Since its opening in the fall of 2017, the Nutrition Assessment and Counseling Center at Sam Houston State University offers experiential learning activities for students and provides guidance to help them improve their health behaviors and manage nutrition-related concerns.
Registered dietitian nutritionists and state-licensed faculty members oversee the NACC. The idea to develop the center came to fruition when Crystal Douglas and Simone Camel, both assistant professors for the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences and doctors of Nutrition, recognized a need on campus for nutrition education.
Students admitted by physician referral from the Student Health Center and students enrolled in the Lifetime Health and Wellness course utilize the services. Students who meet medical diagnoses for conditions such as obesity, pre-diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, iron deficiency or anemia receive a referral from the Health Center and are invited to make an appointment, as are students who are pregnant or vegetarian.
“Social media features so many self-proclaimed nutritionists and fad diets,” graduate student Haley Rowell said. “We know that nutrition is more than telling people what to eat.”
The NACC has received approximately 71 referrals from the Health Center, has supported seven research protocols, and has trained more than 50 undergraduates, 16 graduate students, and four nutrition and two athletic training faculty on the equipment. The center is staffed by graduate students learning to become registered dietitian nutritionists and senior level Food Science and Nutrition students proficient in nutrition assessment procedures.
The facility, located in the Margaret Lea Houston building, is equipped with private counseling rooms, body composition equipment, and a one-way window for instructors to view student-patient simulations.
“We are lucky to have access to this equipment,” graduate student Nick Montez said. “Not many schools have the same opportunities for hands-on learning.”
As the center grows, it aims to expand its services at SHSU and within the community.
“Since our opening, we have worked with some members of our athletic teams. We would like to grow this relationship with the athletic community because we recognize that our student athletes have increased nutritional needs. SHSU doesn’t have a registered dietitian nutritionist on campus for the general student population or sports teams; therefore, we are trying to reach out and extend our services,” Douglas said. “As our faculty program grows, we would like to oversee projects with the community as well.”