As a pesceterian, Julie JeBran who is a graduate clinical nutrition major, is the only person in her family who does not eat meat–only fish. One day Julie decided to make a vegetable soup with all of the same ingredients as a chicken noodle soup, only without the chicken.
“Every single person in my family, including my two-year old niece, seven-year old nephew and my very picky aunt, all ate the soup and were raving about it!” Julie says proudly. However, when they asked her how she made it so flavorful without the meat, she had to admit that she had no idea. She had just added “whatever” she thought would work.
She developed a desire to experiment in the kitchen from her food science course. “We’d be cooking and you’d see all the chemical reactions. You would just see the food do different things—or it wouldn’t do different things—and then you would taste it and it would taste totally different. ‘I didn’t know baking soda could do that!’”
When Julie finished the pre-requisite undergraduate nutrition courses, she immediately began the master’s program, which includes an internship. Immaculata’s graduate nutrition program requires that students complete their internship in three key areas: clinical nutrition, food service and community nutrition. The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania was where Julie conducted her clinical internship. In addition to UPenn, she completed her food service internship at Cooper Hospital and enjoyed a wide variety of local businesses and organizations for the community nutrition internship, including WIC, ShopRite, Upper Merion School District and Delaware Valley Veterans Health.
“It’s a very well-rounded program where you get experience in all fields of nutrition but the most significant rotation is clinical,” she states.
After completing all components of her internship and passing the dietetic exam, Julie became a registered dietitian in July.
Wagner College on Staten Island is a small college where Julie earned her undergraduate degree. When researching colleges to pursue a master’s degree in nutrition, she sought a similar environment. Drawn by Immaculata’s status as one of the few colleges in the area offering a master’s degree inclusive of the internship, Julie enrolled. When she visited campus and met with her advisor, Cecil Adkins, Ed.D., R.D.N., L.D.N., didactic program director and assistant professor for Nutrition & Dietetics, she immediately felt comfortable. Julie feels that every faculty member does everything in his/her power to help students succeed, and the stakes are high for students like Julie who give up their jobs to study full time. She found encouragement in the fact that Immaculata has 90 years of experience teaching nutrition majors.
Outside of her traditional studies, Julie gained valuable hands-on experience as a research assistant for Graduate Nutrition Program Director Qian Jia, Ph.D., RD, LDN, who was conducting a community study called Food Matters. This study addressed food insecurity and heart health problems faced by many families in Chester, Pennsylvania. According to data from Feeding America, 30 to 40% of people living in Chester are food-insecure.
“Julie is an exceptional student who truly appreciates the role of a dietician and the people she serves,” shares Jia.
As she finishes her final class, Julie now realizes the value of each assignment and focus on research.
“It has prepared me in so many ways, because what we were talking and learning about was always relevant to current events and happenings in the nutrition field,” Julie says. “Once I started my internship, it really was beneficial to have all this knowledge, not just the basics of nutrition—but to be able to pull from the literature and say, “oh yes, I’ve learned about this and how it related to so-and-so disease.’”
As Julie closes in on the completion of her degree, she is looking forward to helping improve people’s health through proper nutrition.