New dietetic internship provides crucial experience opportunity to dietitian hopefuls

From left: Graduate students Aaron Guajardo, Courtney Anderson and Mari Renaldo are the first three students to take part in Baylor's dietetic internship. Photo courtesy of Leslee Funderburk

By Harry Rowe | Staff Writer

A brand new dietetic internship is being offered by Baylor’s family and consumer sciences department.

The program is a necessary component to becoming a registered dietitian and is required before taking the national exam to become an registered dietitian (RD). Before the program, students would have to find another area, like Dallas or Austin, to satisfy the requirement. Certain graduate students who have completed their bachelor’s degree in nutrition sciences may be eligible for it.

“Currently, across the US, there are not enough dietetic internships to meet demand, and competition for those slots is fierce,” said Dr. LesLee Funderburk, an assistant professor of family and consumer sciences and nutrition sciences. “Additionally, we are one of few programs in Texas that offer graduate credits that would lead to a Masters of Science in Nutrition, along with the internship.”

The program recently received candidacy for accreditation, which allows it to have up to 10 interns and reach a more permanent status. However, in its first year, Funderburk said the program would start with three interns. Funderburk explained how students or graduates interested in receiving a dietitian license have a wide variety of jobs available to them after they complete their training.

“It opens up a wide variety of job opportunities for individuals,” Funderburk said. “Whether that’s working in hospital environments, a food service like Aramark here on campus — the SLC has their own registered dietitians and the athletics department has three registered dietitians on staff. We work in a wide variety of areas, and having that RD behind your name just opens up opportunities for individuals.”

Dr. Suzy Weems, who’s largely responsible for setting up the internship process, echoed Funderburk’s message of just how important this opportunity is for Central Texas.

“The Central Texas area did not have an abundance of options and the opportunities here are great,” Weems said. “In addition, the professionals in the area were excited to help meet the need, and we’re eager to help in the process.”

The program is a total of 1,248 hours and counts toward an additional 15 hours of graduate credit. The internship is one step out of five, including obtaining a bachelor’s degree at an accredited university, completing a supervised program, passing the national exam and becoming licensed in a specific state, if necessary. Weems said this opportunity at Baylor is not only an incredible door students can utilize, but it just felt right.

“Baylor has a terrific undergraduate program that is accredited by the accrediting agency for the study of nutrition and dietetics,” Weems said. “So it seemed like a good idea to afford them the opportunity to continue the pursuit of becoming a registered dietitian through Baylor University.”