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Nutrition and Dietetics is for EVERYONE

Paula Davis HeadshotSHRS' Inclusion Initiatives play an important role in the University of Pittsburgh's efforts to promote diversity and inclusion campus-wide. It is an effective means of reaching diverse students to let them know that their decision to pursue their studies in one of our health care options is a fantastic way of providing high quality, comprehensive care to others and that the door is open for everyone.

It is our pleasure to partner with SHRS programs in recruiting, welcoming, retaining and graduating talented diverse health care professionals for the good of our country's health.

—Paula Davis, associate vice chancellor, Health Sciences Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Pitt Nutrition's Diversity and Inclusion Initiative:

We aim to educate and empower faculty and students to cultivate a diverse profession that integrates science into the social and cultural environment of the various socioeconomic, cultural and ethnic populations they serve, leading to a more holistic approach to eating and health.

Our initiative aligns with:

The Plan:

 The School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences (SHRS) and the Department of Sports Medicine and Nutrition (SMN) remain committed to providing outstanding academic, research and clinical training opportunities for all eligible students. In light of recent national events and the robust dialog that has ensued, SHRS and SMN recognize the need to honestly and deliberately identify mechanisms to more effectively address the need for greater diversity and inclusion within our programs of study. This effort must include greater emphasis on recruitment and retention of students and faculty who more closely resemble our society as a whole.

In order to achieve this level of excellence and eliminate the societal and health care disparities that currently exist in our country, it is incumbent upon all of us to educate and train a diverse and inclusive student body that is prepared to positively impact and advocate for the communities they serve. In doing so, we will ensure a future where quality health care and educational accessibility is perpetuated and cement a legacy where the University of Pittsburgh, the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences and the Department of Sports Medicine and Nutrition stands as an exemplar for fair and equal opportunity for all. 

—Dr. Kevin Conley, chair, Department of Sports Medicine and Nutrition

1. Equity 

Faculty Perspective

The Nutrition and Dietetics Program focuses on equity in the profession and our teachings strive to promote equity in our student experiences. 

Providing nutrition and dietetic services in all settings to all people has been an ongoing part of our practice. Diversity and inclusion are simply a part of using our skills to serve our communities. Our program supports community service and supervised experiential practice to hone these skills.

—Judy Dodd, assistant professor

We understand that there are barriers to accessing care. Our sector and education model helps break down those barriers to ensure equity. Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDNs) help by providing services directly to underserved areas through local community centers, food banks, WIC and through "train the trainer" initiatives. RDNs are also knowledgeable in food assistance programs to help those individuals experiencing food insecurity. Nutrition education provided by RDNs can play an important role in the prevention and management of many chronic diseases and, therefore, decrease the costs of more expensive medical treatments.

From the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics:

The Academy encourages diversity and inclusion by striving to recognize, respect and include differences in ability, age, creed, culture, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, political affiliation, race, religion, sexual orientation, size and socioeconomic characteristics in the nutrition and dietetics profession.

2. Engagement

Faculty Perspective

Within our curriculum, it is a requirement for students to complete supervised experiential practice where they are assigned a site and preceptor to enhance their skills. Within those experiences, there is an emphasis on incorporating cultural diversity. 

Our Dietitian Nutritionist (DN) Program provides experiences in a wide variety of populations, helping students understand how history and traditions impact the expression of different cultures' relationship to food and nutrition. Our students are immersed in the cultural and "real-life" experiences throughout Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. When the students complete their supervised experiential practice rotations, they can identify and implement strategies to address their own potential cultural biases and apply culturally sensitive approaches in their practice. We provide equitable experiences for students to become engaged in the community and evolve their cultural awareness, with a primary focus on delivering services at the Pitt Community Engagement Center in Homewood, home to the SHRS Wellness Pavilion. The DN Program prepares future dietitians to willingly embrace opportunities to care for patients of all identities, abilities, climates, backgrounds and perspectives.

Student Perspective 

Our students are also passionate and work together to foster a diverse and welcoming environment that allows for inclusion.

The Student Dietetic Association acknowledges, respects and celebrates the differences and commonalities that exist among nutrition professionals. However, we also recognize that the current dietetics profession is comprised of an overwhelming majority of White women, in both leadership positions and dietetics roles across the country. It is the Student Dietetic Association's responsibility to not only call attention to this dearth of people of color in our field, but to also prioritize removing the barriers that discourage people of color from pursuing careers in the profession. Our organization pledges to uplift all persons in celebration of their race/ethnicity, sexual identity, gender identity, gender expression, socioeconomic status, abilities, religious beliefs and immigration status. As future Registered Dietitian Nutritionists, it will soon be our combined responsibility to provide individualized, culturally-sensitive nutrition education and medical nutrition therapy to all persons we serve. We acknowledge that our profession needs and depends upon diverse voices from all backgrounds and identities to foster a successful, well-rounded and compassionate profession that aims to help all people.

To uphold these values and move to action as an organization, we, the Student Dietetics Association, commit to: engaging in collaboration among cultural clubs, increasing outreach and engagement with marginalized external communities, participating in discussions that are focused on demographic groups that the Student Dietetic Association volunteers and serves, and further developing cultural competence. 



3. Evolution

The growth and education of our faculty, students and stakeholders is multifaceted and includes educational opportunities and initiatives to build an environment of diversity and inclusion.

—Dr. Deborah Hutcheson, program director and vice chair


  • The training of full-time, part-time and adjunct faculty on diversity and how to establish and maintain an inclusive learning environment is now included at quarterly faculty meetings.
  • The Dietitian Nutritionist Program curriculum has been expanded to strengthen cultural competence and understand cultural bias.
  • Our faculty search committee chair has briefing sessions with the Office of Diversity and Inclusion to guide our efforts and limit bias in recruiting, retaining and recognizing our program's inclusive and excellent faculty.
  • We are connecting the Nutrition and Dietetics community at Pitt with the plethora of resources available at both the University and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Our stakeholders are working with us to develop opportunities to strengthen our outreach to recruit and mentor students from underrepresented groups into the profession.


  • Develop a mentorship tool to:
    • Enhance recruitment of students from underrepresented groups seeking admission to the Dietitian Nutritionist Program
    • Provide mentorship and coaching to enhance retention and competency development for students admitted to the Dietitian Nutritionist Program
  • Cultivate education, access and service opportunities for students from underrepresented groups
  • Contribute to and develop resources in support of diversity and inclusion for the greater Pittsburgh communities 

The Dietitian Nutritionist (DN) Program students at the University of Pittsburgh acknowledge the need for a more inclusive dietetics profession that serves all people, especially individuals in marginalized positions holding marginalized identities. We must commit to a thorough outlook on nutrition that goes beyond individual virtue or choice. We must prioritize conversations on systemic issues of injustice that have led to unfavorable health outcomes, while also following through with action to actively dismantle systems of oppression that lead to inequalities in access to unbiased care and that are antithetical to the values of the dietetics profession and our values as future professionals.

—Students, DN Program