Kristen Rollins is a practicing pediatric dietitian at Children's Hospital in Orange County. Kristen graduated from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo with a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Minors in both Biology and Child Development. She completed her dietetic internship through the UC Davis Medical Center in August 2014. Kristen then went on to complete the Registered Dietitian Pediatric Residency Program at Children's Hospital Orange County. She also holds a Clinical Lactation Educator Counselor (CLEC) Certification. In her current position, Kristen is one of two pediatric oncology dietitians at Children's Hospital in Orange Country, primarily working with the solid tumor and bone marrow transplant teams.
Interviewer: Prior to starting UC Davis Medical Center's dietetic internship what were your career goals?
Ms. Rollins: I wanted to be a pediatric dietitian since my senior year of high school. I had the opportunity to job shadow a pediatric RD at my local children’s hospital and quickly grew to love the environment, people, and challenge of working in a children’s hospital.
Interviewer: When the year was done and you had completed the internship, did your career goals change? If so, how?
Ms. Rollins: I am an anomaly. I never changed my career goal, even after completing the internship. Even though my goal did not change, I learned many areas of dietetics that I could see myself enjoy outside of pediatrics. I came to enjoy food service management (this was a surprise to me), some outpatient clinics, and the adult ICU…but nothing compared to the fulfillment I received when working with children.
The best part of the internship is having the ability to get your feet wet in all areas of dietetics, learn what you enjoy, and make career decisions based on those experiences.
Interviewer: What was the greatest lesson you took away from your year long internship?
Ms. Rollins: The greatest lesson I learned from my yearlong internship is to always remember that you are a valuable member of a larger team where everyone is working towards a common goal. It doesn’t matter if you are working as a community, clinical, outpatient, or food service dietitian. Whatever setting you choose to work in, always remember the knowledge and expertise you bring to the table is invaluable and import for the well-being of your patients, clients, or participants.
Interviewer: What is your favorite memory from your internship class year?
Ms. Rollins: I had the opportunity to observe incredible medical procedures and surgeries. I will never forget the knowledge gained from observation. Some of these invaluable opportunities include viewing bedside PEG placement, intubation, bronchoscopy, modified barium swallow study, conduction of resting energy expenditure, and being in the operating room during a gastric bypass surgery.
Interviewer: What was your greatest accomplishment during your internship year?
Ms. Rollins: My greatest accomplishment during my internship year was completing my case study on the “Nutrition Management of a Simultaneous Pancreas-Kidney Transplant Patient secondary to Type I Diabetes” and earning the case study of the year award. The case study project is the largest project of the year and includes a written research paper and verbal presentation.
Interviewer: Since graduating, where has your career path taken you? How did the internship help guide you towards this career pathway?
Ms. Rollins: Before I graduated from the internship, I applied to the RD Residency program at CHOC Children’s Hospital in Orange County, CA. I was accepted into the program and started the program 2 weeks after graduating from UCDMC. After the completion of my 4 month pediatric residency program at CHOC Children’s, I was hired on and was working primarily on the medical/surgical and neuroscience inpatient units. I am now working in oncology and endocrinology. I also teach a monthly advanced carbohydrate counting class for the PADRE foundation.
Because I knew that I was interested in pediatrics, the preceptors at UCDMC sought out pediatric learning opportunities throughout my internship. I had the opportunity to focus the majority of my staff relief time in pediatrics, with the other amount of time devoted to ICU care.
Interviewer: If you could give any piece of advice to future and graduating interns, what would it be?
Ms. Rollins: Future interns: Make yourself a well-rounded candidate. Focus on academics, volunteer experience, and paid working experience. We all have areas that we excel in, and areas that need more improvement. Self-reflect on your personal strengths and weaknesses, and as challenging as it may be, devote more attention to your weaknesses. Improving your weaknesses helps create a well-rounded, high achieving candidate.
Graduating interns: A few months before graduating, start thinking about what area you may want to work in (i.e. hospital, community, food service, etc.). If your goal is to have a job lined up right after the internship, start applications. Keep all of your resources! They are great tools to use in your career.