American Society For Nutrition

Seeking Your Ideas on How to Make ASN Relevant

Seeking Your Ideas on How to Make ASN Relevant

Excellence in Nutrition Research and Practice
Posted on 06/03/2008 at 05:11:45 AM by Suzanne Price

By James Hill, ASN President

My goal during the coming year is to help ensure that ASN is a relevant organization. I see this as making it relevant for our members but also relevant to other scientists, to government policy makers, and to the public. We are well positioned to do this but I would love to start a dialogue with our members to talk about strategies and what we can accomplish through these strategies. Our Public Policy and Public Information committees are anxious to do more in this area and our staff person, Mary Lee Watts, provides exceptional leadership and support for these efforts. One way to become relevant is to be willing to comment on emerging (and often controversial) issues. I would like to see ASN as the “go to” organization for quick, accurate comment on nutritional issues. Sometimes we will have adequate time to prepare a response and sometimes we will need to act quickly. I believe we need a quick response team to deal with issues that require a rapid response. I understand that our response needs to be fast-paced and correct but I think we can take on this challenge. At the same time we need to be proactively working to generate interest in nutritional issues that we want to bring to the attention of the media and the public. I would love to hear your views on how to ensure that ASN is relevant.

6 Comments
Posted Nov 13, 2008 3:56 AM by Jennifer
I would like to see the ASN do something about the RD. I think it is completely unfair that I now have to do 1200hrs of unpaid internship in order to get an RD, so that I may lecture at the university setting even though I have a PhD in nutrition. What am I paying my membership fees to ASN for?

Posted Nov 13, 2008 7:18 AM by OJK
I agree with Jennifer.

As I am in my 5th year as a postdoc in Nutrition I have started to look at my career prospects and without an RD things look dismal. For instance, one tenured teaching faculty job asked for a PhD with the RD but they were willing to take a Masters with an RD. Does a PhD in Nutrition mean this little? The RD is a minor degree at some Universities, I realize one must complete 1200 hours of a non-paid internship and pass the RD exam but how can an RD equate to or even supersede a PhD? 1200 hours of a non-paid internship is certainly much easier than 6 or more years of being a low-paid, bottom-of-the-academic-barrel, considered less than human by University administrators Postdoc. Something needs to be done to save real Nutritionists from genocide by the ADA.

For all the faculty search committees; please stop imposing the RD on PhD’s for nutrition jobs. We are more than capable of teaching nutrition to an RD class. A PhD is qualified to do a whole lot more compared to a Masters with the RD.

As I was studying for my BSc and PhD the general view was that being a Nutritionist was better than being a Dietician; a Nutritionist had more in-depth scientific knowledge. I spent my postdoc years researching how nutrition can aid in the prevention and treatment of diseases such as cancer, Parkinson’s, obesity and osteoporosis. Now it seems I am not yet qualified to get a faculty job in Nutrition until I have an RD. Before the PhD’s did all the grunt work (drug research etc.) and the MD’s got all the credit now the PhD’s are doing the work and the RD’s are getting the credit. Watch any morning news show and you will have MD’s or RD’s giving nutrition advice, I don’t see any Nutrition PhD’s or representative from the ASN.

The first thing the ASN needs to do it to set up a Register of Nutritionists and get them recognized by law. To make the ASN relevant I think we need a Certificate that is equal to or exceeds the RD and have it protected by law. This of course would involve an examination and other qualifications.

In most states, only a nutrition professional licensed by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) can provide nutrition counseling or individualized Medical Nutrition Therapy to the public. However, exceptions are MD’s, nurses and chiropractors. The ASN needs to work on getting PhD’s in Nutrition on this list of exceptions. It is only logical when one considers the amount of Nutrition education these professionals receive compared to a person with a PhD in Nutrition.

The ASN needs to get more involved in public health. The ASN should begin by conducting surveys, I’m sure the MD members would be more than willing to help with some nutrition related surveys as they have direct access to patients. It may yield new nutrition areas to look at especially as MD’s come into contact with all types of diseases.

Another area that needs addressing, and the ASN must be the leader in this area is to answer some questions relating to supplement use in the modern diet and/or should supplements be regulated. In addition, there is an exponential rise in Chinese/Asian herbal medicine use and the effects of these herbal remedies’ on the public must also be addressed. The ASN must urgently fund or seek funding for these. This research would certainly increase the relevance of the ASN. Create a public forum and have ASN experts answer questions.

