Saint Louis University

Author: Katie Gustamachio
Published: Wednesday, November 23, 2011

One very charismatic and inspirational man, George N. Parks*, created the concept of a starred thought: messages or points to remember throughout life that were universal. These thoughts guided me through undergrad, and now I wish to share 10 of them here, and apply their universal meanings to this program and the challenges we, as interns, face every day.

10. Everybody becomes a teacher.
The last place I wanted to find myself was in front of a class of students. I knew from an early age I did not want to become a teacher, but as I moved through college and learned more about the profession of dietetics, I realized that regardless of the career path I choose I will always be teaching. I love counseling and working in a clinical setting, and every time I meet with a new patient, I recognize that I am there to teach them about nutrition.

9. You are always on stage.
Dietitians are not exactly performers, but just go with it. Our internship is unique in that we have a new rotation every two weeks, and thus we are constantly meeting new people. No matter where we go, be it a new hospital, clinic, school, or SLDA meeting, we are always representing Saint Louis University’s Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, and are obligated to do so with poise, class, and respect. Every two weeks we have a new chance to make a positive and lasting first impression on a new preceptor. We have to make it count every time.

8. To be early, is to be on time. To be on time, is to be late.
Self-explanatory. This goes along with the previous point about making a great impression. And, to be late, that’s simply unacceptable. It’s about holding ourselves to a higher standard.

7. Don’t worry about things that you have no control over.
Ninety percent of our intern class has a type A personality, meaning we work best when we are in control of what we are doing. We can be anal retentive about keeping neat notes and papers organized, and we get incredibly frustrated when poor communication is rampant. We also struggle when things feel out of our control. Like I said, we start something new every two weeks, and that schedule forces us to work through new, unknown environments and situations all the time. Stressing over situations that are beyond our control only makes things worse, and it’s not worth the energy. Trust me. A really effective type A personality is not only one who is conscientious and dedicated to hard work, but is also one who knows when to slightly relax the grip on the steering wheel, and cruise.

6. Find a mentor.
Our internship class is fortunate enough to have mentors selected for us, but this luxury does not always work in everyone’s favor. I’ve been trying for the past month to get together with my mentor, but every time we try to get together something comes up and we have to cancel plans, a minor speed bump. In my case, I am simply going to start emailing my mentor with questions and such since that seems to be the most convenient way to talk to her. I pulled from the previous point. I do not like being out of control, but because my mentor can’t physically meet with me, I’m trying a different avenue that works for both of us. Adaptation!

And, as an aside, having a mentor is crucial for our development as dietitians and as people. Everyone’s interests change, and the mentor I have now might not be the best mentor for me in the future. Knowing when to ask questions is important, but knowing the right people to ask is even more important.

5. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.
I like lists. I like outlines. I like mapping out my driving routes online, on my phone, and with my GPS. You might call me anal retentive, or OCD, but I call it being prepared. Especially when going into a new rotation or just a weekend full of homework, making a plan is one of the best ways to organize yourself. When I make lists at the beginning of the weekend, I automatically feel less stressed because I can see everything I need to do on paper. Plus, there is an immense feeling of satisfaction when you finish something and can cross it off.

4. You are at your best when things are at their worst.
Undoubtedly, we have all faced moments in our lives that have been difficult. Family members passing, break ups, or stressful weeks heavy with homework and exams. These times are tough to work through, and often can cause great emotional stress that is hard to handle. What defines us, however, is how we react to these situations. I’m not saying put all emotions into a box, tape it shut, and push it to the back of your mind because eventually it will go away. Usually that doesn’t work. What I’m saying is, how a person works through a difficult time, defines them. The one who sits on her bed and cries every weekend because she is homesick and the one who channels that energy into inspiring others to work through their rough patches are two opposite ways of working through the same struggle. One is constructive, and one is not.

3. If you’re not having fun, you should be.
I’ve heard this from professors and preceptors: make time to do fun things. Otherwise, you just go crazy.

2. Do not give up.
If you’re struggling, ask for help. The only stupid question is the one that isn’t asked. And, if you’re having a hard time understanding a concept, managing time to get assignments done, or feeling lost about whether this profession is the right one for you, someone else is probably feeling the exact same way. The beauty of having a large internship class is that we can look to each other for support.

1. Find your passion.
If dietetics isn’t it, better to find out now then spend the next 10 years doing something you dislike. If dietetics is it, the next step is finding what branch of the profession fits you best. When you find it, you’ll know.

And one more for good measure:
Smile, it makes everything better.

*George N. Parks was the director of the UMass Minuteman Marching Band for 33 years before his sudden passing in 2010. His words have been an inspiration to thousands, and although they are based on his experiences of teaching music students, they can apply to, and ought to be shared with, everyone.