First male dietetics intern tours rural Alaska

From a Delaware dish dog to a Seattle sous-chef, Philip Palmer’s culinary career has led him to become UAA’s first male dietetics intern in the program’s 10-year history. The internship prepares students to become registered dietitians.“It’s the cream of the crop of nutritionists,” Palmer said.Palmer said he looked into dietetic programs at Penn State and Portland but the idea of working in rural areas of Alaska intrigued him.The dietetics internship program requires at least 900 hours of supervised practice around the state at different hospitals and community sites. Palmer’s rotation has included rural communities such as Nome and Unalakleet where he teaches one-on-one classes about nutrition. He chose Alaska partly because he’s been here before. He spent the summer of 1990 processing fish on the slime line in Pelican, a small town in Southeast Alaska. Currently Palmer is working with in-patient services at Alaska Regional Hospital.“I was surprised to come back to academics; I had kind of sworn them off,” Palmer said. He said his previous scholastic experience was less then successful.“I did a year at the University of Delaware, because that is what you are expected to do when you get out of high school,” Palmer said. “I learned how to drink beer and how to communicate better with the opposite sex. It was a disaster.” Originally from Delaware, Palmer first became interested in food when he was working as a dishwasher. He went on to become a chef at the Natural Gourmet Cookery in Manhattan, one of the few vegetarian-cooking schools in the United States. “I didn’t want to learn how to cook beef or pork,” Palmer said. Palmer fell in with a vegetarian crowd early on. When all of his roommates in Manhattan were vegetarians, he decided to swear off meat. Palmer went on to become co-owner of a cafe, which functioned as a cooperative, where the workers own the establishment. A few years later, Palmer found himself working at a vegetarian restaurant in Seattle named Carmalita. The restaurant quickly became a success. “We had lines out the door in no time,” Palmer said. The stress of such a busy establishment began to wear on Palmer. “By the time I had left there, the kitchen crew would bring beers in on the line and start getting a little bit lit before the rush,” he said. “The stress was just not something I wanted in my life.” The love of food remained, but Palmer felt a need for something different. “I wanted to take it up a notch, use my brain a little,” he said.Palmer said he felt a big push toward the direction of dietetics.Palmer’s best advice about keeping a proper diet is to avoid refined and processed foods.“I can’t say enough bad things about soda,” he said. “It’s one of the worst inventions ever.” He said people should stick to vegetables, whole foods and remember to drink lots of water.“Overall portion sizes and balances is more of an over-arching theme than making all the right choices,” Palmer said.When his internship is done in April, Palmer is not sure where he will go. “It’s a long drive to Seattle, I might just stay here,” he said. If he were to stay, he would become one of about five dietitians in the state. “There is a lot of work to be done here,” Palmer said, “and I don’t really mind the winter.”