Health Science Connection for Secondary & Post-Secondary Educators
JUNE 2015

You have been referred to our e-newsletter because you work with students who may be interested in a healthcare career.

Montana AHEC/ORH supports efforts to improve healthcare across Montana. One of our 3 key objectives is to help students explore careers in healthcare. We hope that this newsletter may become a great resource for you and your students. This month of June will focus on nutrition in recognition of National Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Month and National Eat Your Vegetables Day on June 17th!

Please note that there will not be a newsletter next month for July. See you again, in August!

National Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Month
June has been designated as National Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Month while June 17th is Eat Your Vegetables Day. National Day Calendar

Grant Will Support Summer Nutrition Program
"The Kalispell Parks and Recreation department has received a $26,200 grant to improve children's access to healthy food, nutrition literacy and physical activity outside of school." Daily Inter Lake

Food Safety at Home
"Safe food preparation at home is just as important as it is in a restaurant. Food borne illnesses are diseases transmitted to people through food and can occur when foods are not properly handled." Healthy Gallatin

MSU Virologist Receives Grants for Research on Honeybee Health
"A Montana State University virologist recently was awarded three grants to study why honeybees, the primary pollinator force of the nation's food supply, are experiencing high losses." Montana State University
An International perspective: "In South Korea, An Innovative 
Push to Cut Back on Food Waste"

"Food waste is a global problem, with the United Nations estimating that a third of the food produced worldwide winds up spoiled, rotting in fields, or being thrown away. That amounts to 1.3 billion tons of food wasted annually, a profligacy that carries major environmental, economic, and human costs" Environment 360

Gov. Bullock Discuss Breakfast After the Bell Program

"'We know that students can't learn if basic needs aren't being met. One of those most basic needs is food in your stomach,' Principal Nick Radley said. It was back in 2010 when Bryant Elementary took an opportunity to provide students with breakfast after the bell. Bryant qualified for a state grant under the No Kid Hungry Montana campaign that would help supplement start-up costs for launching an alternative breakfast program." No Kid Hungry Montana


BHC Partners with MHA and MSU

"Broadwater Health Center (BHC) is one of six Montana Critical Access hospitals from across Montana to partner with MSU Industrial Engineering students and MHREF Rural Hospital Flexibility Program on a joint Lean Healthcare Project. 


Two MSU engineering interns spent two-weeks at BHC, beginning May 18, to implement a pre-determined focused process improvement project.  Prior to deployment, the interns received education and training in Lean Healthcare concepts, principles and tools and their application relevant to the hospital setting." Read more: BHC Partners with MHA and MSU

USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion: SuperTracker Nutrition Plans for High School Students -
Multiple Lesson plans and work sheets are available at this link by the Southeast Dairy Association - Eat Healthy Be Healthy Community Workshops (Free instructor guides, handouts, webinars, and video transcriptions - also available in Spanish!) -

At the 11th Annual Montana HOSA: Future Health Professionals State Leadership Conference (SLC) students competed in 24 offered competitive team, leadership, skills, and emergency preparedness events, many of which required prior online testing (averaged into final score). Friday afternoon, all the students bused over to the MSU campus and the molecular bioscience labs on Tech Blvd. to attend 4 of 20 educational symposiums hosted by MSU faculty staff and local professionals.


New state officers were elected: President, Anika Melzer-Roush (Missoula Sentinel HS), and Co-Presidents, Lauren Higgins (Bozeman HS) and Magnolia Chinn (Missoula Sentinel HS). Darby Lacey, former National HOSA Officer and MSU student, was recognized for her service as state officer coach.  Lynn Brooks, Board President, is stepping down and was recognized for his 11 years of service to Montana HOSA.


HOSA provides a unique program of leadership development, motivation, and recognition exclusively for secondary and collegiate students enrolled in health science education and biomedical science programs or have interests in pursuing careers in health professions.  HOSA is not a club for a few members. Rather, it is a powerful instructional tool which is integrated into the Health Science Education and health science related core curriculum and classroom. HOSA's mission is especially critical when considering the acute shortage of qualified workers for Montana's healthcare industry. The 2015 National HOSA theme is "LEAD," and our Montana students are the next generation of healthcare industry leaders.


If you are interested in starting a HOSA chapter at your high school, contact Martha Robertson,

More information at


2015 Summer Med Start Camps

These camps are designed for incoming high school Juniors/Seniors who are interested in exploring healthcare careers.  The camps provide numerous hands on activities, job shadows, and introduce students to college campus life. AHEC received over 90 scholarship applications and will be making selection and notifying applicants in the next two weeks. Additional information can also be accessed at:




June 14 - 18 Missoula: University of Montana (UM)

July 12 - 16 Billings: Montana State University Billings (MSUB)
July 19 - 23 Butte: Montana Tech
August 2 - 6 Great Falls: University of Great Falls & Great Falls College


REACH is an acronym for Research and Explore Awesome Careers in Healthcare. The regional AHECs set up a partnership between local hospitals and high schools to provide students the opportunity to visit their local hospital and participate in hands-on activities in a variety of departments.

