University Economic Development Association


Peer Mentorship Program to Promote Diversity within the Nutrition and Dietetics Profession

Award Category: Innovation+Talent
Project Site: Marilyn Magaram Center
Submitted By: California State Univeristy Northridge (CSUN) Marilyn Magaram Center for Food Science, Nutrition, and Dietetics
Contact: Annette Besnilian, 818.677.4343

Case Study

There is a shortage of bilingual and culturally diverse Registered Dietitians (RD/RDN) to serve the needs of our community. 

In a day in age where the Hispanic population makes up more than 15 percent of the US population, followed by Blacks and Asians  and 32 states have a prevalence of obesity equal to or greater than 25 percent it makes sense that health care workers should be representative of the population.  However, data released by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics indicates that only three percent of all registered dietitians (RD) self-disclosed themselves as Hispanic, three percent as Black or African American, and five percent as Asian, Native Hawaiian, or Pacific Islander.  In addition, only three percent of all RDs self-disclosed as being male. This recognition has led the Academy to develop programs and initiatives which promote diversity in dietetics.

California leads the nation with the largest Hispanic population; which is also categorized as the fastest growing minority population. In the San Fernando Valley, more than 40 percent of the population was Hispanic or Latino

In order to attract culturally diverse candidates, primarily of Hispanic/Latino or Asian descent, to the CSUN/NEVHC Dietetic Internship, the program actively recruited through a formal Mentoring Program, open houses, seminars conducted with current Dietetic Interns, and one-on-one counseling.

A supportive mentor can mean the difference between struggle and success. Mentorship is vital for professional development and advancement in careers in nutrition and dietetics, as well as related professions (e.g., nursing, academic medicine, public health and epidemiology, global health innovators, occupational therapy, and physical therapy). Sylvia Escott-Stump, MA, RD, LDN, dietetics internship (DI) director for East Carolina University and consultant for Nutritional Balance, explained, “Often the best way to become successful is by teaching and supporting others.”  Because mentoring is recognized as being important, the Academy started offering mentoring programs.  In addition, local and state dietetics associations have mentoring opportunities for registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs) to mentor aspiring RDNs. The intent of this project is to present an overview of a peer mentoring program for the DI at California State University, Northridge (CSUN) to promote diversity within the dietetics field. Understanding the experiences and components of the CSUN DI peer mentoring program may be helpful to other DI programs who want to promote diversity and mentorship in dietetics education and other professions.

Finalist Presentation

UEDA Awards of Excellence Finalists presented at the Annual Summit in Milwaukee on October 22 and 23, 2018. Summit attendees then voted for the best initiative in each category.