NATICK, Mass. (Apr. 14, 2017) -- Natick Soldier Systems Center, or NSSC, got a little more crowded on April 12, with approximately 50 interns from numerous programs throughout the local Boston area entering the gates to attend this year's Dietetic Intern Day.
The annual event, hosted by the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine's Military Nutrition Division, or USARIEM MND, and the Combat Feeding Directorate from the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center, or NSRDEC, is a unique opportunity for these future dietitians to meet and connect with dietitians, researchers and Soldiers involved in top-notch Army nutritional science designed to optimize Soldier readiness.
Adrienne Hatch and Nicholes Armstrong, two USARIEM research dietitians who also completed dietetic internships as part of their education and training, enjoy coordinating Dietetic Intern Day. In the past they have attended or assisted with the event, and this is their second year as organizers. For them, Dietetic Intern Day is a chance for interns to get a taste of the unique career paths for dietitians in military medicine and Army research.
"The interns have the opportunity to not only learn about military nutrition and what kinds of studies occur, but also the uniqueness of working as a research dietitian, both in human performance and ration development," Hatch said. "It's an educational opportunity for interns to get a feel for what other jobs in the field of nutrition and dietetics exist, aside from those they may be familiar with through their internship."
"This is also a chance to showcase our collective research abilities at USARIEM, while simultaneously having an opportunity to shape future nutrition experts, since we are geographically located at the epicenter of the nutrition education field," Armstrong said.
The interns learned about the research being done to quantify the unique nutritional requirements of Warfighters, build and improve military rations and encourage healthy eating behaviors. Later, they took a guided tour to meet various USARIEM and NSRDEC researchers. Nutrition research is not unique to the field, but it's the military relevance of the nutrition research mission that sets NSSC and USARIEM apart from research in the academic and clinical communities.
"There is a lot of science and applied nutrition that is unique to the military--warfighters have unique stressors and nutritional needs, and because of that, it is a specialized area of nutrition research," Hatch said.
"Hopefully, this will be an eye-opening experience, and some of the interns will be motivated to become military research dietitians," Armstrong said. "This event fosters professional connections that have led to interns completing a portion of their required rotation hours at USARIEM, and in some cases those interns have become future researchers."
USARIEM offers many opportunities to people with different levels of education and skillsets to contribute as team members to USARIEM's mission. One of those opportunities is the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education, or ORISE, program, which offers internships, fellowships and research opportunities to undergraduate and graduate students, recent graduates and postdocs to help further their careers in science fields.
Events like Dietetic Intern Day help grow the talented workforce that positively contributes to our warfighters' strength and resilience. Perhaps one of the interns who toured NSSC could be a future USARIEM scientist or research dietitian.
"Education and awareness about USARIEM are important--we want to continue to lead the way in Soldier health and readiness, and in order to do that, educating the future workforce who may have a career interest in military nutrition and research is necessary," Hatch said.