News From Broadwater Health Center

"On April 29th, 24 high school students from the Broadwater and Three Forks High Schools participated in "REACH" camp. This one-day program took place at Broadwater Health Center. BHC, and the South Central Area Health Education Center at the Montana Hospital Association, teamed up to put together the camp which provides students the opportunity to explore a variety of careers in the healthcare field.  Professionals at BHC  led the stations, volunteering their time and talent to mentor the students and share their expertise." Read more: REACH Camp at Broadwater Health Center


Erin Commons is a registered dietitian and health coach for CareHere.  She has expertise in areas of weight management, diabetes management, cardiac nutrition counseling, chronic disease management, and child nutrition.  Prior to working for CareHere, Erin provided nutrition therapy for infants, children, and adults in the hospital and home health settings.


As a part of the CareHere team, Erin meets with patients one-on-one to develop individualized nutrition plans for improved health and wellness.  She also leads group classes on various nutrition related topics.


She received a Bachelor of Science degree in Dietetics from Texas Tech University and completed her Dietetic Internship at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville Tennessee.  Erin is currently working on her Master's degree in Dietetics.

Erin is a member of The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Montana Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and volunteers her time on the wellness council of her local school district.  She spends her free time with her husband and twin daughters skiing, swimming, hiking, and geocaching.


The salary range for a Registered Dietitian working in Montana stated by the  United States Bureau of Labor and Statistics is $33,160 to $49,430. According to the 2011 Compensation & Benefits Survey of the Dietetics Profession, the median income of all RDa or RDNs (Registered Dietitian Nutritionists) in the U.S. who have been working in the field for 4 years or less was $52,000.


How and why did you choose this career?

A. I wasn't sure what career path I wanted to go down when I finished High School. My plan was to go into college "undecided" and work on my general requirements. I had a relative who recommended I choose something, even if it was the wrong thing, because it would allow me more individualized career and class counseling through the University. He gave me a large manual that listed all of the different degrees and what classes they included and asked me to circle the things that sounded interesting and cross off the things that didn't (I'm dating myself because I'm sure all this information is online now!) I ended up circling "Dietetics" and nothing else. I had no idea what a dietitian did, but I was good at math and chemistry and was interested in nutrition. 


I enjoyed every semester more than the one before it and was excited about all the opportunities I would have as a dietitian. Dietitians can work in a variety of settings, including (but not limited to) hospitals, schools, long term care facilities, community or public health, sports nutrition, food and nutrition industry, public policy, corporate nutrition, and research.


What does a typical day in your work life look like? What are your working conditions like?

A. A day in the life of a dietitian really varies depending upon the type of dietitian one is. In my 17 years as a dietitian, I have worked in a hospital setting, home health, and now in a wellness clinic. I have also worked with a variety of different patient populations: premature infants to the elderly, patients who eat food to patients who require IV lines and tubes to get their nutrition, very sick patients to patients who are well and want to stay that way.


As a hospital dietitian, I worked 8 hour days - mostly weekdays and some weekends and holidays. I worked closely with the health care team to do a variety of different nutrition related job tasks. I assessed patients for malnutrition, provided nutrition education to patients and families, evaluated nutrition needs for patients, and wrote orders for IV nutrition and tube feedings. 


As a home health dietitian, I traveled from home to home and assessed the growth and development of my pediatric patients who were on tube feedings. This job required a vast knowledge about the numerous tube feeding products and required quite a bit of math since babies and children grow so quickly. I enjoyed getting to know my patients well and understanding their home environments. This job had a fairly flexible schedule but included some early morning and late afternoon appointments to meet the patients' needs.


In my current job as a wellness dietitian, I split my time between the health clinic and my home where I do telephonic counseling appointments. Many brand new dietitians would love a job in a wellness clinic because it allows for preventing illness rather than trying to repair health. However, wellness jobs are few and far between. Most new dietitians end up working in a hospital setting, long term care facilities, or in public health. 


I love my current job in wellness because I really get to know my patients. I have the luxury to "meet them where they are" and help them take the steps in the right direction towards health and wellness. It is very rewarding to see people lose weight, improve their diabetes or cholesterol levels, or learn how to feed themselves and their families.  

What educational requirements are needed for your career?

A. The following is required in order to become a registered dietitian:

  • Completion of a bachelor's degree in Dietetics or Nutrition
  • Completion of an accredited, supervised practice program or internship that typically is 9-12 months in duration
  • Passing score of a national examination administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration
  • Completion of continuing education

What skills and abilities are necessary in your profession?

A. Someone who is interested in becoming a dietitian should have a strong base in math and science - especially chemistry. He/she should have the following skills:

  • Effective logic, reasoning and critical thinking skills
  • Writing skills
  • Speaking skills
  • Active listening skills
  • Decision making and judgment capabilities
  • The ability to instruct others, and
  • Be socially perceptive and non-judgmental  

Any final thoughts?

A. Anyone who might be interested in becoming a dietitian (or anything else in the health care field) should shadow several clinicians and see what their day looks like and get a sense if the career is the right fit before jumping into the classroom. Dietetic internships are quite competitive and require very high grades, volunteer work in the field, and job experience in a health care environment.,. (2015). Dietitians and Nutritionists. Retrieved 25 January 2015, from


Commons, E. (2015, June 1). Email interview.

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Please contact us with your comments, ideas, questions or projects you'd like to see highlighted in future issues of this e-newsletter. And thank you for the work you do every day to inspire and support public health initiatives and healthcare in Montana!


Renee Harris -
Montana Area Health Education Center (AHEC)