Continuing our theme for the blog this week to honor Virginia preceptors for National Preceptor Month, we asked dietetic interns from Virginia Tech to share stories about RDNs who have made an impact on their training and careers. We love the stories they share here!
Katie Nash, RDN, LD
Program Manager, School Food Services, DC Central Kitchen
(By Amy Hollar, MS, Dietetic Intern, Virginia Tech)
As part of my dietetic internship through Virginia Tech I had the privilege of working with Katie Nash at D.C. Central Kitchen for my foodservice rotation. Being a former Virginia Tech intern herself, Katie was familiar with the assignments I had to complete and was able to offer excellent advice and organizational planning tips throughout. I felt like Katie treated me like an equal throughout my rotation, giving me the right balance of guidance and autonomy. I appreciated that she gave me the opportunity to use my strengths, including my background in research and my creativity, to benefit the school foods program. For example, she encouraged me to initiate a plate waste study while I was there, and left the design and procedural elements up to me to develop. I really enjoyed being able to take charge of the project, digging into the details of how to develop the most effective methods for gathering the highest quality data possible, and Katie trusted me to do it, providing feedback and collaboration along the way. I was grateful for her laid-back yet helpful demeanor as a preceptor; she didn’t sweat the small stuff and was able to seamlessly reprioritize throughout the rotation based on the challenges we faced. The time and effort she put into mentoring me helped make my time at DC Central Kitchen a truly amazing experience. Thanks, Katie!
Susan Lessar, MS, RD, CNSC
Nutrition Therapy Director, Valley Health
(By Megan Best, Dietetic Intern, Virginia Tech)
I was lucky enough to spend time with Susan Lessar during both my clinical and community rotations. Susan has hosted many interns before me, and immediately made me feel at home working at Winchester Medical Center. The members of her team all showed such enthusiasm for mentoring me, which I believe is a testament to Susan’s great leadership and passion when it comes to taking on interns. During my community rotation, I was able to work on a wide variety of assignments for both the hospital and the free medical clinic in Winchester. Throughout this rotation, Susan allowed me the perfect balance of clear direction and the ability to work independently. She provided unique learning opportunities and constantly asked for my opinion on different ideas and projects. And she always took into account my interests and career goals. The entire rotation felt like we were collaborating, which was a true confidence building experience for someone just starting out in a new career. Even now that my time with her is over, she will still send me emails to check in or to ask my opinion about something. I can’t put into words how appreciative I am for the time she spent mentoring me this year. Thank you, Susan!
Alex Wahlberg, RD
Clinical Dietitian, Burke Health & Rehabilitation
(By Andie Breslin, Dietetic Intern, Virginia Tech)
I am a few short days away from graduating from my dietetic internship. Looking back on the year, I can attribute much of my growth in professional confidence and competence to one particular preceptor, Alex Wahlberg. When I think of Alex, I think of a quote by Bob Proctor, “A mentor is someone who sees more talent and ability within you, than you see in yourself, and helps bring it out of you.” Alex helped instill so much confidence in me in a short period of time by going above and beyond expected responsibilities of her preceptor role. In our first day together, she set aside time to discuss my learning needs and goals for the rotation. Further, she had created a beautifully organized orientation packet for the rotation, which helped me to visualize my expectations as an intern. Instead of being plagued with nerves on the first day of my rotation, Alex’s extra effort and care helped me start with confidence and self-direction. As I continued through my rotation, Alex helped me become more effective every day by consistently communicating my strengths and areas for improvement. Whether she gave me thoughtful, constructive feedback on an interaction with a patient or a simple compliment at the end of the day, Alex was always working to help me better myself. I strongly believe that self-reflection is the key to self-actualization, and feedback is something we could all use more of in our lives. Alex helped me latch onto strengths that I didn’t know I had, but now will carry with me for life. While my rotation with Alex was short, her impact on my professional skills and more importantly my confidence will be everlasting. This internship has been such an impressionable period in my life, and I will forever remember the personalized attention that Alex gave to help me flourish.