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Meals That Help Heal

Nine years after earning her bachelor’s degree in dietetics from the College, Tracey Ryan has risen to one of the top positions in her field, chief clinical dietitian at the renowned Froedtert Memorial Lutheran Hospital in Milwaukee. The Wisconsin Dietetic Association named the Brookfield native Young Dietitian of the Year in 1999.

Talking with Ryan, you quickly see why she has accomplished so much since graduating in 1993. She,s a confident professional who credits two College staff members and a mentor at St. Marys Hospital in Madison for convincing her she could accomplish most anything.

“Both Monica Theis and Lynette Karls gave me a lot of positive feedback,” says Ryan. Theis, a lecturer in food science, encouraged Ryan to do volunteer work to expand her horizons. Ryan learned she could easily balance her course work with volunteering once a week in Meriter Hospital’s sports medicine program. Karls, a faculty associate in nutrition, encouraged Ryan to apply for scholarships that helped pay for her senior year.

Before graduation, Ryan served a summer internship at St. Marys. “The whole experience shaped who I am today, and Dianne Riley was the best.” Like Ryan’s UW-Madison teachers, Riley, a registered dietitian, was a true mentor. At the hospital, Ryan learned the basics of diet education, assessing inpatient nutrition status, and food service management.

After graduation, Ryan started at Froedtert as a part-time assistant dietitian. She left for a full-time position at another Milwaukee hospital, but returned to Froedtert in 1995 to become chief clinical dietitian.

Ryan enjoys the variety in her job. “I work with several different disciplines and with all levels of management, including doctors, nurses, pharmacists, other dietitians and kitchen staff.”

The College,s Coordinated Program in Dietetics was good preparation because it required course work in business, chemistry, physiology, food science and nutritional science. Ryan also teaches health care professionals about new advances in nutrition.

Ryan feels her education helped her in many ways. Among other things, it underscored the importance of staying abreast of the nutrition field. “It’s very important to be proactive. Health care is changing so fast, you have to be prepared to change.” Ryan’s advice to undergraduates in the field of nutrition? “Be flexible, proactive and never stop learning.”