Transforming Lives Through Nutrition Education

Graduate Program: MS in Nutrition Education
Graduate Year: 2016

Six and a half years ago I graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and then quickly began my position as an Administrative Officer for the National Institutes of Health (NIH). I started at NIH because of my interest in the public health field as well as the link between theory, research and practice. I have learned a lot, acquired many critical skills, and have grown greatly on a professional level. Although I appreciate and value my current job, I always felt there was more for me to learn in order to serve a greater purpose helping others. Dietary habits are so inextricably tied with health status and through nutrition education I want to help people live healthier lives while reducing the risk of chronic disease.

I have always been very interested in health and nutrition and the online format of the Master’s in Nutrition Education program at American University is ideal for my current lifestyle and occupation. I can still maintain my employment with National Institutes of Health and work towards my degree while taking the time to explore the career opportunities available. This program has introduced me to so many different realms of the nutrition science field in such a short period of time and it has also enhanced my current career.

Nutrition epidemiology is one of the subjects I enjoy most and I would not have discovered that if it weren’t for this program. I think it is the research and scientific evidence that is integral to making changes to our environment at the policy level. There are many parallels and overlaps between nutrition science and behavioral research and my background in psychology has served as a sturdy foundation. One day, while studying for a test for my epidemiology class, I recognized several of the names cited throughout my textbook. They were names of my colleagues, some of whom I interact with on a regular basis! I learned that they were the key players in creating and developing several of the dietary assessment methods that are widely used in nutrition epidemiological research today. It was really exciting to make this connection and to pick their brains on specific topics. They were even able to suggest articles for several of my school assignments. I was also able to attend a presentation conducted by the author of my textbook, Walter Willett, Chairman of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, who happened to be speaking at a conference hosted by my division. It has been amazing to see these two spheres come together and I have come to find a greater appreciation for the field of nutrition science as well as a better understanding of the research that is happening right down the hall. This program, along with the connections and networks I am forming at NIH, will help me navigate the job opportunities and possibilities for developing a future in the world of public health and nutrition.

I have a few ideas of what I envision as my future career, yet I remain open-minded. I am using the online Nutrition Master’s program as an opportunity to learn about a multitude of different subjects while assessing my likes and dislikes as well as my strengths and weaknesses allowing me to be an instrument in this field and hopefully making a positive impact. I believe that food is medicine and can be used as a mechanism to prevent future disease as well as to treat and cure existing disorders – in other words, dietary and other lifestyle changes have the capacity to heal us from the inside out. This involves a mental health component as well and scientific research has continuously proven this interdependent relationship, as motivation and human emotion are major influences on our lifestyle decisions, especially those involving diet and physical activity. I hope to incorporate my background in psychology, along with my professional skills acquired at NIH, with this newfound knowledge of nutrition science in order to close this gap and to provide the public with the knowledge and skills to impact and transform their lives on a multifaceted level – physically, mentally, and emotionally.

To learn more about American University’s online Master of Science in Nutrition Education, request more information or call us toll free at 855-725-7614.

  • About the Author

    Lindsey Van Wagner

    Lindsey Van Wagner is a Master's student in the Nutrition Education program at American University. She earned her Bachelor's in Psychology at the University of Maryland, College Park in 2009. She is currently employed by the National Institutes of Health as an Administrative Officer for the Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences, National Cancer Institute.