This summer I had the chance to correspond with Jessica Ho, an RD currently working on her MSPH at Johns Hopkins. She majored in NS-Dietetics at UC Berkeley, graduating in 2009. Afterwards, she became a dietetic intern at UCSF and obtained her RD. Jessica has a multitude of public health nutrition experience, working at the Center for Weight and Health, Samuels and Associates, and the City and County of San Francisco. Our paths crossed when she was an intern with the USDA Food and Nutrition Services, and her journey to impact food policy continues with an upcoming fellowship in Sacramento with the Office of the Governor.
Jessica will be stopping by the Bay Area this fall, and she has generously offered to visit SDA to talk about her experiences and answer your questions! Read on below for her narration, and be sure to note topics you want to hear more about and questions that come up. If you comment on this post, we’ll incorporate those questions and topics into the meeting.
How did you choose to major in Dietetics?
I actually switched into dietetics my senior year; prior to that I was a double major MCB and physio and metabolism track major, and I actually completed the P&M track, which is why I chose to double in MCB to stay the full four years in college. But then I realized I didn’t like biomolecular research, so that’s when I switched into dietetics and took 50 units to complete the requirements.
How did you decide your post-college path?
I wanted to first get the clinical experience before taking my next step. I think the path will vary from person to person, but for me it worked out that way. Also, I wanted to go to UCSF and Hopkins, so that also influenced my decision.
Why clinical before public health?
I wanted a good clinical background regardless of my future career because knowing your science really comes in handy when making medically, evidence-based, and scientifically informed decisions. I think that’s why even though I am in the public health field, I will always be an expert in nutrition and physiology and other science-y things due to my background. Having a really strong science background has been a really important part of my career, actually, even though I didn’t pursue it further. Actually, going to UCSF solidified my background in science, which I liked because then I better understood nutrition in a clinical setting (when things go wrong).
Personally, I liked having the experience at two different institutions because then you get to meet more people and experience different things. For instance, at UCSF, it is very clinical and intense but in a west coast/SF sort of way. Naturally, the preceptors you meet at UCSF will be different than those from a program from other locations because they will be influenced by various factors such as the culture of the surrounding area, their family situation, personality, etc.
What was unique about UCSF?
I would say that [UCSF] is definitely the most clinically-oriented internship among the ones available in the US, and it may be one of the most rigorous. When I was applying for DI, they told us to rank UCSF #1 even if we didn’t think we would get in because it is extremely difficult to get into the program. I would say the only one that may be more exclusive would be the one offered by the NIH, which is more research oriented.
What’s coming up for you in the future?
Currently, I am working at the USDA in the Food and Nutrition Services department out in the DC area. I have also done some work with the local government body of the City and County of San Francisco. Finally, I am going to be doing a fellowship in Sacramento with the Office of the Governor.
For the next few years, I would like to work on my PhD and become a professor and do research in the field of food policy. Currently, no programs exist for what I want to do, so that’s why I am getting experiences from so many fields. Therefore, I think everyone’s path will be different depending on what they want to do in the future.