I retired March 2014 from Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System after 30+ years. I started as Clinical Dietitian working Medical/Surgical units and later was transferred to Long Term Care, Psychiatry, Intermediate Surgery and Nursing Home Care units. The department chief asked me to assume a role in Outpatient Clinic. The next position change was to the Geriatric Evaluation Management & Rehabilitation unit where I participated in team training of staff and students. I made a switch to education and became Assistant Director of the UAMS/CAVHS Dietetic Internship for 6 years during which time I was Acting Director of Education and Development Service for two years. Here I oversaw education programs in nursing, respiratory therapy, surgical technicians and genetics. The last six years of my career at CAVHS was in GRECC (Geriatric Research Education and Clinical Center) as an Education Specialist. I planned programs for health care providers who take care of veterans as well as for students in nursing, psychology, occupational therapy, dietetics and pharmacy.
I was active in FHA and 4-H growing up and loved the foods projects. I even won a state competition on a nutrition talk titled You Are What You Eat and received a watch as a prize. When I started school at the University of Arkansas I was interested in working for the Cooperative Extension Service. By my senior year dietetics became a bigger focus so I applied for a dietetic internship and the rest is history.
I have had several exciting moments in my career but one of which I'm most proud is having been published.
Most recently I achieved a long term goal of establishing an endowed scholarship in dietetics and nutrition. I was thrilled to attend the recent scholarship luncheon for Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences to meet the first recipient of the Ruth E. Johnston Endowed Scholarship in dietetics and nutrition. The first recipient of the Ruth E. Johnston Endowed Scholarship in Dietetics and Nutrition at the University of Arkansas, Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences is Caroline Atwell from Monticello. *(pictured with Ruth)*
For any RDNs or DTRS that are new in their career I would say be flexible and try new things. If you are offered a chance to work on outside projects or programs, say yes. Get involved in the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics because it is an excellent networking opportunity. One doesn't realize all the Academy does or offers until you get involved. I'm always learning something new as well as meeting new colleagues.
What I see as the trends for RDNs and DTRs in the future are more personalization and technology. While RDNs have always focused on personalizing diets to the client or patient, the use of genetics and genetics testing will take it to a whole new level. I look forward to seeing what happens. The use of personal electronic devices and increased focus on learning to write software will allow exponential increases in the number of programs that can be developed for dietetics and food service.