Sunday, July 17, 2011


A lot has happened in the past month since school ended. I left Seattle, got engaged, drove to Ann Arbor and started a dietetic internship program at the University of Michigan's School of Public Health.  Back in April when I "matched" at UM, I rationalized all of the reasons it would be the best program for me. I remember thinking how being far away from my friends and community would allow me to focus my energy on the internship, and perhaps work on some side projects that never receive any time or attention.  Now I wonder how I will have time to focus on my internship at all, when my thoughts are occupied with Skype dates, travel arrangements and potential wedding plans. So in attempt to devote some reflection time to my various rotations, I hope to use my blog to capture my experience as both an intern and a Michigander over the next six months.

My personalized lab coat.

My internship started last week with orientation. I am one of 13 dietetic interns, but one of only two who did not attend UM for my master's degree. And I am also the only one who has never lived in Ann Arbor (AA) before. I guess that makes me the outsider, though by the end of the first week I certainly didn't feel that way. We spent the first week at school filling out paperwork, touring some of the rotation sites, and attending lectures and presentations on a variety of topics that are either important enough to warrant review (eg. a full-day crash course in food service management!) or were likely not covered in our degree programs (eg. palliative care, hospice). My house turns out to be only a 20 minute walk from school, so I enjoyed a week without use of my car and I'm sure the Echo appreciated a break after the 2,500 mile drive out here. And it only took me about a week to re-adjust to the constant state of sweat that comes with summer's 90 degree temps.

On Friday we went on a field trip to the Henry Ford Hospital in West Bloomfield, MI. I was surprised at how much it reminded me of a mainstream hospital equivalent of the Bastyr Center for Natural Health in its integrative approach to patient health and wellness. Unlike other hospitals, the entrance seems more like a shopping mall or resort, complete with concierge and valet services, a spa and shop selling local products. Just past the shop is the Demonstration Kitchen where classes are taught for the general public by a chef and a registered dietitian.  We peeked in on summer camp program for kids, and noted the space, which could easily serve as the set of a cooking show on the Food Network. 

We toured of the facilities, led by the Culinary Wellness Director (!), a trained chef who explains to us that food used to be used as medicine and it's important that we remind people of that. He showed us the cafeteria, Henry's, where instead of hiring food service workers, the hospital employs cooks who prepare the food on the spot using fresh ingredients. Other interesting tidbits about the place: they host a weekly farmer's market, there are in-house pet "therapists" or trained dogs who visit patient rooms, the salon stylists are trained to recognize melanomas, and every single room has a view of nature.  The attention to detail is so completely impressive - from the room service menu model to the private rooms to the massage therapists that make room calls - I really walked away with the impression that patient satisfaction is paramount.  We were told that the hospital was designed to reduce stress and alleviate fears  and it certainly achieves that effect. In fact, we noticed several groups of women from the community utilizing space in the atrium to play bridge and mah jong. 

Henry, one of the hospital's pet "therapists" takes a rest.

I couldn't help but wonder, who pays for these services and who does this hospital serve? (The question was later answered by my roommates who explained that West Bloomfield is the wealthiest township in the state.) Part of me wondered about the increasing income gap, and as I continue to hear how economically devastated Michigan is as a whole and Detroit in particular, I hope to gain a better understanding of the socio-economic landscape around me. Still, I walked away from the Henry Ford feeling like maybe in this Midwestern pocket I'm not as far away from Seattle as I feel, maybe the Bastyr bubble is larger than I imagined and maybe there are some ways in which our country is moving in the right direction. 


  1. I am so glad you are blogging about your experience! Best wishes to you. Sounds like a wonderful time so far :)

  2. Love hearing about this, Rebecca! I hope it turns out to be a wonderful experience for you!

  3. I'm so excited to follow your Michigan adventure through your blog. It sounds pretty great so far!

  4. Hey lady! I feel like I can still be a part of your life through your blog though we're far apart :) Your internship sounds rad so far - keep updating! I acn't wait to hear about rotations!