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Alumni Corner

To our alumni:
This alumni corner is set up so that current undergraduate students at Binghamton can find out more about varied careers and paths toward those careers that you have taken. If you are willing to share your experience, please contact annatan@binghamton.edu.

JANINE SITKO (B.A. BIOLOGY 1985), Dietitian

In my senior year at Binghamton I decided to use my science background to go to graduate school for a Masters in Nutrition. I attended New York University Fall of 1985. My degree took two years of full time classes. The goal for the masters in nutrition was to become a registered dietitian. Anyone can call himself or herself a nutritionist these days but only registered dietitians have had formal training and passed an exam. The only exceptions are those who actually get a degree in nutrition but do not necessarily become registered dietitians.

Before sitting for the registered dietitian exam a 6-month internship doing something related to nutrition is required. Most people opt to work in a hospital setting with registered dietitians as their teachers. You can opt to do research as well. During the six months I learned about many diseases that require nutrition intervention such as diabetes, heart disease, renal failure, gastrointestinal diseases and many more. Nutrition is also very important for the intensive care patient who is on a respirator and requires tube feedings. The dietitian is directly responsible for deciding on a formula and calorie amount to feed that patient. Malnutrition was also a big part of the hospital patient. Many people do poorly after being in the hospital and do not respond to treatment as well if they are malnourished.

After my six-month internship, I passed the registered dietitian exam and got a job in a hospital. Hospital dietetics can vary from educating the patients about the appropriate diet they must follow based on their disease to feeding the incubated patient, to getting an AIDS patient foods that they can tolerate. Dietitians work directly with the medical staff in a team approach to following their patients. I rotated through many different floors in the hospital and learned about the different disease processes.

A typical day for me would be to decide which patients were urgent to see based on their diagnosis-. I would do some education such as teaching a new diabetic how to modify their diet or a heart disease patient ways to modify fat and cholesterol. I would meet with doctors and nurses on rounds and learn more about patients that needed my intervention. Rounds were also a time to communicate my concerns about patients with the medical staff. I would also correct patients' menus that had specific diet restrictions. I would visit the Intensive Care Patient. Checking lab values were important to determine nutritional status.

If a biology student is thinking of taking this path I would suggest contacting a hospital and spending some time with a dietitian to see if this is what they want to do. Other areas of nutrition that I did not do are the foodservice ends. Foodservice is directly responsible for the ordering preparing and serving of meals in a hospital setting. Doing research is also another option for employment.

More specific questions may be directed to me by e-mail j9sit@myeastern.com

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Last Updated: 5/5/09