Online graduate certificate programs bring new students, new perspectives
By Julie Flaherty
As a pediatrician in El Paso, Texas, Maria Lourdes Asiain has several patients—particularly teens—who are overweight, obese or diabetic. She often wished she could do more to advise them on diet and exercise. “My medical school and residency didn’t stress nutrition much,” she said.
After about a year of searching for the right way to increase her knowledge, she found what she was looking for: the Nutrition Science for Health Professionals online certificate program offered by the Friedman School.
She was concerned that it might be hard for her to be a student again—it had been 10 years since she had done a research paper, after all—but she was soon engaged by the coursework, which covers everything from clinical scenarios of patients who have chronic conditions to the lowdown on fad diets that patients might ask about. “I’m surprised that I enjoyed it so much,” she said. “It’s very practical, which is what I looked for, but it’s challenging. Manageable, but challenging.”
As a mother of two who works in private practice and does rounds at a hospital, she knew an online course made logistical sense. “I can do it while I’m taking my son to basketball practice or while I’m waiting for a C-section,” she said.
The program has already made a difference in her practice. She now sets aside one day a week to meet with her adolescent patients who have nutritional concerns, and has new expertise to help them.
Working professionals like Asiain have found a unique learning experience through the Friedman School’s various Online Graduate Certificate Programs, says program director Diane McKay, G89, N97, N00
“It’s a very flexible way for them to advance their knowledge, enhance their skill set, improve their marketability, and improve their ability to administer to their patients,” she said.
At the same time, she says the school has benefited from the virtual presence of its diverse online students, who live around the world and bring a range of ages and experiences to their coursework. “The different perspectives they have on the same subject matter make it particularly enriching for the students and for me, as an instructor,” said McKay, an assistant professor who teaches several of the certificate courses.