UT Health Science Center to begin accepting applications for nutrition and dietetics program

LAREDO (Feb. 9, 2009) — On Feb. 15, The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio will begin accepting applications for its new dual degree in dietetics and nutrition, with classes expected to begin in fall 2009 at both the San Antonio campus and Laredo Campus Extension.

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board approved the program on Jan. 29, and the Commission on Accreditation for Dietetics Education (CADE) review team visited the Laredo Campus Extension on Feb. 2-3. “We were so pleased to learn from the review team that our program may get an expedited review from the CADE Board,” said Carmen Román-Shriver, Ph.D., RD, LD, director of the new program. “So, instead of notifying us in July regarding our candidacy for accreditation, the board may be contacting us in April.” Full accreditation is usually awarded after a program has been under way for several years, in time for the first Health Science Center students to graduate under a fully accredited program.

“Having an expedited review is a really good sign for our program,” explained Marilyn Harrington, Ph.D., dean of the School of Health Professions. “Dr. Román-Shriver has done a marvelous job setting up the program and we had tremendous community support during the accreditation visit from both Laredo and San Antonio. I know the accreditation team was impressed. They commented on the overwhelming support from both communities and on the faculty support from the UT Health Science Center School of Health Professions.”

The Coordinated Program in Dietetics consists of a Bachelor of Science degree in nutrition and dietetics and a master’s degree in dietetics studies. Students would initially complete undergraduate prerequisites at an institution such as Laredo Community College, a San Antonio community college, Texas A&M International University (TAMIU) or the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA). After completing their prerequisites, students would then apply for acceptance into the UT Health Science Center’s three-year dual-degree program to finish with a Master of Dietetic Studies degree.

In addition to Román-Shriver, faculty members for the new program include Associate Professor Brent Shriver, Ph.D., a nutritional biochemist; Reto Asmis, Ph.D., associate professor, biochemist and director of research development in the School of Health Professions; and Sue Cunningham, Ph.D., RD/LD, CDE, associate professor of nutrition and dietetics. Margaret Lopez, M.S., RD, SNS, director of the Child Nutrition Program with the Laredo Independent School District (LISD) will become an adjunct part-time faculty member in spring 2010.

The reviewers met with 24 Health Science Center faculty and staff members from both campuses. Twelve preceptors each from Laredo and San Antonio, who will provide clinical training for the students, were present during the review. In addition, 13 community stakeholders showed their support, including representatives from the City of Laredo Health Department, LISD, Mercy Ministries, the Laredo office of the American Diabetes Association, TAMIU and UTSA.

Twelve students will be accepted at each campus the first year, but the program has the capacity to accept 72 students overall once the program is established.

To accommodate the program and the community partnerships expected to develop, the Health Science Center has built a demonstration kitchen in the Laredo Campus Extension’s Academic Building. A comparable facility will be used in San Antonio through a community partnership. “We will use the kitchens for classroom instruction and for community outreach demonstrations and programs,” Dr. Román-Shriver said. A community garden is in the planning stages for use as a learning tool for dietetics students and school-aged children.

“We are eager to work with the community to begin addressing food-related health issues, such as obesity and diabetes,” Román-Shriver said. “The Laredo Independent School District just applied for a grant in collaboration with several community partners including our program that will target childhood obesity. We are all waiting to find out whether it will be approved.”

“The dietetics program is the success of the Laredo and San Antonio communities working together for the health and well-being of our citizens,” Dean Harrington said. “Graduates of the program can be employed in hospitals, schools, health departments, food manufacturers, wellness centers and other related fields. With this program, everybody wins.”

The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio is the leading research institution in South Texas and one of the major health sciences universities in the world. With an operating budget of $668 million, the Health Science Center is the chief catalyst for the $15.3 billion biosciences and health care sector in San Antonio’s economy. The Health Science Center has had an estimated $35 billion impact on the region since inception and has expanded to six campuses in San Antonio, Laredo, Harlingen and Edinburg. More than 23,000 graduates (physicians, dentists, nurses, scientists and other health professionals) serve in their fields, including many in Texas. Health Science Center faculty are international leaders in cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, aging, stroke prevention, kidney disease, orthopaedics, research imaging, transplant surgery, psychiatry and clinical neurosciences, pain management, genetics, nursing, dentistry and many other fields. For more information, visit www.uthscsa.edu.

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