Happy RD-iversary to me! Yep, it’s been 2 years since I became a Registered Dietitian, so today’s post is all about my journey to become an RD. Warning: It’s kinda long!
I’ve always been interested in health and fitness, and have played sports for as long as I can remember. However, when I started college at Marquette University in 2004, my dream job was being an FBI agent or doing crime scene investigation like on my favorite TV shows. As the school year started, though, I just couldn’t get interested in my classes and started missing the science-y classes which I had enjoyed so much in high school. Near the end of my freshman year, a friend mentioned switching to the exercise science program and possibly going for the Athletic Training or Physical Therapy tracks, and I jumped at the chance to switch majors.
Sophomore year, I started with all of my science courses: Chemistry, Biology, Anatomy & Physiology, etc. I struggled with these classes, but enjoyed the science and health aspect. I still hadn’t quite found something I was passionate about that I could turn into a career, and ended up switching my major to Biomedical Sciences by the end of the school year. At Marquette, this major allowed me to complete all the pre-requisites to go on in any health professional school (Medical, Physical Therapy, etc.) so I felt I had more flexibility.
My Junior year, I had signed up for an exercise physiology class before switching majors but decided to still take it for fun. This was it! I had finally found something that clicked! We learned about how the body uses nutrients as fuel and all kinds of cool things about how the body works. We completed “labs” that tested our fitness level and calculated our percent body fat. My favorite day of class was following a lab where we figured out how many calories we would each burn doing different activities, then in lecture our professor gave us all a full-sized candy bar and asked how long it would take to burn off the calories from eating the bar–as a pop quiz!
I loved all of the nutrition information, so I started researching what types of jobs specialized in nutrition. There were tons! Most of them required the title of Registered Dietitian. This required going to a school with an approved nutrition program, which Marquette does not have. Major disappointment! I looked into transferring to another university, but figured that since I was already well into my junior year, graduate school would be the best way to go. At the time, only seven schools offered an approved graduate nutrition program, and I applied to University of Washington, University of Michigan School of Public Health, and Syracuse University. Syracuse and Michigan accepted me, and I chose to attend University of Michigan (GO BLUE!) I finished all of my pre-requisites at Marquette with Microbiology, Organic Chemistry, statistics, Calculus, Anatomy, Physiology, Psychology, Biochemistry, and Speech.
Grad school was two long years of nutrition classes, like Vitamins & Minerals, Macronutrients, Public Health Nutrition, Clinical Nutrition, Maternal & Child Nutrition,Food Science, Food Service Management, and Pathophysiology of Obesity; with lots of other public health classes mixed in (biostatistics, epidemiology, program planning, health behavior, and the US Healthcare System). I loved my classes and had great study groups with my nutrition classmates! I also completed a 4 month summer internship with University of Illinois at Chicago where I assisted a professor in her research, which involved taking study participants on grocery store tours, as well as 24 hour dietary intakes and entry into a cool computer program that calculated nutrient totals.
During my 2nd year of graduate school, it was time to apply for dietetic internships. It’s a super rigorous process to get into an approved 1200-hour minimum supervised practice experience. I completed applications, wrote essays, received recommendations from professors, and even ended up doing a few interviews. It’s a matching process, and I matched to the University of Michigan public health dietetic internship on Match Day. It was pretty lucky that I matched to an internship on the first try–only about 50% of applicants get matched each year.
The internship was intense! I completed rotations at seven different sites: a family fitness center, outpatient preventive cardiology clinic, WIC clinic, food service at the Ann Arbor VA hospital, a bariatric surgery center w/ in- and outpatient clients, a long term care/rehabilitation center, and University of Michigan Athletics (my favorite one, by far!). I also had projects to work on outside of my rotations and presented on Mindful Eating at a conference that my fellow interns and I put on. My summer public health internship counted towards 200 of my 1200 supervised practice hours, and I was able to complete it within 7 months.
The last step to becoming an RD–the dreaded EXAM! The RD exam covers alot of different topics from all of the different classes I’ve taken, as well as things that I learned while completing my internship. It’s one of those exams where if you miss a question on one topic, you end up getting more from the same topic until you’ve achieved a satisfactory score in that area. I spent about 6 weeks studying for the exam after finishing the internship. The exam took me an hour and a half, with almost 120 questions, but at the end a screen popped up that said, “You have passed. Your official score will be mailed to you in a few weeks.” I was ecstatic! All of that hard work and anxiety was worth it!
It’s hard to believe it’s already been 2 years! So happy to be an RD!