WIC Internship Rotation

These past two weeks I spent the majority of my time in the Monongalia and Marion County WIC offices.  With this rotation I was able to learn all about what WIC has to offer!  WIC represents the Women, Infants and Children Program, which is a federally funded nutrition education and supplemental food program.  This is an excellent opportunity for families that qualify to receive nutrition education, breastfeeding support/education, and assistance with food and other resources.  They are even working with the WIC-ICE program to offer free immunizations for children 0-5 years old!


While at WIC I realized that the number of women choosing to feed their baby using formula outnumbered the number of women breastfeeding tremendously! Out of curiosity I ended up looking up the breastfeeding rates for the states of West Virginia and Colorado as well as the national rates.

Data from CDC’s Breastfeeding Report Card, 2013

Breastfeeding Rates

View entire report here!

Source: http://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/pdf/2013breastfeedingreportcard.pdf

Curious to know which state had the highest and lowest rates of exclusive breastfeeding at 3 and 6 months? I was!  I found that the highest rate of exclusively breastfeeding at 3 months came from Idaho with 60.3% and the lowest came from Mississippi with only 17%.  When looking at the those exclusively breastfeeding at 6 months, the highest came from California with 27.4% and the lowest was Tennessee with only 4.1%.  As you can see there are very large discrepancies when comparing each state!

Why is it important to breastfeed vs. formula feedings?

Here are a few of the many wonderful benefits:

  • Reduce the risk of diseases in the infant such as:
    • Necrotizing enterocolitis
    • Lower respiratory infections
    • Asthma
    • Obesity
    • Type 2 Diabetes
    • SIDS
  • Protects the baby from illnesses so they get sick less often
  • Provides benefits to the mother and helps the body return back to ‘normal’ by:
    • Burning extra calories to promoting weight loss
    • Causing the uterus to contract to prevent bleeding
  • It is safe! No need to worry about:
    • Mixing the formula
    • Safety of the water
    • Selecting the right formula
    • Formula safety recalls
  • The cost savings!

One interesting thing I learned at WIC was the cost of formula! Did you know that the average cost of formula for the first year was $1,500 dollars just for basic formula!  This number would sky rocket if an infant required a special formula (very common since formula is harder to digest than breast milk)!  This number also does not include the cost of bottle and supplies!

So, why do so many women chose not to breast feed when it is the best nutrition and supplies of a wealth of benefits for the baby and the mother that will last a lifetime – and not to mention the cost savings?

Source: http://www.womenshealth.gov/breastfeeding/why-breastfeeding-is-important/index.html


iCook Recruitment CONTINUES!

If there is one thing I have learned these past few weeks it is that recruiting human subjects for any research projects is HARD! No matter how excited the kids are about joining that doesn’t mean that their parents are going to pick up the phone and enroll. We have had to extend the recruitment process for this study and continue to recruit an extra week or two to hopefully meet our target! We are currently about 1/3 of the way there… with only 1 week left IT IS CRUNCH TIME!

We hit the schools yet again and decided to sing a song that Erin Smith and her dad wrote! Here is the video of us with an entire lunch room of 5th graders singing the tune after we have described the iCook study!


It has been fun speaking with thousands of 4th and 5th graders but at this point… I am just ready for us to reach our goal and start the actual instruction component of this research study! Below are some silly pictures of Erin and I as we toured the schools!

iCook 4H Nutrition Assessments

For my current rotation I will be dedicating my time to working on the iCook 4H Nutrition Research Study. This study is being conducted in 5 different states: West Virginia, Maine, Tennessee, Nebraska, and South Dakota. This is an awesome opportunity for children between the ages of 8-10 and a caregiver/parent to be able to attend nutrition and cooking related classes while focusing on physical activity to improve their overall well-being.

For more information about iCook click here – and make sure to “like us” on Facebook!

