NMHI provides valuable experience students can use to further their education and careers
Chelsi Webster, a Nutritional Sciences Ph.D. candidate, heard about the Nutrition and Metabolic Health Initiative (NMHI) from Nikhil Dhurandhar, Ph.D. when she was interested in switching from a basic science focus to clinical research.
“I wanted to get involved because it aligned with the career path I wanted,” Webster said. “I knew working with this center would allow me to test drive being an obesity clinician in a unique way that no other courses or opportunities would.”
At NMHI, students can choose to participate in research only activities or volunteer as student providers. Faculty members at NMHI assist in the training students on the use of the facilities and equipment to conduct research protocols. Student providers play an integral role in the day-to-day operations of NMHI and learn how to build and maintain a clinical research facility.
“This experience will help shape my professional aspirations by giving me the tools to be an extremely dynamic dietitian,” Webster said. “I will have a background in obesity management, which will allow me to market myself more broadly, especially considering the need for obesity specialists in all facets of health care.”
Yazmine Huizar, a Clinical Psychology Ph.D. candidate, first heard of the Nutrition and Metabolic Health Initiative through a psychology faculty member who advised her to seek out Martin Binks, Ph.D. as a doctoral advisor. Huizar sought psychology training in behavioral medicine, and the emphasis that NMHI places on the psychosocial determinants of metabolic health appealed to her as an aspiring clinical health psychologist.
“It is not an exaggeration to say that my involvement at NMHI did not enrich my academic goals, it made them,” Huizar said.
Huizar serves as the primary student behavioral health provider in the clinic. She strives to work either in a hospital setting or a private practice, and she feels like the experience she has gained through NMHI has prepared her adequately for both. Huizar says that her time as a student behavioral health provider has sharpened her skills, and served her passion for research.
“My natural drive for innovation has found a productive outlet in this clinic, as I was allowed to play an integral role in the development of our diabetes management program and encouraged to create intellectual property, such as a novel body image protocol for use during active weight loss,” Huizar said.
Students at NMHI often go on to work in the pharmaceutical industry, in medical centers, academia, at the FDA, fill clinical research positions, or apply for medical school. The skills they develop in NMHI combined with their education at the university set students up for career success outside of their college careers.
“NMHI offers a student from any discipline the opportunity to learn a wide variety of skills: research, clinical, administrative and leadership,” Huizar said. “Ultimately, any student who works here will develop into a well-rounded, emerging professional well-prepared for their career of choice.”