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NMSU Dietetic Internship Program students (from left) Kaitlin Koop, Claire LeGault, Kirsten Hancock and Elias Jimenez work on assembling the perfect dinner plate. The Dietetic Internship Program at NMSU recently received its accreditation from the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics. (NMSU photo by Adriana M. Chavez) MAR16

NMSU Dietetic Internship Program celebrates ACEND accreditation

The Dietetic Internship Program at New Mexico State University is celebrating its recent accreditation by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics, making the program one of only two accredited dietetic internships in New Mexico.

The program was created in 2010 by Wanda Eastman and Carol Turner, two professors in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences. ACEND, the accrediting agency for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, accepted the program for candidacy for accreditation in 2011.

Before NMSU’s dietetic internship opened, the nearest programs were in Arizona and north Texas. Currently, the University of New Mexico is the only other university in the state that has an accredited program besides NMSU. In January of this year, Eastman received notice of the program’s accreditation by ACEND. The accreditation status also makes NMSU’s program the only accredited program serving southwest Texas.

Students with NMSU's Dietetic Internship Program use rubber food replicas to create what a nutritonally balanced dinner plate should look like. The program was recently accredited by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics. (NMSU photo by Adriana M. Chavez) MAR16
Students with NMSU’s Dietetic Internship Program use rubber food replicas to create what a nutritonally balanced dinner plate should look like. The program was recently accredited by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics. (NMSU photo by Adriana M. Chavez) MAR16

“To go from being a candidate to being accredited means we’ve passed the test,” Eastman said. “It shows that we’re on solid footing and we’re not a flash in the pan. We’re here to stay.”

Since the program’s inception, 17 students have graduated with a master’s degree in Family and Consumer Sciences with an emphasis in dietetics. In order to obtain their degrees, they completed a minimum of 1,200 hours interning at food service management, community nutrition and clinical facilities. Each semester, students rotate between each type of facility take courses and participate in a community-based research project.

The program has shown students the need for dietitians, especially in New Mexico, and how varied a career in dietetics can be. Many students are also from outside of New Mexico, and decided to stay here after graduation, Eastman said.

“It really has shown us the need for the dietetic profession in our area,” said Kirsten Hancock, a current student in the program. “There are so many areas of dietetics, and they are all in need of dietitians.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of dietitians and nutritionists is projected to grow 16 percent from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations. In recent years, interest in the role of food and nutrition in promoting health and wellness has increased, particularly as a part of preventative healthcare in medical settings.

Gaby Phillips, the NMSU Dietetic Internship Program assistant director, said since the program’s graduates often stay in New Mexico, those graduates are also more likely to understand community needs.

The program’s accreditation will last for seven years. After that, program officials are required to reapply for accreditation.

For more information about the program, visit http://dieteticinternship.nmsu.edu/

Author:  Adriana M. Chavez – NMSU

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