore girl at heart, I wanted to complete one of my community rotations closer to home.  I knew the organization Moveable Feast was one interns had rotated through in the past, so with an email to Phyllis and a few days of crossed fingers, I was on my way to Moveable Feast for a two week rotation. 

       Moveable Feast is a non-profit organization that was created in 1990 to provide meals for people suffering from HIV and Aids in the Baltimore Metropolitan area. Along with meals, clients receive groceries, transportation to medical appointments, and nutrition counseling. The organization has expanded to helping people with other life challenging conditions throughout the counties surrounding Baltimore all the way to the Eastern Shore. While here, I worked with three dietitians, two which happened to be University of Maryland College Park dietetic intern graduates. Alongside the dietitians I was able to observe in-home nutrition assessments and I completed phone nutrition assessments of clients. Every day amazed me, hearing new clients' stories and seeing how much of a difference these meals made to their nutrition.
        My time at this rotation allowed me to see how great the need is for dietitians in the community setting.  Anyone can provide others with food, but a dietitian can provide nutrition that helps support and heal.  While many of our rotations are set in stone, we have the opportunity to work with different programs because we are not a site based internship. If there is a specific community site you want to work with talk with Phyllis (way ahead of time of course), and see what she can do. Remember this is your internship experience and you have to get as much out of it as possible. Work with organizations that excite you, network like crazy, and allow yourself to be open to opportunities you never thought were possible.



Friday, December 4, 2015

Conferences Galore

                Variety is the spice of life, right? Turns out variety can be the spice of an internship too. So far, I am twelve weeks into the UMCP dietetic internship, and I have already visited 31 different locations! I love being able to see the incredibly wide variety of places that dietitians work.  As a part of my rotations, I have been able to attend many different conferences, workshops, and seminars which were great for learning, networking, and having fun. Many dietitians seem to be constantly learning and improving their skills. I’ll describe a few of the events I’ve been able to attend.
                At my school lunch rotation, I got to go to a briefing called the State of Obesity 2015, at the Capitol building! My partner and I acted nonchalant as we walked in, but it was really exciting to be there. The talk was mostly focused on childhood obesity and how we will need to use many different approaches to combat obesity and promote health. I was surprised to learn that the DC Healthy Kids Act actually has goals for nutrition behavior, physical activity, and emotional health for every grade level from pre-K through high school.  Some of the speakers were a principal of a NYC public school who has exercise bikes in the classroom and a researcher who described the trends and statistics related to childhood obesity.
                At one of my technology rotations at the International Food Information Council, I was sent to a two-day conference at the National Academy of Sciences building in DC. It was co-hosted by Institute of Medicine and AARP, and the event was focused on changing nutrition needs for the elderly and how to meet them.  I think I learned so much on this day that my brain must have grown! From 8-5:30 on the first day, there was a steady stream of 20 minute lectures by experts from around the country in a wide range of topics.  I typed up 26 pages of notes for my preceptor, who was at a different conference that day.  One of the most interesting topics was hearing how they are preparing for the new 100-120 year old segment of the population which is rapidly growing and expected to be over 1 million people by year 2050. 
                I also got to attend an FSNE (Food Supplement Nutrition Education) conference in Annapolis. This was a class day event, which meant that all ten interns were invited to come (although two did not because they were doing their clinical staff relief rotation). This day kicked off with a lecture by a pediatrician, followed by talks about SNAP, childhood education, and text messaging services to spread nutrition education. This was the most interactive conference I’ve been to; there were a lot of different activities like walking around the room to write on posters, moving to a new table to discuss a case study with somebody new, and coloring in a blank puzzle with qualities that nutrition educators should try to exhibit with young children.  All in all, I really appreciate the opportunity to see so many different events and experience the wide scope of the dietetics profession. 

- Maria Pittarelli
follow me on twitter @beyondlettuce

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Nutrition Education in the Digital Age

So far our intern blog has showcased a handful of experiences my fellow interns have had – many of them in a clinical setting. But of our 10-month long internship, the UMD College Park dietetic interns spend two-thirds of it outside of a hospital setting. The rest of our time is spent rotating through food service, community and technology sites. 

My rotation partner, Valerie, and me at CNPP

My clinical rotations do not start until early 2016. I’ve spent the past three months in six different rotations. So far I’ve done five weeks at the USDA Center for Nutrition Policy & Promotion (CNPP), three weeks at the International Food Information Council (IFIC), one week at Maryland’s Food Supplement Nutrition Education (FSNE) program, three weeks at UMD Dining Services and this week doing a sustainability rotation on the UMD campus. Throughout these very different rotations, there is one thing I’ve done a lot – WRITE.

Each rotation I’ve been through has required me to produce written content for a variety of audiences. At CNPP and FSNE, the content needed to be written to reach low-literacy readers, while content for IFIC has targeted a more science-minded audience. At Dining Services, I developed content for two very different audiences – undergraduate students and the kitchen staff.

Our internship has a focus on “information technology” but what that really means is that we use the tools that newer technologies provide in order to communicate nutrition information with a broad reach. For example, we write blog posts, website content, and compose Facebook and Twitter messages. Each platform offers us a means of spreading accurate nutrition content to a larger audience than the more traditional one-on-one patient to dietitian relationship.

In addition to what you’ve seen on the blog, here are a few other examples of what has been written by our intern class for a variety of platforms (look for our names near the bottom of several):

If you’re applying for an internship this upcoming February, and you want to develop and exercise your nutrition communications skills – this program could be a great fit!

In fact, you can learn more about our program by visiting an open house. If you can’t make it in-person or to a live online open house, soon a recorded open house will be available to view on the Dietetic Internship webpage. You can also get in touch with any of the current interns – we would be happy to answer any questions you may have about the program!