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Loyola alum charts new path in Nutrition and Dietetics

For aspiring dietitians, Loyola University Chicago’s Dietetic Internship offers a gateway to a career as a respected, qualified professional committed to improving the health and wellbeing of others. This was certainly the case for Madeline Butler-Sanchez, who used her experience and training in the program to pivot from a career in Industrial chemical engineering to a more personally fulfilling professional path driven by her deep-rooted passion for healthy eating.

Shifting Careers

After graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in industrial chemical engineering from the University of Puerto Rico, Butler-Sanchez wasn’t sure she had chosen the right career path. “My whole life I had this passion for food and nutrition, which led me to discover the beautiful career of nutrition and dietetics,” she said. Her growing interest in nutrition eventually inspired her to relocate from Puerto Rico to Chicago, where she completed a post-baccalaureate program in nutrition and dietetics at Dominican University.

While Butler-Sanchez was able to gain a solid academic foundation in nutrition at Dominican, she knew she would need to complete an accredited Dietetics Internship if she wanted to continue on to become a registered dietitian. She soon enrolled in Loyola’s combined Master of Science and Dietetic Internship program, where she completed eight supervised rotations in various clinical, community, and food service settings that provided her with the skills and credentials needed to pass her registration exam.

Gaining Experience

Butler-Sanchez’s rotations brought her to a range of different settings, from a medical nutrition therapy rotation at a suburban hospital to a public health rotation working with local high school students. For Butler-Sanchez, her most memorable rotation was with Veggie RX, a Loyola-affiliated program designed to help improve the health of low-income residents in Maywood, IL. “This rotation was the one I loved the most. As interns, we prepared cooking demos and presentations that highlighted the benefits of certain vegetables,” she said. “It really impacted me because I think if a person is involved in the cooking process, they learn to understand the benefits that come from particular foods while also learning how to cook,” she said.

Beyond the program’s formal rotations, Butler-Sanchez took advantage of additional opportunities for learning and mentorship. As a student, a Loyola professor approached her about developing bilingual materials for participants in a study examining cancer patients and nutrition. “I created a seven-day meal plan that included breakfast, lunch, and dinner in English and Spanish, along with handouts with grocery shopping tips in both languages,” she said. “It was a great opportunity because those materials can be the backbone for a patient to start a healthy relationship with food.”

Future Plans

Looking ahead, Butler-Sanchez says her experiences at Loyola have inspired her future plans to open her own bilingual dietetic practice. “There is only a small percentage of Spanish-speaking registered dietitians, so I want to create my own bilingual practice where I can teach Spanish-speaking patients how to cook with more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and other nutrient-dense foods, and how nutrition can benefit their health and help them manage chronic diseases,” she said. “I’m really excited to put everything I’ve learned into practice.”