Student Perspective: Megan

February 2, 2017

During the past three weeks, the Clinic has had the good fortune of hosting our very first dietetics student from the Iowa State University graduate program. Though Megan was here to provide her unique services to our patients, she also walked away with a new perspective on how dietetics could be provided to an under-served demographic.  Here, in her own words, is Megan’s perspective on nearly a month spent at Health Partners Free Clinic:

Within the last couple years there has been a strong push in our culture for health. This has proved to be a beneficial environment for me as a graduate student in dietetics. People in general are seeking habits to be healthier, ways to shop smarter, and recipes to be more nutritious. While this is incredibly exciting, there is a population that is being overlooked in this movement, a population whose goal is to survive.

My rotation with Health Partners Free Clinic has exposed me to beautiful, kind people who are experiencing life to the best of their ability while facing many challenges. These challenges are ones we can easily take for granted such as dependable transportation and access to healthy foods. This activated a passion of advocacy in me. As a practitioner, I strongly feel access to healthy foods is foundational in preventative medicine. It broke my heart to hear a patient say she struggles to afford foods that are fresh and is often reliant on high starch high sodium foods due to their price point.

At Health Partners I have been challenged to develop plans for hypertensive patients when their main source of food is canned goods and diabetics when their main source is shelf stable starches. It was enjoyable to empower patients with ways they can modify foods they have available to fit their diets. It pushed me to be creative and resourceful, which is a peak into what is required of this population daily. It also gave me an overwhelming sense urgency to do better for those in need.

I feel strongly that we need to work together as a community to provide better quality foods to this population. This can be accomplished by donating fresh produce, low sodium canned goods, and whole grains to our local food pantries. During this rotation I began work with the social worker on ways we can improve the food pantry system in our area to better serve our cardiac and diabetic populations. Health Partners showed me there are many ways we can help and patients are always appreciative.
During my time here I also researched how tele-counseling can link patients with transportation issues to diet counseling to improve A1cs. This is incredibly exciting and nutrition professionals should consider it a privilege to provide information to improve quality of life in this manner.

This rotation showed me how much work there is to be done in the way of nutrition for our under-served population. Providing them with better care has benefits that are far reaching. If we make education and healthy food accessible to diabetic patients, it can prevent the development of severe complications, which can reduce the need for certain medications, hospital stays, and surgery.

I find joy in the trenches because it is there that I can make the most progress. Health Partners is wholly comprised of people who possess this quality as well. It is humbling to witness the willingness to help patients, donate time, and provide a learning environment where these values can be cultivated and carried on in students. I am very thankful to have had this learning experience and I will carry it with me into my career.

Matthew 25:35-36, 40
“ For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me. Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”