Registered Dietitian Nutritionists are Uniquely Qualified to Educate Medical Students: Position Paper from Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

August 3, 2017

CHICAGO – The training and experience of registered dietitian nutritionists makes RDNs uniquely qualified to educate medical students about nutrition as it relates to health and disease, according to a newly released position paper from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

According to the Academy's position paper "Interprofessional Education in Nutrition as an Essential Component of Medical Education," which has been published in the July issue of the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics:

It is the position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs) should play a significant role in educating medical students, residents, fellows and physicians in practice. The more physicians learn about the effectiveness of nutrition for the prevention and treatment of diseases, the more likely they are to consult with RDNs and refer patients for medical nutrition therapy, which will improve medical care and has the potential to reduce health care costs.

Research studies have shown deficiencies in nutrition education in medical schools and residency programs for more than 30 years, according to the Academy's position paper.

"It is crucial that registered dietitian nutritionists – the most experienced and educated professionals in food and nutrition in the health care field – play a role in educating physicians on nutrition and wellness at all education levels and that we work with physicians as part of interdisciplinary health care teams," said registered dietitian nutritionist and Academy Spokesperson Lauri Wright.

"Including RDNs in medical education will help to ensure that future physicians discuss nutrition and physical activity with their patients, consult with and refer patients to RDNs," Wright said.

"Physicians need to know, from the start of their education, that nutrition counseling conducted by an RDN can benefit their patients by improving blood sugar and lipid levels and reducing the risk of hypertension, cardiovascular disease, obesity, cancer and malnutrition," Wright said.

RDNs play a critical role as members of health care teams in assessing malnutrition, which can lead to reduced hospital readmission rates and short-term and long-term health care costs.

The Academy's position paper was written by registered dietitian nutritionist Lisa A. Hark, PhD, RD, Columbia University Medical Center, NY, and physician Darwin Deen, MD, MS, City University of New York School of Medicine.

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The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is the world's largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. The Academy is committed to improving health and advancing the profession of dietetics through research, education and advocacy. Visit the Academy at eatright.org.