UCLA School of Public Health Field Studies Program

Community Health Sciences

Field Placement: Veterans Administration Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System (VAGLAHS), Dietetic Internship
Los Angeles, CA
Colleen Ross, RD, MS
Student Name: James Wong
Year: 2005

James Wong is in the Combined Veterans Health Administration Greater Los Angeles (VHAGLA) Dietetic Internship (DI) - University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Masters in Public Health (MPH) program. This program provides two components: (1) dietetics training required by the American Dietetics Association (ADA) in order to become a Registered Dietitian (RD) and (2) graduate training in public health providing interns with additional experience for practice in public health nutrition. Through this program interns spend approximately fifty percent of their learning experiences in the practical setting within the VHAGLA facilities, and fifty percent through coursework within the Community Health Sciences (CHS) Department in the UCLA School of Public Health.

During the summer of 2005, James spent more than 400 hours serving veterans, their families, and participants of the Northeast Valley Health Corporation (NEVHC) Women Infants and Children (WIC) program through Phase I of the VHAGLA DI awhile completing his CHS 400 – Field Studies course requirement. CHS 400 requires that dietetic interns complete Phase I of the internship, which emphasizes on community nutrition and is equivalent to the course requirement of non-dietetic interns.

The VHAGLA DI is a full-time 21 month program that is designed to prepare the interns for general professional practice in dietetics in health care institutions, agencies, or community programs. Colleen Ross, RD, MS, is the Internship Director and immediate supervisor of the interns. Throughout the summer (Phase I), the interns follow a variety of different preceptors depending on the intern’s rotation. Phase I of the internship is spent working in the outpatient care settings such as ambulatory care, home-based primary care, cardiac rehab, women’s health, and the Women’s Infant’s and Children (WIC) program. During this time interns are encouraged to think about and utilize the learning experiences gathered from the public health coursework and translate them into each of the practical settings that we have encountered.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is responsible for providing federal benefits to the 24.8 million veterans in addition to their families. The VA is the second largest of US Cabinet departments and operates nationwide programs for health care, financial assistance and burial benefits. The VHAGLA is a large integrated healthcare system with a full range of Patient Care Services operated by 3,760.7 employees. With a operating budget of $473,218,412, VHAGLA also serves as a teaching hospital and includes extensive research program. Within this system, there are a total of 945 beds residing in the Acute Medicine, Surgery, Psychiatric and Extended Care wards.

At the beginning of this experience, VA dietetic interns created a learning plan listing objectives they were to meet from their overall experience in addition to their individual 2-week rotations. Among James’ most significant objectives for Phase I were: (1) to effectively plan and conduct pertinent outpatient nutrition classes with confidence (2) to effectively obtain diet recalls from patients and make appropriately recommendations to meet specific needs in a timely manner (3) to efficiently complete patient’s progress notes with minimal errors in objectives and plans. By summers end, each objective was met to their fullest extent.


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