This past weekend we packed up our research lab and traveled to Martinsburg, WV to conduct assessments for the families we have enrolled there. This process involved collecting data such as blood pressure, height, weight, waist circumference, tanner stages (to assess biological maturity), and surveys to assess dietary and physical activity habits. At this time the children/parent pair were also randomly assigned into a control or an intervention group. Each child was given an accelerometer to wear for 7 days; this will assess their physical activity and monitor it continuously for an entire week. This next week we will be recruiting more in Morgantown and conducting assessments starting on Thursday! Stay tune for more posts about iCook – Don’t forget to like us on Facebook!

iCook Logo

GDI Bootcamp

It’s official. My experience as a graduate dietetic intern and a graduate teaching assistant is officially in full swing! Let me step back for a moment and explain what exactly that means and why I am here in at WVU. In order to become a registered dietitian one must complete an accredited dietetic internship. The accredited dietetic internships come in a variety of formats. The main requirement is that interns must complete, at least, 1,200 hours of supervised practice rotations with registered dietitians in the areas of clinical, community, and food service. Internship programs may be combined with a Master’s degree, or any number of graduate courses, or just rotations. The application for an internship is done through a matching system, which means that each applicant will receive either one match or no matches at all, no matter how many programs one applies to. Internships are extremely competitive! Only 50% of applicants who apply receive an appointment to a dietetic internship! I was lucky enough to receive my first choice internship with West Virginia University. I chose this program because it allowed me to further my education with a master’s degree by combining it with the internship amongst many other reasons including the program’s quality, the rotations offered, the well-rounded emphasis, location, cost, etc.

The entire internship experience started with a two-week boot camp orientation. It is a fairly new concept to this program and has really proven beneficial. I am one out of a class of six interns this year and have been lucky enough to get to know them, as well as the second year interns extensively the past two weeks. Boot camp is designed to introduce us to WVU, the department, the division, and most of all, our program specifically. Boot camp was held over the course of the two-weeks prior to the beginning of the fall semester, which was August 6th – August 17th. Here is a brief overview of my experience at boot camp including some of the interesting facts I learned along the way.

Week One!

Day 1: August 6th, 2012

The first day was spent getting to know the other first-year interns and Dr. Melissa Olfert, the program director. We also took time going over the logistics of the program and important details that we needed to know. Today we were directed to think over a few very important decisions:

  • Choose between thesis and non-thesis (problem statement)
  • Who we wanted to be our advisor
  • Who we wanted to serve on our committee
  • What courses we wanted to take
  • What area we wanted to focus our research towards

Day 2: August 7th, 2012

On the second day we had a chance to meet with the second-year interns. They each shared their own “pearls of wisdom” and talked about their experiences. This really helped us answer the questions we had and help us get more of an idea of what to expect the next two years. We also took the Jung Typology personality test and were separated into groups according to our results. Interestingly enough, we were all fairly similar! I guess that just proves that it takes a certain type of person to become a dietitian. The Jung Typology test is based on 4 main characteristic trait options:

  • Extraverted vs. Introverted
  • Sensing vs. Intuition
  • Thinking vs. Feeling
  • Judging vs. Perceiving

With the combination of 4 letters labeling a personality type, there are a total of 16 different personality types that can be identified using this method. My scores came out to be ENTJ, aka the Executive, which stands for extraverted, intuitive, thinking and judging. Find out what type of personality you have here! 

We finished up the day by going on a tour of the campus and set up our Mountaineer Cards and Pay Roll. We learned about social media from a guest lecture from Mary Rodavich, a second year intern. This presentation was extremely informative and helped us navigate through the Internet world and taught us how to set up our blog, ePortfolio, LinkedIn, and others.

First and Second Year Interns
Top Row (left to right): Kaitlin Mock, Emily Todhunter, Erin Smith, Jessie Popelka
Bottom Row (left to right): Remi Famodu, Shannon Ackerman, Mary Risch, Wendy Thompson, Mary Rodavich, Roanna Martin

Meet the Interns:

1st Year Interns – Class of 2014

Shannon Ackerman

  • Hometown: Morgantown, WV
  • Undergrad: Indiana University of Pennsylvania

Remi Famodu

  • Hometown: Bloomington, MN
  • Undergrad: Ohio University

Jessie Popelka

  • Hometown: Lincoln, NE
  • Undergrad: University of Nebraska – Lincoln

Mary Risch

  • Hometown: Baton Rouge, LA
  • Undergrad: Nicholls State University

Erin Smith

  • Hometown: Union, WV
  • Undergrad: West Virginia University

Wendy Thompson

  • Hometown: Grand Junction, CO
  • Undergrad: University of Northern Colorado

2nd Year Interns – Class of 2013

Leah Gecheo (Doctoral Student)

