Graduates say the online certificate program is “1,000-percent worth doing.”

Cathryn Benson, APRN, has worked 13 years in health care, most recently in hospital medicine and anesthesia. She wanted to learn how she could further help her patients with nutrition, but as a mom who worked 14-hour days, she never thought additional schooling would be an option.

Then she heard about an online program offering flexible scheduling and a well-rounded nutrition-related curriculum – that was also, conveniently, run on the University of Kentucky’s campus.

The UK Online Graduate Certificate in Applied Nutrition and Culinary Medicine is a 12-credit program teaching graduate-level courses on general nutrition to health and medical professionals.

By the end of the program, graduates should understand evidence-based nutrition concepts, as well as the physiological mechanisms underlying chronic disease development related to nutrition. They also learn the importance of cooking, food, and nutrition as they relate to health and well-being and the role of the registered dietitian nutritionist (RD/RDN) in patient care.

“I've been in health care 13 years now, and I thought I knew a lot about eating right, dieting, and exercise, but I was amazed at how much I learned,” said Benson, who graduated from the program in two years.

The online graduate certificate program is a collaborative effort among the College of Medicine, the College of Health Sciences, and the College of Agriculture, Food, and Environment. Courses are taught by faculty in the participating colleges and cover topics including nutrition, obesity, community programming, and chronic diseases.

Physicians, physician assistants, nurses, pharmacists, physical therapists, residents and fellows, and postbaccalaureate students are great candidates for enrollment in this type of program. 

“There is a body of literature that demonstrates current nutrition education for health professionals is inadequate, and this graduate certificate program helps to fill that void,” said Sara Police, PhD, assistant professor of pharmacology and nutritional sciences and director of the certificate program.

Wendy Ramey, BSPharm, RPh, CSP, has been a clinical pharmacist at UK HealthCare for 11 years. She works with patients who have autoimmune inflammatory conditions at the UK HealthCare Rheumatology Clinic. After completing the program in December, Ramey feels more prepared to provide comprehensive care.

“If our providers and health care workers understand obesity a little bit better, that will make it easier for them to work with the patient to reverse those issues,” Ramey said. “I’ve learned a lot of tricks and tips that a patient can use right away that will make a difference.”

Though she has graduated, Benson still keeps a binder full of notes she took during classes. She even applies the information to her own daily life by cooking healthy meals for her family.

“I think people always think going back to school is complicated, but this is one of those programs where the information that you get out of it is so important,” Benson said. “I didn't learn a single thing in that program that wasn't useful, even to non-health care professionals. It’s 1,000-percent worth doing.”

Learn more about the online graduate certificate at the upcoming virtual open house, scheduled for May 17 at 6:30 p.m. Click here to RSVP to attend.