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NMSU Dietetic Internship Program, Paso del Norte Health Foundation collaborate to improve health of area residentsThe grant from the Paso del Norte Health Foundation will help increase the number of qualified dietitians in the region.

  • By Adriana M. Chavez
  • 575-646-1957
  • Sep 05, 2017

New Mexico State University’s Dietetic Internship Program recently received a grant from the Paso del Norte Health Foundation to increase the number of qualified registered dietitians/nutritionists in the region and improve the health of area residents.

The primary objective of the grant is to ensure additional qualified registered dieticians are available for jobs in the region so area residents can benefit from their expertise and lead to an increase in fruit and vegetable consumption and a reduction of sedentary lifestyles, said Gaby Phillips, Dietetic Internship Program director. The program is housed in NMSU’s College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences.

“To effectively promote good nutrition, the region needs more registered dieticians,” said Michael Kelly, vice president of programs at the Paso del Norte Health Foundation. “To help meet this need, the Paso del Norte Health Foundation turned to our trusted partner, NMSU. It is our hope that this grant will support a sustainable increase for enrollment in and graduation from the Dietetic Internship Program at NMSU.”

Phillips said the grant will allow the program to double its capacity to accept students and place them into clinical rotations throughout New Mexico.

“The result will be more RDN candidate for jobs in the Paso del Norte region, and more resources area residents can access to learn how healthy eating and active living can improve their well-being,” Phillips said.

Students in the program collaborate with Cooperative Extension Service professionals in county and state offices to implement nutrition intervention. Students conduct a community needs assessment for every county in New Mexico, and develop community nutrition programs that can be used statewide. Students also complete rotations in multiple settings including schools, hospitals and healthcare facilities, and lead in-service classes for various institutions throughout the state in partnership with the New Mexico School Association.

But many registered dietitian/nutritionist jobs in the region go unfilled because of a shortage of qualified candidates, Phillips said.

“Demand for RDNs will grow faster than the supply as current RDNs retire and more employers realize the benefits of having RDNs on staff,” Phillips said. “To help fill this demand, NMSU developed a master’s degree with a dietetic internship program to increase the number of graduates who will be hired as registered dietitians or RDNs.”

The Dietetic Internship Program at NMSU is the only one in the region. The three-year grant from the Paso Del Norte Health Foundation will allow NMSU to admit and train additional future RDNs, many of whom are likely to remain in the region.

The Paso del Norte Health Foundation leads, leverages and invests in initiatives, programs and policies to promote health and prevent disease in the Paso del Norte region. The Paso del Norte Health Foundation was established in 1995 from the sale of Providence Memorial Hospital to Tenet Healthcare Corporation, and seeks to ensure that the people living in far west Texas, southern New Mexico and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico have the knowledge, resources and skills to lead healthy lives.