MIG Student Member Spotlight

Elizabeth Gutierrez

Please share your path of becoming a dietetic student. What inspired you to want to pursue this field?       

I received my bachelor's in science in food science and human nutrition with a concentration in dietetics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in May of 2020. Due to my positive research experience working as an undergraduate research assistant, I decided to stay at the University of Illinois to pursue a thesis master's in nutritional sciences. I am currently on track to start the dietetic internship in the Fall of 2021 and am excited to see what I will learn throughout my rotations. My passion for nutrition education stems from three different experiences in my life. My first experience was after I realized the vast amount of false nutrition information on the internet. I was in high school and was so confused about what was deemed as "healthy" or "good" foods. It was a really confusing process if I am being honest. During this process of self-exploration with nutrition, my dad was laid off and my family experienced food insecurity. It was a really tough situation but it is not until now that I realize its impact on my health and life at the time. My final experience is when my Papa was able to stop his blood pressure medication because of changes to his lifestyle habits... That was something that really made me interested. After all of those experiences, I decided to take some classes on nutrition, and eventually, it led to my career path.

What does your day-to-day look like as a dietetic student?

Currently, I am taking a full schedule of classes so that I can complete my thesis master's and the internship within two years. All of my classes are online so I attend classes via zoom, work through my research each day to make progress, and then also work at the school clinic, McKinley Health Center, underneath the registered dietitian, Brie. This experience has allowed me to participate in nutrition coaching, numerous nutrition education presentations throughout campus, and create nutrition education handouts that can be utilized by both the dietitians as well as myself! 

My research focuses on a secondary analysis to analyze children's beverage selection at lunch and the nutrients consumed by both the beverage they selected and the foods they consumed. Each day looks a bit different. From taking classes to meetings to attending different seminars. While the days can be busy, I enjoy everything that I am working on and apart of!

What is your favorite part of dietetics so far?

My favorite classes have focused on childhood nutrition, community nutrition, communication in nutrition, and honestly, any class that helps me learn more about how to effectively work with individuals to make sustainable changes while addressing the inequities and barriers they face. 

One of my favorite organizations that I was on the executive board for in undergrad was Education and Training 4 Health (EAT4Health). In this club, I created recipes to coincide with nutrition education lessons that we would do once a week at two different local schools in the Champaign-Urbana area. It was truly a fun experience because we were able to interact with kids to help them learn more about nutrition. When COVID-19 changed our opportunities in the classroom last year, we created videos that teachers and parents could play remotely. Despite the fact that I passed the torch, I am still an active member in the club and am excited because we are continuing to create pre-recorded videos for the students this year. 

What made you join a MIG? What is the biggest takeaway/benefits?

I joined the MIG LAHIDAN several years ago as an undergraduate student. I joined because it offers the opportunity to build a community with people of not only similar backgrounds, but interests. I also joined because I wanted to become more involved and am always looking to be involved where I can be. So far, I have been able to attend several webinars that LAHIDAN has offered their members. It has been such a great way to learn more about what other opportunities and knowledge I might not be learning in the classroom! 

What advice can you give to aspiring dietetic students that are trying to get into the field?

I came to dietetics pretty late in the game as a transfer student junior year. I had no prior nutrition experience and was so stressed about gaining experience for the dietetic internship. Interestingly enough, I wrote an article for LAHIDAN on how to gain nutrition experience during COVID-19. Besides that, I would say to reach out. I was new to nutrition, new to research, and honestly, just new to putting myself out there. There are tons of opportunities and there IS a spot for you. Don't get discouraged! Speak with other dietitians, older dietetic students, preceptors, and professors. They all are there to help you and can point you in the right direction.

What does diversity, equity, and inclusion mean to you? 

Diversity, equity, and inclusion in dietetics (but also in anything) look like any individual having the same opportunity and seat at the table. Everyone deserves an equal chance at having their voices, concerns, experiences, beliefs, values, and opinions heard. 

Every individual has a different experience and I think for our field to move more towards inclusion is to continue to advocate for those whose voices are not being amplified. As a profession that is disproportionately lacking diversity, we need to open up the doors and provide more resources and opportunities for underrepresented communities to come within this profession. Once we have them alongside us, we will be able to provide more inclusive care for the individuals we work with.