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Resources widen for dietetics students (3/12/97)

The South Texas/Border Region Health Education Initiative is enhancing learning opportunities for students in the Coastal Bend region who want to become registered dietitians.

Registered dietitians are in high demand, but they must follow a rigorous course of study. They must complete internships that span 1,040 hours, in addition to passing other requirements for registry.

Texas A&M University-Kingsville offers an internship program that is coordinated with a master's degree in human sciences. It currently has five interns. Upon completion of the internship, a student's eligibility is verified. Verification enables the intern to take the national registration examination to become a registered dietitian. Only registered dietitians can direct clinical nutrition programs in hospitals, or for patients following physician's orders.

With the new partnership with the South Texas/Border Region initiative, students at Texas A&M University-Kingsville now have access to a resource project for learning that includes desktop computers with special interactive learning software. The learning assistance extends to new laboratory equipment, classroom materials, assistance for graduate students and wider resources for the necessary research required for the degree.

The new equipment will enhance the program at a significant time, said Anna P. McArthur, PhD, assistant professor in the human sciences department. The internship is scheduled for full accreditation this year.

The South Texas/Border Region Health Education Initiative is a special legislative project in health-care education between The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio and its partners from Laredo to the Rio Grande Valley and Corpus Christi and the Coastal Bend of Texas.

The initiative has also allowed Texas A&M University-Kingsville to hire a program coordinator for the nutrition resource project. The coordinator, Gloria Fernandez-Van Zante, a registered dietitian and graduate of the university, said the PCs run software applications similar to that used by hospitals and clinics to analyze diets. In addition, she said, other software programs will present hypothetical problems for students to solve as part of their curriculum.

The educators at Kingsville also are taking aspects of their program to other health professionals in the Coastal Bend. "For example, we are helping day-care directors and their providers with information about well-child nutrition. We are helping nurses who care for people with chronic disease such as diabetes, high blood pressure and cancer, with nutrition information. They want to know how to reinforce a healthy diet for these persons," Fernandez-Van Zante said.

"On an informal basis, we want to take this nutrition knowledge regionally, and be a place they can turn to for nutritional information. Our goal is to teach professionals, and let those professionals teach others," she said.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Find more information about the South Texas/Border Region Health Education Initiative at www.uthscsa.edu/stbi.

Contact: Jim Barrett (210) 567-2570