It is easy to get caught up in your student responsibilities: studying for exams, volunteering at the hospital, working on research studies and trying to balance that RD2be life.
An important component and learning opportunity for students is exposing ourselves to the wide range of careers and practice specialties available to dietitians. A great way to do this is to join a dietetic practice group, or DPG. There are 25 DPGs available to students, often at a discounted rate. When I was trying to figure out which ones to join I asked myself the following questions:
- What am I interested in?
- What are my career goals?
- What resources does this DPG offer their members, specifically their student members?
As a consequence of some changes in my personal career interests, I have done a little DPG-hopping. One DPG I stuck with, however, is Dietitians in Integrative and Functional Medicine, or DIFM. In case you’re not familiar, DIFM is a group of dietitians who practice under the integrative and functional medicine model. They consider a myriad of physiologic and lifestyle factors that influence health, focus on finding the root cause of disease, apply a “food as medicine” foundation, and use interdisciplinary therapeutic approaches to treatment.
All of these tenets perfectly align with how I see myself practicing as a future registered dietitian nutritionist. We all know about food’s essentiality, but as practitioners we should always consider that nutrition is just one piece of the wellness puzzle — our body is a whole interconnected system affected by our genes, hormones, lifestyle and state of mind. I see myself integrating all of these concepts into my model of care for my future patients and clients.
The resources that DIFM has offered me certainly have enriched my career path like no other, taking my education and knowledge to a deeper level. One of those resources is the electronic mailing list, or EML, which I have found to be invaluable. The EML provides access to questions and answers submitted by RDNs — thousands of brilliant members conversing on a variety of topics. Reading these has increased my awareness of treatment regimes, uses of dietary supplements and scientific research. Another amazing resource is the numerous webinars that supplement the education we receive in the classroom and give insight into practice applications and other important topics by experts. Yet, my favorite member benefit is perhaps the quarterly newsletter, The Integrative RDN, which offers in-depth articles on the latest nutrition topics, book reviews, recipes and even offers students the opportunity to be involved in its production, as I have done.
There are so many ways students can get involved with DIFM! In my case, I was given the honor to serve on their leadership board as one of the student membership chairs. This role has given me a wealth of opportunities to network with dietitians who are experts in their field, develop skills such as leadership, marketing and planning, and has opened new doors and even more opportunities to shine and demonstrate my passion for the profession.
When it comes to paving the way to your career, remember that dietitians involved in DPGs will one day be your colleagues. It is an incredible opportunity to begin networking now and building momentum for the day you join them as an RDN. When you renew your Academy membership, consider joining DIFM, or any other group that interests you. It is well worth it.