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Dietetic Interns from Mayo Clinic Help ABC While Learning

This past May, ABC hosted two dietetic interns from the Mayo School of Health Related Sciences, of Rochester, Minnesota. Heather Rasmussen and Cassie Chamis spent a week with ABC, developing continuing education materials for dietitians.

The women approached ABC on their own. In the summer of 2002, Chamis’ sister was a dietetic intern with ABC, and she gave such a glowing recommendation to Cassie that she sought out Gayle Engels, Education Coordinator for ABC, to inquire about an internship for herself and Rasmussen.

"We saw the ABC as a good way to explore our interests and incorporate that knowledge into our future profession of dietetics," said Rasmussen.

The benefit went both ways, as the Education Department also received valuable help in the construction of continuing education classes relating to ABC’s latest book The ABC Clinical Guide to Herbs (2003). The templates and formats designed by Rasmussen and Chamis will help form the basis for courses to follow.

ABC has offered continuing education modules since 1995. One module, "Popular Herbs in the U.S. Market," was released in 1997 and accredited for and distributed to almost 100,000 pharmacists. Plans for the next generation of continuing education include live and online sessions.

Chamis and Rasmussen worked on the online version of the courses. They created the initial drafts of the course introduction and the post-test for the cardiovascular section.

In addition to working on the module, both Rasmussen and Chamis worked for a day in ABC’s gardens, gaining "hands-on" experience with herbs.

ABC has hosted many interns in the past. Dietetics students at SouthwestTexas StateUniversity are required to intern with ABC for a week and pharmacy doctoral candidates at the University of Texas have the option of a six-week rotation with ABC.

Chamis sees ABC’s internship program as a vital educational opportunity for dietitians. "As a dietetic intern it is important to be exposed to as much new information as possible so that you can better assist your patients with decisions," she said. "I also think that the experience at ABC is so much better than textbook learning. I knew the information was from a reliable source and that the organization is not out to ‘sell a product’ but rather to inform the public."

Rasmussen had some early family experience in gardening and botany, and ABC’s historic Case Mill Homestead felt familiar to her. As she noted in her final report on her time at ABC, "Having a family full of self-proclaimed botanists provides for good exposure. Like them, it is apparent that the people at the American Botanical Council love growing, researching, writing and sharing information about herbs, herbal supplements, and plants in general."

Engels describes the real hindrance to the internship program is a lack of funding. At present, ABC usually hosts interns from Central Texas. Those who are interested in an internship, but are outside that area, must travel to Austin and find accommodations on their own, as ABC lacks the means to offer a stipend or reimburse travel expenses. Requests for internship information come from as far away as Europe, Africa, and India, but, because of lack of funding, those people must gain their internship experience elsewhere.

– Sarah Jackson