Washington State Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Awards 2 Bastyr Students

Photo of  Katherine Ratliff and Liz Sullivan

Bastyr University is sending two more Outstanding Students into the world after Katherine Ratliff and Liz Sullivan were bestowed the 2016 titles at the Washington State Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ annual conference on April 18.

The two students in Bastyr’s Master of Science in Nutrition with Didactic Program in Dietetics continue a trend that has seen Bastyr students honored the last four out of five years. However, the selection of two members of the didactic program is unprecedented.

On the Search for Deeper Health

Ratliff grew up in the Seattle area, but pursued her undergraduate studies at St. Olaf College in Minnesota. Her interest in nutrition began to deepen after she joined the Wendell Berry House, which seeks “to re-establish the link between people, communities and the food that we eat.”

While pursuing a nursing degree, Ratliff recognized that many patients’ conditions were rooted in an unhealthy relationship with food. As a result, she decided to refocus on nutrition and began her search for the best master’s program she could find, which brought her to Bastyr.

Sullivan’s interest in nutrition and food systems developed after college, when she moved to San Francisco and was introduced to the local farmers market. After taking a marketing and communications job in the food industry, Sullivan began to draw connections between the personal, social, environmental and economic aspects of healthy eating.

It wasn’t long before Sullivan decided that she had to go deeper by furthering her education, which brought her to Bastyr.

From Outstanding Students to Upstanding Alumni

The two Outstanding Students will receive their graduate degrees in June, then move on to complete their internship requirements and sit for credentialing exams. But both have their eyes set even farther on the road ahead.

Sullivan plans to bring healthy and sustainable food choices to all, regardless of income and demographic barriers. She hopes to address nutritional needs at the community level to prevent people from becoming patients.

“Liz independently seeks opportunities to expand and apply her knowledge,” says Bastyr nutrition faculty Cynthia Bartok, PhD, RDN. “She is a very curious person who is always reading an interesting book or researching something that is a side interest. I like how she continues to find balance between school and other interests outside of school.”

Ratliff is interested in the expanding fields of integrative medicine and oncology nutrition. In these fields, she will be able to bring dietary support to patients such as those she first encountered as a nursing student.

“Katherine has a unique ability to get along with all personality types when working in groups, which points toward future leadership in the field,” says Cristen Harris, PhD, RDN, director of the didactic program. 

Evolving Forward

In a continuous process to prepare students such as Ratliff and Sullivan to practice as leaders in an ever-changing field, exciting curriculum changes will greet graduate dietetics students this fall. Added depth about the microbiome and nutrigenomics will complement the current bioactive compounds seminar, and an additional culinary course, “Therapeutic Cooking,” will provide students with even more whole-foods skills.

While such curriculum evolution supports the Department of Nutrition and Exercise Science’s vision to be the leader in advancing a holistic view of nutrition and exercise through excellence in education, research and clinical practice, outstanding students such as Katherine Ratliff and Liz Sullivan are embodying that vision today.



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