Florida State University hosts inaugural White Coat Ceremony for dietetic internship students

FSU students take dietetic Hippocratic Oath.

Graduate students in Florida State University’s Dietetic Internship and Individualized Supervised Practice Pathway received white coats at the program’s inaugural White Coat Ceremony to mark their entry into the field of dietetics, the beginning of clinical rotations, and direct care of clients and patients.

Family, friends, faculty, staff, alumni and preceptors gathered in the FSU Student Union Ballrooms on Friday, April 28, to celebrate the 38 aspiring dietitians. One by one, students were introduced by Lisa Griffiths, interim chair of the Department of Nutrition and Integrative Physiology, and coated by Dietetic Internship Program Director Lisa Trone.

The ceremony, hosted by the Department of Nutrition & Integrative Physiology — currently housed within CHHS marked an important milestone in students’ journeys toward becoming registered dietitians.

“To me, putting on the white coat was a physical representation of all the knowledge and experience I’ve accumulated up until this point,” said Dani Linavi, first-year dietetic internship student. “It’s also a critical component of crafting my future identity; I am one step closer to being able to say, ‘I am a dietitian, and I am here to help you.’”

Students in the dietetic internship are working toward their master’s degrees in either exercise physiology (with a sports nutrition major), or nutrition and food science at FSU. Successfully completing a dietetic internship is required before students can take the exam for the Registered Dietitian (RD) credential with the Commission for Dietetics Registration.

With the ceremony being the first of its kind for the program, students from all stages of their education and training participated – including some who have already begun clinical rotations and are nearing completion of the two-year program. In addition to coursework, the dietetic internship requires a minimum of 1,200 hours of supervised practice in clinical nutrition, community nutrition, and food service systems management.

Damon Andrew, interim dean of the College of Health and Human Sciences, urged second-year students to reflect on their experiences as they near graduation.

“Let tonight serve as a reminder of what the white coat represents – the importance of integrity, compassion, and excellence,” Andrew said. “I hope you will reflect on your experiences and come away from tonight proud of what you’ve accomplished, with a renewed enthusiasm for the field and commitment to excellence.”

For all students, the ceremony was a celebration of their commitment to the dietetics profession and their future patients and clients.

“Today, as you don your white coats, you are accepting the responsibilities that come with being a health professional. You are becoming ambassadors of health, advocates for nutrition, and role models for healthy living,” Andrew said. “You’ll be working with vulnerable populations and diverse communities spanning pediatrics, geriatrics, and patients with chronic diseases to name a few. Understand the unique needs and challenges of the individuals, families, and communities you serve, and work toward positively influencing their health and development.”

Dietetic internship alumna and two-time FSU graduate Afaf Qasem served as guest speaker. Qasem, who works as director of health promotion for Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare and preceptor for FSU’s dietetic internship, encouraged students to build relationships, find mentors, and actively seek opportunities for growth.

“You’re more than a degree, a number, or a skill. When you build relationships, you’re a trusted, hardworking, and responsible professional,” she said. “Remain humble and foster humility. Remember that you are in this profession because you care for others and want to help them achieve their health and wellness goals … Each and every encounter with a patient, colleague, or community member will teach you something about this career and maybe even about yourself.”

Students like Janasia Phillips left the ceremony excited as they prepare for clinical rotations.

“I believe people should enjoy food and understand the ways in which they can enjoy it and live a happy healthy life, no matter their size,” said Phillips, who said her love for culinary arts and knowledge of nutrition-specific disease in her family led her to pursue dietetics. “Malnutrition can be at the root of so many disease states. In some cases, it can be life altering and completely shift the progression of a disease. I’m looking forward to helping people and talking to patients in need of help.”

At the conclusion of the ceremony, three students including Linavi and Phillips were awarded scholarships for their service, leadership, perseverance, and innovation:

  • Shine Brighter Perseverance Award: Nicholas Valenti
  • Golden Apple Service Award: Janasia Phillips
  • Director’s Leadership Award: Dani Linavi

The College of Health and Human Sciences hopes to make the ceremony an annual event for dietetic internship students at the conclusion of their first year of the program.

To learn more about FSU’s Dietetic Internship and Individualized Supervised Practice Pathway, visit chhs.fsu.edu.