Welcome to Ellen Bowser, our newest addition to the Discover FSHN Series! As a registered dietitian nutritionist, Ellen wears many hats: UF/FSHN dietetics program preceptor for dietetic interns, lead analyst on Evidence Analysis Library projects for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), and co-director of the Pediatric Pulmonary Center of UF’s College of Medicine. She is also an alumna of the UF/FSHN Master of Science-Dietetic Internship program and recently won the Outstanding Preceptor Award from the Florida Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (FAND).
In this feature, learn about how she became interested in dietetics, her various job duties, and the three foods she would take to a desert island!
How did you become interested in studying dietetics, and why did you decide to attend UF?
I have a bachelor’s degree in nursing and worked as a registered nurse in a large hospital for several years. During that time, I was very interested in nutrition and health and wanted to get my master’s degree in nutrition. I learned in my nutrition class that I needed to become a registered dietitian to work in nutrition and dietetics.
Fortunately, I love science! I was accepted at several combined master’s degree/dietetic internship (MS-DI) programs around the country, but the MS-DI program at UF seemed like the best fit. I wanted to combine nutrition and nursing and work in critical care/nutrition support, but I fell in love with pediatrics during my traineeship at the UF Pediatric Pulmonary Center (PPC). After I graduated, I worked as a visiting assistant professor in the UF MS-DI program for 18 months, which was a tremendous learning experience. My former preceptor’s position at the UF PPC became available at that point, and I have been in the position since 1990.
Tell me about your work as Co-Director and Faculty Nutritionist in the Pediatric Pulmonary Division of UF’s College of Medicine.
The UF College of Medicine Pediatrics Department, Division of Pulmonology, has a Maternal and Child Health Bureau-funded Pediatric Pulmonary Center Leadership Training Grant. This grant has been awarded to UF every 5 years since the late 1970s! It is an interdisciplinary, leadership training grant designed to teach graduate healthcare students how to work with children with chronic pulmonary and sleep conditions and their families. Community-based patient- and family-centered care is emphasized. Our disciplines include nutrition, nursing, medicine, psychology, social work, and family.
My role as Co-Director is to help manage the grant goals and activities in addition to precepting our dietetic interns. We have five main grant goals this cycle: interdisciplinary training, family involvement, telehealth, continuing education/consultation, and addressing disparities in health care.
I am never bored as each day is different! I might be in a Zoom meeting with an Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics committee in the morning, then precept a dietetic intern in the sleep clinic for the next couple of hours. My afternoon might be spent working on a research proposal, developing a webinar, or preparing an abstract for a national meeting.
What do you do as a preceptor for the UF/FSHN dietetics program?
I am so fortunate to have Jen Hillan, MSH, RDN, LDN, as my co-worker. We precept dietetic interns from several programs, including the US MS-DI program. Jen and I engage in one-on-one discussions with the interns about the nutritional needs of children with special healthcare needs, provide supervision in various clinics, and provide input on the intern’s progress.
Our philosophy is that interns are valuable members of our team, and it is our goal to help guide them in their learning process. We relate patient care issues to current evidence-based guidelines, encouraging our interns to actively participate in the discussions. Our conversations may include ethical issues, research topics, and changes in policies. Interns are included in our team meetings and spend time with each member of our interdisciplinary team.
In addition to my work as a preceptor and with the UF PPC, I also work as a lead analyst/consultant for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Evidence Analysis Library. I am currently the lead analyst for the ‘Dietary Approaches and Health Outcomes’ project and previously served as lead analyst for the chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) project.
What is the most important fact that the public should know about nutrition and dietetics?
Registered dietitian nutritionists are not the ‘diet police’. We are trained to use evidence-based, patient- and family-centered care to enable our clients to achieve their goals, not ours. We are so much more than just ‘human calorie calculators’. In addition, we have extensive training in vitamin and mineral needs which other health professionals may overlook.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I like to read, binge-watch TV shows, go to the gym, run, shop, and plan my family’s next vacation. We love to travel as a family – our favorite trips have been to Hawaii, the Canadian Rockies, and the Utah National Parks.
If you were trapped on a desert island with only three foods, which foods would they be and why?
Eggs because I consider them to be a perfect food!
Olives because I love their salty goodness!
M&M’s because they are my favorite candy, and if I am on a desert island I might as well enjoy myself there!
Is there anything else you would like to add?
My children were always asked, “What is it like having a mom who is a dietitian? Did she give out kale chips for Halloween?” They would tell their friends, “My mom always says all foods can fit.” We would get the best candy to give out (and pencils for those children who could not eat candy).
P.S. The Discover FSHN Series highlights the unique experiences of UF’s Food Science and Human Nutrition students, faculty, staff, and alumni. Want to read more about the amazing work going on in the FSHN department? See our previous features below (click on arrows to expand):
Shannon Mai, Dietetics
Alex Colon, Dietetics and Jenny Duong, Food Science
Jackie Shannon, Nutritional Sciences
Jennifer Jordan, Food Science
Lily Tucciarone, Dietetics
Tim Cassella, Nutritional Sciences
Kate Mullis, Dietetics
Savanna Curtis, Food Science (M.S.)
Carley Rusch and Matthew Beke, Nutritional Sciences (Ph.D.)
Alexa Hosey, Dietetics (MS/DI)
Vicnie Leandre, Food Science (M.S.)
Rufus Theophilus, Nutritional Sciences (Ph.D.)
Amber Fritsche, Dietetics (MS/DI)
Amy Jones, Food Science (Ph.D.)
Melissa Perez Santana, Food Science (M.S.)
Jeena Endter, Dietetics (MS/DI)
Dr. Naim Montazeri, Food Science/Food Virology
Dr. Jeanette Andrade, Dietetics
Dr. Zhiyong Cheng, Nutritional Sciences
Dr. Juan Andrade Laborde, Global Nutrition
Dr. Razieh Farzad, Food Science
Dr. Beth Gankofskie, Dietetics
Dr. Anne Mathews, Nutritional Sciences
Dr. Diana Taft, Nutritional Sciences
Dr. Boce Zhang, Food Science/Food Microbiology
Dr. Cora Best, Nutritional Sciences
Dr. Katherine Thompson-Witrick, Food Science
Dr. Laura Acosta, Dietetics
Dr. Rebecca Gould, Dietetics, Postdoctoral Research
Dr. Becca Solch, Nutritional Sciences, Postdoctoral Research
Hannah Cooper, Dietetics, Private Practice
Dr. Richie Li, Food Science, Product Development
Doctor Brian Barrow, Nutritional Sciences, Medicine/Physician
Luciano Junoy, Food Science, Product Development
Carlin Dixon, Dietetics and Professional Dance
Jamie Zeldman, Dietetics, Research Coordinator