Training through Collaboration

While undertaking dual masters’ degrees in public health nutrition and public health (MS-MPH), I have received training that goes beyond the classroom and includes my work as a , Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Nutrition Trainee at The University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UT). Upon being introduced to the many projects to which the MCH Nutrition Training Program at UT is dedicated, I was intimidated and overwhelmed. However, I quickly realized that these projects and training opportunities are achieved through collaborative partnerships with other organizations and MCH training programs.

One such collaboration is with the nutrition training program at The University of Alabama, Birmingham (UAB). As a funded trainee, I was fortunate enough to attend a 5-day intensive course that focused on the clinical application of nutrition for infants, children, and adolescents. Additionally, I was exposed to several pediatric clinics in the Birmingham area. This training opportunity was made possible through the collaborative relationship between UAB and UT, in which UT provided a public health presentation to UAB’s clinically focused pediatric course and UT trainees gained valuable practical clinical experience.

The project that I am most heavily involved in is the Promoting Healthy Weight Colloquium (PHWC). The colloquium promotes healthy weight for infants, children, and adolescents through a series of biannual presentations focusing on nutrition, physical activity, and parenting. Planning the PHWC is a large undertaking and begins by consulting with the local planning and national advisory committees to suggest and select speakers. Being part of the planning process has allowed me to understand how professionals complement one another to see a project through to completion. Collaboration occurs at many levels, including marketing the colloquium electronically.

For example, the PHWC is marketed to state nutrition directors, who are members of the Association of State and Territorial Public Health Nutrition Directors (ASTPHND), in US DHHS Regions I-IV. This relationship allows families, community members, professionals, and practitioners in Regions I-IV to participate and earn continuing education credits for Registered Dietitians and Community Health Education Specialists. The relationship has enabled UT to collaborate with ASTPHND on its training needs assessment of members and in planning its annual meeting.

This traineeship has facilitated my professional development as a leader in areas that concentrate on promoting and improving the health of mothers, infants, and children. By training through networking and collaboration, I have been able to broaden my understanding of the MCH workforce and population related to nutrition (clinical and public health) and factors that affect a healthy lifestyle. I have learned that without networking, groups and organizations cannot collaborate, and without collaboration, programs that benefit the MCH population would be unsuccessful. I am eager to continue networking and exploring my leadership capabilities so that they can be applied to my career goals in nutrition.

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