Coordinating Board approves UTSA undergraduate, graduate dietetics program

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(March 20, 2013) -- The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board has approved a Coordinated Program in Dietetics at The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) that will allow students to earn a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and a subsequent Master of Dietetic Studies degree. The program will make students eligible to sit for the Commission on Dietetics Registration national exam to become registered dietitians (RDs).

The Department of Health and Kinesiology in the UTSA College of Education and Human Development will house the program, which is accepting applications from sophomore and transfer students who want to start the program in fall 2013.

Registered dietitians are an integral part of the U.S. health-care system. They are trained to translate the science of food and nutrition to prevent chronic diseases and improve the overall health and well-being of people of all ages. They are employed by wellness and fitness programs, schools, community agencies, hospitals, clinics, and acute and long-term care facilities.

Commonly, registered dietitians focus on the nutrition interventions in the treatment of diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, gastrointestinal disorders and renal diseases. They also provide medical nutrition therapy for infants and children with different disorders, as well as trauma patients who may not be able to consume food orally but need alternate ways of nutrition for proper healing.

Salaries for registered dietitians range from $42,000 to $55,000 for professionals with less than five years of experience to $86,000 for managers and consultants.

"As the interest in food and nutrition has grown and people better understand the link between proper nutrition and the prevention and treatment of chronic diseases, the need for health professionals in the dietetics field has increased," said Carmen Roman-Shriver, associate professor and director of the program. "The new Coordinated Program in Dietetics will help UTSA create a pipeline of new professionals who will encourage people to adopt healthy lifestyles."

Some dietetic professionals offer one-on-one counseling, group education and personal nutritional assessments to promote health, prevent diseases and treat illnesses through medical nutrition therapy. Other dietitians focus on the business aspects of the profession, working on food service operations and management, colleges, culinary schools, hospitals and day-care facilities. Still others use their education to pursue roles in media, marketing, sports, consumer affairs, product development, public policy, education or research.

UTSA program prerequisites include instructional and laboratory (where applicable) courses in general chemistry, organic chemistry, human anatomy and physiology, microbiology, biochemistry, college algebra, statistics, management, nutritional sciences and an introductory course in either psychology or sociology.

In 2013-2014, UTSA will only offer junior-level courses for the Coordinated Program in Dietetics. The university will continue to add courses each year as the entering class progresses through the undergraduate curriculum and into the master's program of study.

Master's-level students will be in the classroom once each week and at rotations 32 hours per week Tuesday through Friday during the fall and spring semesters. Supervised hours will be available at a variety of locations in San Antonio and other South Texas areas.

"UTSA is already the home of the Dietitians Today and Tomorrow program, sponsored by a USDA grant to professors Zenong Yin and Meizi He," said Roman-Shriver. "This mentoring and pipeline program complements the new academic program, helping to further enhance UTSA's offerings in dietetics and nutrition."

As the director of the program, UTSA scholar Carmen Roman-Shriver has more than 25 years of academic experience in health and nutrition and earned three degrees in nutrition and dietetics: a Ph.D. degree from The Ohio State University, a master's degree from Texas Woman's University, Denton, and a bachelor's degree from the University of Puerto Rico. She is a registered dietitian licensed to practice in Texas. Her experience includes diabetes and weight management education, and she is an advocate for obesity prevention in Texas.