  • Hometown: Kenya, Africa
  • Master’s: West Virginia University

Roanna Martin

  • Hometown: Mount Joy, PA
  • Undergrad: Messiah College

Kaitlin Mock

  • Hometown: Pittsburgh, PA
  • Undergrad: West Virginia University

Mary Rodavich

  • Hometown: Pittsburgh, PA
  • Undergrad: Pennsylvania State University

Emily Todhunter

  • Hometown: Grand Forks, ND
  • Undergrad: University of Nebraska – Lincoln

Day 3: August 8th, 2012

Today, we met the new Dean of the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design, Dr. Dan Robision, and the Division Chair, Dr. Matt Wilson. It was so interesting to hear from these two and learn about their backgrounds. They also took time to explain this history of West Virginia University and it’s title as a “land-grant university.”

Dr. Dan Robison (left-side), The Dean of Davis College & Dr. Matt Wilson (right-side), The Chair of the ANS Division Presenting at Boot Camp for the GDI Interns

So, what exactly is a land grant university?

In 1862 (the same year as the Emancipation Proclamation and the Homestead Act) the government, with the help of Abraham Lincoln signed the Morrill Act into law. The Morrill Act supplied each state thousands of acres of land that could either be used to house the university or to make money in order to build an institution elsewhere in the state. The following year, in 1863, West Virginia officially became a state and by 1876 they had officially opened their own land grant university – Agricultural College of West Virginia, know known as West Virginia University. Today, there are over one hundred land-grant schools and they are located in every single state and US Territory!

This decision was based on the need for accessibility to higher education for the working class. There was an increased demand for practical education regarding agricultural, mechanics, and military tactics to supplement the sophisticated universities that existed for the affluent populations. The working class needed access to more education in order to develop the land and infrastructure necessary to maximize the use of our nation. The Morrill Act can be considered, in some ways, one of the most transformative events that arose from the Industrial Revolution.

As a land-grant university, institutions are required to have a mission statement that involves education, research, and extension (community outreach). Most land-grant universities began as “agricultural institutions,” which is true for WVU, and in fact Davis College of Agriculture is the oldest college at WVU. It is very cool to say, that “I am apart of Davis College” knowing that it has been around for over 136 years – now that’s a lot of history! 2012 also happens to mark the 150th anniversary of the Morrill Act. West Virginia University began with only six students and is now home to approximately 35,000 students, 14 colleges, and over 193 different degree programs.

Woodburn Hall was originally build in 1874 – this is how it looked it 1890.

WVU Downtown Campus as it Looks Today



After hearing from the Dean and the Division Chair we were lucky enough to hear from Roanna Martin (a second year intern) regarding the topic of local foods, food systems, farmers markets, and various programs including, Grow Your Own, Farm2Table, and Know Your Famer Know Your Food. Roanna Martin has an extensive background in farming because her family has been farming same land for over 15 generations! Take a look at her blog here!

One interesting thing I learned about was pepperoni rolls. Since moving to West Virginia I had seen signs and outside stands for pepperoni rolls all over and repeatedly been told to try one. Well, I finally got the chance and the best part was that they were even homemade – and they were fantastic! One of the best things about moving and traveling around is seeing all the wonderful regional foods that are out there! Click on the picture for a link to a healthier pepperoni roll recipe!

The Classic West Virginia Pepperoni Roll

Day 4: August 9th, 2012

Today was we heard from Emily Todhunter and Dr. Liz Quintana regarding diabetes, cardiovascular disease and the Ornish program.

Day 5: August 10th, 2012

Today was a fairly easy day that was spent on finalizing our schedules, working through classes, and creating and assembling the bulletin boards according to the topics that we chose. Emily Todhunter and I decided to create a board that showcased the interns and bootcamp. We chose to do a map tracing the interns from their hometown to WVU in Morgantown, WV.

