Student intern gains valuable experience—and teaches colleagues

During her dietetic internship at the West Palm Beach Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Florida, Amanda Maddalena MSNHL ’18 has not only gained valuable experience working with patients; she’s also gotten the opportunity to teach new techniques to her colleagues.

“My clinical internship at this hospital has been an invaluable experience to further my knowledge and skills as a future Registered Dietitian Nutritionist,” says Maddalena, who is an online student in the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology Master of Science in Nutrition, Healthspan, and Longevity (MSNHL) program. “My preceptors have been wonderful, and I learn something new every day with them.”

Maddalena says her main responsibilities during the internship have included interviewing and assessing patients, writing nutrition notes in the electronic medical record system, providing education to the veterans, and learning how to work with other medical staff to serve the patient’s needs. Another responsibility? Learning how to use new tube-feeding equipment and then providing training, using a manikin named Joe Flow, for her VA dietitian colleagues.

“There is new equipment being used for these tube feedings and medical staff is just learning how to use them, so it was a win-win situation… the dietitians were able to learn and practice as well,” she says.

Associate Professor and Director of the USC Leonard Davis MSNHL program Cary Kreutzer explains that all students enrolled in the program meet regularly with Jeannie Wakamatsu, MSNHL Internship Coordinator, to customize their 1200 hours of internship rotations and complete affiliation agreements with a wide variety of agencies that support their career goals.

“This is a value-added benefit of the USC program, and the outcome is students receive specialized training in areas of interest, with a net result employability and job offers following graduation,” Kreutzer says. “We pride ourselves on tailoring internship experience and placement to student interest and experience. Amanda’s focus on wellness and prevention was a good fit for the VA Hospital.”

Maddalena adds that her most rewarding experiences have been when patients’ families acknowledge the work she does to try to help their loved one heal and be discharged sooner.

“When family members tell you how appreciative they are for all that you do, it really lifts you up,” she says.

Maddalena will graduate this May and take the Registered Dietitian exam soon after. She says she hopes to find a job that will use both her dietetics education as well as her master’s degree in exercise physiology and aims to work at an outpatient facility, private practice, sports performance center, or public health agency.

“I am very interested in a preventative approach and looking at a person as a whole, rather than treating symptoms,” she says. “I also have my own LLC in Florida that I was using to train clients before starting the [MSNHL] program; I would like to begin to build that and see if I can make it grow into my own private practice.”

Maddalena praised the USC Leonard Davis School MSNHL program and says it can provide future students the opportunity to become dietitians who can make a difference in people’s lives.

“I have had the chance to experience the growth of a new program, and I have seen many improvements since being a student with USC,” Maddalena says. “This program will only continue to improve and become one of the best dietetic programs in the country. I encourage anyone who is contemplating the thought of becoming a dietitian to contact USC and speak to the program staff or any previous students.”

To reach students such as Maddalena who are across the country or around the world, the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology offers all master’s-level programs both on-campus and online, says USC Leonard Davis Senior Associate Dean Maria Henke.

“Whether our students are here on campus or connecting to us online from another continent, we make sure each of them have access to the very best educational experiences and learning opportunities,” she says.

Above: Amanda Maddalena MSNHL ’18 demonstrates the use of new feeding equipment for her VA colleagues using the “Joe Flow” manikin.