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Member Spotlights

Northern Virginia Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

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Amy LaFalce, MS, RDN, LD

Amy LaFalceAmy LaFalce is the recently appointed Northern Virginia site director for the Virginia Tech Dietetic Internship Program where she guides six interns along the path from didactic knowledge to competent, confident, entry-level dietitians. Her nutrition career has exposed her to several areas within the profession, including clinical and private practice, as well as previous internship work as a preceptor for Sodexo's Mid-Atlantic Dietetic Internship program.

What interested you about being the Virginia Tech Dietetic Internship Director?
I really love the enthusiasm and vision that interns bring to the profession. It's so contagious. Before coming to Virginia Tech, I was a preceptor for Sodexo's Mid-Atlantic Dietetic Internship and I loved that part of my professional life. I always looked forward to our program meetings and to working with the interns. When I saw the Virginia Tech position available I thought, "this is my dream job!" And, I am loving it!

What does a typical day look like for you?
Well, there really isn't a typical day! The position is part-time, but I do some work every day so that I don't feel overwhelmed when I open my email inbox. We have a full day of class everyMonday in Falls Church, and I usually do 1-2 site visits every week. The rest of the time I spend mainly communicating with preceptors, reviewing the interns' work, ensuring that all of our goals and objectives are met, and planning for the next week, month, and year! One of the biggest challenges for me is scheduling the day, and perhaps surprisingly, learning how to efficiently and effectively work from home.

Given the relatively recent increase in dietetic interns in our area, how is the Northern Virginia VT program distinguishing itself?
The Northern Virginia area does seem to have had an increase in the number of dietetic interns over the past few years. This may be, in part, due to the growing number of distance programs and the large number of facilities and programs that our area offers compared with other areas. The Virginia Tech program continues to offer several unique components. One of those is our Medical Nutrition Therapy Project, which is intended to help solve a problem or improve a system at the intern's clinical site. For example, one of our sites this year has wanted to integrate ADIME into their online medical record but has not had the time or the human resources to do so. Our intern has taken on the role as the liaison between the clinical nutrition department and the IT department, working to implement ADIME into their records system. It was such a win-win situation for the intern and the site. Another example is our Leadership Project, which is an intern-designed project that fulfills a need within the community or the profession. This year, one of our interns designed a curriculum to guide students from her DPD program in the process of applying for an internship. She remembered it being an overwhelming experience and wanted to help future students feel less anxious about the process. Another important feature of Virginia Tech's program is the emphasis we place on individualized learning. We work closely with the interns and preceptors to design rotations that meet each intern's unique learning needs and goals as well as our preceptor's needs and goals.

Is there anything that you would you like to convey to the membership about the internship program?
I would encourage members to consider serving as a preceptor. It's a valuable and rewarding experience. Interns bring fresh eyes and ideas, and I can say from experience that working with interns can help you grow personally and professionally. And newly graduated interns make terrific employees! If you're in a position to hire entry-level dietitians, being a preceptor is a great recruitment tool. Precepting is an excellent way to help shape the future of the profession. If you would like to know more about being a preceptor please contact me at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

By: Cristin Wipfler, MPH, RD

 

Theresa C. Logan, MS, RD, CSSD

Theresa is the sports dietitian at George Mason University, where she works closely with the coaches and athletes to optimize their training and performance through proper nutrition. She has been instrumental in developing the nutritional component of the university's Center for Sports Performance. Additionally, she designs healthy and balanced menu options for both athletes and the entire student body, which are available at various campus locations. Prior to returning to Northern Virginia, Theresa lived in Charlotte, North Carolina, where she was the dietitian for Davidson College, the University of North Carolina, and for the National Football League's Carolina Panthers. Her experience also includes private practice. This just in!: at the end of October, Theresa will be starting a new position as the dietitian at the University of South Carolina! Wishing you the best, Theresa!

How did you get started in sports nutrition and was it an area in which you were always interested in working?
I was always interested in sports nutrition but I didn't really get involved in that area of practice until we moved to Charlotte, and I started working at Davidson College as their dietitian. At first I only saw a few athletes, but over time that number continued to grow until I was heavily involved in the athletic department and working with all of the teams. Once I recognized this trend and saw the direction my role was taking, I decided to get certified as a sports dietitian (CSSD) by The Academy (formerly ADA). Working with student athletes was exciting but challenging at first. I had never been a collegiate athlete so I had to learn about and adjust to their demanding schedules. The pace of being a sports dietitian is fast and the work is often very diverse, but I love being out on the court, or on the field, or in the dining hall. That's fun for me!

You have had the unique opportunity to work as the sports dietitian for an NFL team. How did that job come about and what was it like?
It was a story of being in the right place at the right time. I was in line at the bank behind the Panthers' head coach, John Fox. When he turned to leave, I introduced myself and told him I wanted to be the sports dietitian for his team! I gave him my card and the strength coach called me to set up a meeting. I put together a detailed marketing portfolio about what I had done with the athletes at Davidson and how I had been helpful to their athletic programs. He asked me if he could keep the portfolio and then asked when I could start!

I began working with the team in the post-season. Many of the players were very apprehensive at first. Initially, I did a lot of lunch-and-learns because they only had a short window of time and the information needed to be quick and easy. I would set up information tables with nice displays and would talk with them at their tables. Once we found common ground, which was often a topic like grilling, they began to open up and trust me.

Over my years with the team I also gave talks to the players at the beginning of training camp and would work with them individually to ensure that they were meeting their bodies' fueling demands. I would constantly remind the players, as I do with all athletes, that eating is part of their job. I found that it was the veteran players who really sought me out for individual nutrition consults. These are the players who were aware of the competition for their jobs and wanted to do everything they could to make sure they were in the best shape to secure their position on the team.

What is your involvement in The Center for Sports Performance at George Mason?
The Center for Sports Performance is comprised of four areas: sports medicine, sports science, strength and conditioning, and performance nutrition. One of the really great things about The Center is that we all depend on each other and work together - so I will work with the strength coaches and trainers one day, and the next day will be working with a kinesiology professor. Last fall we opened Peak Performance, a food station at one of our dining facilities. I worked with Sodexo to put together meal options that emphasize healthy, wholesome, and "clean" eating, and that take the guesswork out of choosing the right foods for our student athletes who are trying to eat well to complement their training. Graphics depicting the proper portions needed for different training levels also adorn the serving station. These offerings are available to everyone, not just the athletes.

What advice do you have for a dietitian who is interested in becoming a sports dietitian?
If you want to work at the college or professional level, you will need to have your CSSD, so it is wise to look into those requirements. I would also recommend networking with a variety of sports dietitians who have different backgrounds and experiences. Volunteering is also a great way to get your feet wet and to see if you really like the specialized area before fully committing yourself. Also keep in mind that it is becoming more commonplace now for sports dietitians to be certified trainers or strength coaches, not just dietitians.

By: Cristin Wipfler, MPH, RD