Bulletin Board Created By Emily Todhunter and Wendy Thompson

The end of the day was spent relaxing at Cheat Lake with the other first and second year interns, Dr. Olfert, her husband and their daughter. We enjoyed swimming, tubing, and of course, snack time! It was great to be able to see other areas of Morgantown and all the outdoor activities it has to offer.

Cheat Lake

Week 2: August 13th – August 17th

Throughout the week we attended the Graduate Teaching Assistantship Orientation for all GTA’s at WVU as well as a Graduate Student Orientation for all graduate students just within the Division of Animal and Nutritional Sciences. We also attended presentations on sports nutrition, childhood obesity, associations and meetings regarding nutrition, and learned how to use the library resources through WVU.

Additional Pictures From Boot Camp

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My Experience Coming to West Virginia from Colorado.

Having lived in the state of Colorado for almost all of my life (with the exception of the first three years that I spent in the neighboring state of Utah) I was ready to see new scenery. A friend of mine once said, “I think you’re foolish if you spend your whole life in one place…the world is gigantic – it’s a waste of time if you don’t try to see it.” I couldn’t agree more! Colorado is a wonderful place – and could possible the best state, in my opinion, but how will I ever know where I want to end up if I haven’t seen other places.

West Virginia and Colorado are very, very different! While Colorado is constantly being ranked the state with the lowest prevalence of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, etc. West Virginia is continually ranked as having one of the highest. Notably Colorado and West Virginia are both known for their mountainous scenery, but I have to admit, when I first arrived in West Virginia I found myself asking, “so… where are the mountains?” not realizing that the ‘hills’ I was surrounded by were indeed the Appalachian Mountains. Colorado is very flat, with the exception of the MASSIVE MOUNTAINS, which separate the Eastern and Western parts of the states. West Virginia is much different. Here, you are constantly going up and down these huge hills. The tree density in Morgantown is completely incomparable to that in Colorado, it is so green here! Climate is another huge difference! Just in the two months that I have been in Morgantown I feel like I have seen more rain than I saw throughout my entire undergrad experience in Colorado. The lightening and thunderstorms here are intense, to say the least. It was a shocker to me to not see irrigation and sprinklers systems in anyone’s yard. In Colorado it is hard enough to keep your lawn green with sprinkler systems because of water regulations, and here it is completely cared for by the rain. Another huge difference is the culture, which I learn more about each and every day. The final eye-opening experience that I have had since moving here would be the size of West Virginia University and the pride seen with the students, faculty, and just about every single West Virginia resident. I came from the University of Northern Colorado, a smaller Division 1 school comprised of about 12,000 students total. It lacked school spirit and good athletic programs (with the exception of boys basketball, who made it to the NCAA tournament in 2011). I absolutely loved my school and wouldn’t change anything about my time spent at UNC, but it is nice to be a part of a big school with tons of spirit and good sports teams. Figuring out parking and maneuvering my way through traffic has proven to be a struggle in itself!

Now, for the actual move across the states! From our starting point in Greeley, Colorado to Morgantown, West Virginia we covered nearly 1,500 miles and crossed through 8 different states! My boyfriend and I packed up our belongings into my car, his small truck (Toyota Tacoma), and a 5 X 8 foot U-haul trailer that we rented. Both of our moms met us in Greeley to join us on the trek across the country and as a final send-off. We ended up driving about 15 hours each day and made it here in two very long days. The first night we stayed in Iowa City, Iowa and the second night we stayed at the Hampton Inn in Morgantown. We made it a point to stop in South Bend, Indiana to tour the beautiful campus of Notre Dame! After countless stops at gas stations, fast food restaurants, and sleeping in hotel beds we finally arrived. We had our apartment lease signed prior to making the move, so the next day was our official move-in day. Although the drive wasn’t miserable I can honestly say I will not be driving home for holidays or breaks. Flying will be my premier travel source!

We have now been in Morgantown for a little over two months and have really enjoyed exploring a new city and state that is so different that what we are used to! I am looking forward to continuing my journey as a graduate dietetic intern at West Virginia University.

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