June 26, 2014

Dietetic Internship Program graduates 85th class

Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s Dietetic Internship Program graduated its 85th class of students on June 16.

The graduating class of Vanderbilt's Dietetic Internship Program. (photo by John Russell)

Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s Dietetic Internship Program graduated its 85th class of students on June 16.

The 10-month post-baccalaureate program, which began at Vanderbilt in 1929, is one of the oldest in the country and has graduated more than 1,000 students since its inception.

“Our students have the advantage of learning within a well-respected and multi-faceted institution, allowing them to rotate through many different areas of the hospital, learning and exercising specific skills in each unique environment,” said Elizabeth Robinson, M.Ed., R.D., LDN, director of the Dietetic Internship.

Vanderbilt began its program with one student, Bessie Smith. By the late 1980s, the Internship had grown to its present-day total of 16 students. Robinson said that today, students come from across the United States as well as countries including Brazil, China, Germany, Haiti, Puerto Rico and Scotland.

The admissions process is rigorous, with the program typically receiving approximately 300 applications for its 16 slots.

“Our program is successful largely because of the expertise and dedication of our internship director, coordinator and preceptors,” said Ellen Ladage, R.D., CNSC, LDN, preceptor for the Dietetic Internship students. “Also, I believe that the motivation, intelligence and critical thinking skills of the interns themselves contribute to the success of the program. Vanderbilt’s Internship is very challenging and every effort is made to help each student succeed.”

During their time at VUMC, the interns complete 25 different rotations throughout various Vanderbilt facilities, both on and off campus. They work with up to two different preceptors in each area, registered dietitians who guide them through the dietetic needs and procedures of the areas they work in.

“I chose Vanderbilt because of its team approach to health care and the wide array of experiences that it offered,” said Ryan Rafacz, who graduated this year. “I knew that Vanderbilt would give me experience as both an inpatient practitioner and an outpatient counselor, providing me with a diverse set of skills. For me, a highlight of the Internship included the chance to do hands-on work in the community, providing nutritional education to local corporations, schools and health clinics.”

When the interns complete their program here, they sit for their registration examination, becoming registered dietitians upon passing. Since 2008, 98 percent of Vanderbilt graduates have passed the exam on their first attempt, one of the highest first-time pass rates among dietetic programs.

Vanderbilt’s program is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics, the accrediting agency for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association).