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Logan Alumna Returns to Campus to Pursue Dream of Becoming Registered Dietitian

Two weeks after graduating from Logan’s Master of Science in Nutrition & Human Performance (MSNHP) program in May 2019, Caitlyn Sheppard was ready to take the next step in her career when she discovered the University’s new graduate-level dietetics program.

“I knew it was the perfect opportunity to pursue my dream of becoming a registered dietitian (RD),” said Caitlyn, a trimester 8 student. “I immediately contacted my advisor at Logan and asked what I needed to do to get in.”

In January 2020, Caitlyn became one of 14 students in Logan’s first cohort of students entering the graduate-level registered dietitian concentration within the University’s MSNHP program.

“I had a great experience in Logan’s MSNHP program,” Caitlyn said. “All my professors were extremely helpful and knowledgeable, and I really enjoyed the curriculum, as well as Logan’s focus on holistic health.”

Caitlyn said Logan’s MSNHP program also laid an excellent foundation for building a career as an RD by preparing her to analyze patient diets and health status, assess nutritional deficiencies and food allergies, and provide evidence-based nutrition and lifestyle guidance.

“I knew choosing Logan for my RD was the best decision I could make,” Caitlyn said.

Logan is currently one of only 16 schools in the country to offer a graduate-level dietetics program accredited under the Future Education Model by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND), which requires RDs to earn a master’s degree before becoming credentialed. Built on a competency-based curriculum, the interdisciplinary, comprehensive dietetics program is designed to prepare dietitians who are equipped to meet the health care needs of patients facing an array of chronic conditions, including obesity, diabetes and hypertension.

“Earning my RD will give me the ability to work with different patients in a variety of settings along with the skills necessary to not only help prevent many diseases, but treat them as well,” Caitlyn said.

Along with online core coursework and specialized RD classes, the supervised experiential learning (SEL) component of the dietetics graduate program is preparing Caitlyn for career success. Before graduating, she will complete 30 weeks of SEL rotations outside the classroom at a variety of institutions such as long-term care facilities, hospitals, schools and public health clinics in St. Louis and beyond.

So far, Caitlyn has finished five SEL rotations. She has received training in foodservice management at Bloom Café, a casual dining establishment that helps people with disabilities prepare for employment, and worked with a preceptor in Pennsylvania specializing in nutrition informatics. She has also gained experience in a private practice setting treating patients with eating disorders.

“I’ve expressed interest in both pediatrics and private practice, so I’ll likely have the opportunity to gain experience with both through the SEL rotations,” Caitlyn said. “I really appreciate that our interests are taken into consideration throughout this program.”

Caitlyn also values how Helen Halley, MS, RD, LD, CSO, CNSC, clinical coordinator at Logan, arranges SEL rotations for the University’s dietetics graduate students.

“It can be very stressful to have to find your own rotations on top of your coursework and your other responsibilities outside of school,” Caitlyn said. “It’s reassuring to know there are secure and meaningful experiences lined up for us.”

After she graduates, Caitlyn aspires to work with children in a hospital.

“Not only is being an RD in a hospital fast-paced and challenging, but I also like the idea of collaborating in an interdisciplinary environment with other members of patient care teams,” Caitlyn said.

Although she prefers clinical environments, Caitlyn has enjoyed learning from RDs in many different settings.

“It is interesting to see all the unique perspectives and their ways of thinking when coming up with interventions for patients,” Caitlyn said. “Gaining this kind of exposure through my SEL rotations has molded my thught process and inspired the way I’d like to provide nutrition counseling and education as an RD.”