UConn Gives Fundraiser Supports ASPEN Intern Learning About Clinical Nutrition

'It’s definitely the best professional experience I’ve gotten relating to my education'

The UConn Foundation on October 8, 2020.

UConn Gives is helping one rising senior raise awareness about malnutrition while gaining valuable career experience. (UConn photo/Sean Flynn)

Lydia McGrath ’22 (CAHNR), a rising senior in the Department of Nutritional Sciences, is spending the summer learning about careers in clinical nutrition and raising awareness of malnutrition in an internship sponsored by the American Society for Parenteral & Enteral Nutrition (ASPEN), funded in part by UConn Gives.

Working from her home in Sudbury, Massachusetts, McGrath is doing a remote internship with ASPEN, which is based in Maryland. The non-profit interdisciplinary organization is dedicated to improving patient care through the science and practice of clinical nutrition.

As part of the internship, McGrath has attended a week-long virtual conference and staff meetings, where she meets clinical dietitians, nurses, pharmacists, and others to learn more about the field and various career options.

Lydia McGrath '22.
Lydia McGrath ’22 (courtesy of Lydia McGrath)

She is also helping to promote ASPEN’s annual malnutrition awareness week, which takes place every October. Among her tasks, she is collaborating with a registered nurse to create informational posters for health care settings. The posters will list signs of malnutrition and tips for eating well for three targeted groups: the geriatric population, cancer patients, and patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, who are high-risk groups for malnutrition. She also plans to help ASPEN spread awareness of patient malnutrition at UConn and, eventually, other colleges and universities.

“The internship’s really great. It’s definitely the best professional experience I’ve gotten relating to my education,” McGrath says.

Funding for her internship was made possible in part by donations raised during UConn Gives. During the annual fundraiser, alumni, friends, and supporters come together during a 36-hour period to support scholarships and academic, research, and student programs.

The ASPEN internship is supported by gifts to the Nutritional Sciences Experiential Learning Fund, which gives talented, motivated students experiential learning opportunities to help them apply their knowledge learned in classes to real-world problems.

“The funds raised by the department not only provide additional financial support to the student, but, more importantly, demonstrate the department’s mission to support our students’ education, extracurricular activities, and career development,” says Yangchao Luo, an associate professor who coordinates the internship program in the Department of Nutritional Sciences in the College of Agriculture, Health, and Natural Resources (CAHNR).

McGrath is being supervised by Patricia Anthony ’80 (CAHNR), senior director of organizational growth at ASPEN. Anthony helped develop the internship to give nutritional science students hands-on experience and exposure to a wide variety of careers in clinical nutrition.

“I wanted to start giving back to UConn. I got a good basic education there and it set me up for a good career,” explains Anthony, who received the CAHNR Distinguished Alumni Award in 2021. Anthony reached out to UConn to help develop the internship, now in its second year.

Besides exposing students to a wide variety of careers, the internship offers a real-world sense of what it’s like to collaborate with clients as well as hands-on experience with marketing communications, planning events, and updating databases.

“I’ve gotten to see what that looks like behind the scenes. That’s been really interesting,” McGrath says. “It’s opened my eyes to the whole range of professions in clinical nutrition that I wasn’t aware of. I’m just so grateful for UConn Gives, the UConn Foundation, and the Department of Nutritional Sciences for making this possible and giving me this opportunity.”