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Dietitians provide nutrition
Stop by Health 1st’s Wellness Wednesday
table in the Children’s Hospital lobby between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. March
12 to to get your nutrition questions answered by MUSC’s dietetic
Registered dietitians (RD) are defined by the American Dietetic
Association as being food and nutrition experts who possess the
expertise, training and credentials that are vital for providing
accurate nutrition information. The term nutritionist is not
professionally defined, which allows anyone to be identified by that
title. A nutritionist, however, is commonly defined as a person who
advises people on dietary matters relating to health and wellness.
Dietitians must meet very specific criteria to earn the RD credential,
beginning with the completion of a minimum of a bachelor’s degree at an
accredited university or college with course work approved by the
Commission on Accreditation for Dietetics Education (CADE) of the
American Dietetic Association. Undergraduate programs include a variety
of subjects, ranging from food and nutrition sciences, food-service
systems management, business, economics, computer science, culinary
arts, psychology and communication to science courses such as
biochemistry, physiology, microbiology, anatomy, and even organic
chemistry with lab requirements.
Upon graduation, one must complete a CADE-accredited supervised program
or internship involving extensive practice in the field of nutrition
that typically runs six to 12 months. MUSC offers one of the more than
250 accredited internship programs in the country by taking eight
interns per year via a formal matching process, much like that
performed for medical residency placement. The matching process is
extremely competitive. MUSC has historically received more than 80
applications per year vying for these spots. Only after this
requirement is completed can the intern qualify to sit for the national
registered dietitian examination. In fact, MUSC’s intern graduates have
greater than a 95 percent first-time pass rate for this exam. Once this
credential is obtained, one must continue to earn professional
educational credits to maintain registration.
Some RDs also hold additional certifications in specialized areas of
practice. These certifications may include pediatric or renal
nutrition, nutrition support and diabetes education. Often RDs
eventually go on to earn a master’s degree or a PhD. Most of MUSC’s RDs
have these additional certifications and/or advanced degrees.
Furthermore, our dietitians provide lectures to medical students,
present at national meetings, conduct their own research, author
peer-reviewed papers and book chapters, and more.
This extensive and specialized training allows an RD to work in a wide
variety of employment settings. These may include, but are not limited
to, health care, business and industry, community and public health,
education, research, government agencies and private practice.
So, if dietitians are the “food and nutrition experts,” what exactly is
a nutritionist and what qualifications must he or she fulfill?
There is no legal definition for the term nutritionist and no minimum
qualification. Self-identified nutritionists may have varying levels of
education and have not received the same specialized, formally
accredited education and training as an RD.
Until the term dietitian is more universally understood, dietitians may
refer to themselves as nutritionists. Dietitians often are referred to
as nutritionists because the public is more likely to understand and
recognize the term. Nonetheless, the credential to look for is the RD
when seeking nutritional advice. So when you need food and nutrition
information based on fact, or need to know how a healthy diet improves
health and fights disease, rely upon qualified professionals in the
To obtain more information, make an appointment to meet with an MUSC
dietitian by calling 876-0888.
Friday, March 7, 2008
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