To conclude the ASN must remind people that the organization is firmly rooted in science and its members are dedicated to the advancement of Nutrition and the organization is more than qualified to answer all nutrition and diet related questions.

I understand your point of view and the frustration at not being recognized as a PhD for years of hard work when it seems like RD’s can merely swoop in and take jobs for which you feel you are better qualified. As a current MS student in nutritional sciences who also has a BS in Dietetics, I am beginning to understand both sides of the spectrum. Some universities who grant PhD degrees do not require their students to take a nutrition application class. For example, even though many of the students could recite the etiology of a disease state or outline the consequences of obesity, few could give specific recommendations on carbohydrate counting or specific diet plans for a patient with Celiac Disease. Although RD’s are required to do only 1200 practical hours, it is the content of these hours that makes the difference. PhD's usually spend their hours deep in lab research, not on the specifics of clinical care. Obviously it depends on the requirements of each university, but I am not convinced that understanding the science behind nutrition automatically qualifies a person to do a dietitian's job. There are many aspects of dietetics that are not taught in bench-based nutrition science (counseling, food safety and sanitation, how to calculate energy requirements in response to activity levels/amputations/injuries, sports nutrition principles, etc). In addition, some MS/RDs may be selected for teaching jobs because they have a great deal of clinical experience. Now if you’re talking a faculty position in a lab-based, basic science program where you are not teaching clinical nutrition, then yes, absolutely you should be considered even without the RD credential. But clinical nutrition and nutrition science are not the same. I know many PhD students who don’t understand how to count calories and wouldn’t know the first thing about calculating a tube feeding.
I identify with being frustrated with RD's who do not understand the science behind nutrition. I don't agree with using a diet manual as a crutch. It should be a tool and not used to place cookie cutters on patients. Not understanding the science behind disease states prevents dietitians from being able to recommend treatments when the diet manual doesn't have a solution. I think there should be a standardization of requirements for dietitians, so we don’t have such a wide variety of education levels. I also think that nutrition science students should be required to take some clinical classes so they not only understand the science but also how this knowledge can be applied in clinical practice.

Posted Mar 02, 2009 11:52 AM by Jennifer
Dear EMC,

I find it hard to believe that after a few years of college level education you feel that you can understand my frustration with the ASN not having and agreement with the ADA. I would also like to point out that I am not frustrated with my PhD (another inaccuracy), but I am frustrated with the system, and lack of checks and balances. I am shocked that one would speak so openly about a subject that one knows so little about. As a PhD student my entire thesis research was based on human subjects with nutritional absorption problems. And one last clarification, while obtaining my BS I took above and beyond the RD requirements to obtain a nutrition degree. I feel it is asinine to make someone go back and retake courses that they had previously taken, because they were listed as a nutrient student instead of being listed as a dietetic student at the time they took the course.

Besides, if the PhD’s are so inept at calculating caloric needs wouldn’t we fail the RD exam? My goal in writing my earlier blog to the ASN, was to have one of them address the situation. I would like to know what they plan to do about it, or if they are just hoping that the situation resolves itself? What I would like to see is the ASN keeping a national database of registered nutritionists that have meet certain criteria. Just as the ADA has, I would also like to see an exam, so we can end this idiotic argument between nutritionists and registered dieticians.

Posted Mar 18, 2009 10:22 PM by EMC
Jennifer-

I am sorry you viewed my response as an attack on your first post; I was actually responding to the post below yours. I do not pretend to fully understand your particular situation and think it's fantastic that you were able to take nutrition courses during your undergrad. I am not sure why these courses didn't count as DPD requirements for you..I know some people in my program are taking similar courses not as dietetic students in order to be eligible for the dietetic internship.

Obviously, having taken these courses, you would most certainly not fail the RD exam! But not all PhD students have the background you do, which makes it tricky to standardize protocol for who is qualified to teach a clinical nutrition course.

I think the database and a standardized exam are great ideas. Have you contacted the ADA also expressing your concerns? I would love to see the end to arguments between nutritionists and dietitians, as well...or better yet, a greater sense of working together to truly improve the nutrition status of our nation.

Sorry to knowing this article too lately, but really I love reading all of reader's opinions especially Jennifer