Student Spotlight: Christine Cherpak | MUIH
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Student Spotlight: Christine Cherpak

Fri. January 05, 2018
Program: Doctor of Clinical Nutrition

What drew you to MUIH?

I was drawn to Maryland University of Integrative Health because it satisfied my thirst for an innovative curriculum combining rigorous coursework, research, and experiential training. Maryland University of Integrative Health’s foundational principles of interconnections, holism, transformation, diversity, and resilience underscored my commitment to facilitate optimal nutrition and health; attending to one’s whole body, including physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual realms, as opposed to a body composed of parts in need of “fixing.” Nutrition is an art and science. Maryland University of Integrative Health understands this and integrates such a philosophy into its program offerings.

What excites you about your academic field of study?

My academic field of study excites me each day because nutrition is an evolving science. Nutrition is an undervalued and underutilized determinant for long-term health and wellness. Research and advocacy elicit awareness of nutrition’s influential role in effecting optimal human nutrition and health. And there’s a growing demand for professionals with advanced training and skills in nutrition. Nutrition is not limited to basic principles, but is multifaceted. Leaders in the global transformation of health and wellness understand how cognition and physiology coalesce to shape a complex food and nutrition structure. Every role of food and nutrition—physiological, environmental, socio-cultural, and spiritual—is essential to optimal human health. It is not enough to isolate macronutrients and micronutrients. As Dr. Robert Svoboda affirms, “[e]ven the nectar of immortality is a poison if the body can’t digest it.” And just as the field of nutrition is dynamic, each client is a unique whole in which a vital force lives, capable of healing, maintaining health, and preventing dis-ease. Thus, client encounters that await me upon graduation will create a kaleidoscope of partnerships and discoveries.

Has there been a course you've particularly enjoyed?

One course that I particularly enjoyed was Nutritional Biochemistry. Although the content was challenging, Dr. Bryan Walsh presented the material in an enthusiastic and passionate manner that fully engaged students. I found this course to be foundational and I continue to utilize the knowledge I acquired in Nutritional Biochemistry in each new course I take. Notably, the course followed a storyline, which resulted in my not merely memorizing information, but truly integrating the material to solve complex nutrition-related client cases.

Can you speak about the faculty here?

The faculty at Maryland University of Integrative Health is of high caliber and is as unique as the University itself. Often, faculty members are leaders in the nutrition field who author books and peer-reviewed journal articles, and hold distinguished positions with other organizations such as The Institute for Functional Medicine. There is an undercurrent of exchanged learning between faculty and students; in other words, faculty position themselves beside students and value opportunities to grow as well. And they are available to support student success beyond the completion of a course—Dr. Mary Fry repeatedly exemplifies this with her willingness to communicate with past students in a manner that is welcoming, despite her other commitments and current students. This communal spirit is one that I value and emulates the partnership that is essential to a strong client-practitioner relationship.

What is your best MUIH memory?

My best Maryland University of Integrative Health memory is being accepted into my program of study. At this time, I was overcome with hope and possibility. And such feelings paved the way for me to renew these sensations at the start of each trimester. The more I learn and build partnerships with the members of the Maryland University of Integrative Health community, the more I envision ways to serve future clients and collaborate with colleagues. My acceptance into my program of study was the first of several stepping stones that don’t lead to a destination, but rather to a lifelong journey of learning—the consequence of which are unimaginable horizons.

How do you plan to use what you've learned here?

I plan on utilizing what I’ve learned at Maryland University of Integrative Health in a clinical nutrition and research career that honors the mind, body, and spirit interconnection. My research interests include digestive health and its impact on extraintestinal health; epigenetics; complex health consequences of methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) gene mutation; how Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs) are nutritionally actionable; and how a dysregulated stress response, and toxins and toxicants contribute to digestive disturbances. As a functional nutrition practitioner, I will execute literature reviews, conduct independent research, publish in peer-reviewed journals, and present my research findings at conferences, which will complement my academic and clinical skills. In addition, I intend to teach nutrition-related courses at the graduate level, hold wellness retreats, and give back to my community by providing community nutrition education seminars. Throughout my portfolio career, I will thrive on the challenges I encounter and join a distinctive community of scholars, researchers, practitioners, and advocates promoting whole person, relationship-centered healthcare.

What would you say about MUIH to a prospective student who is interested in attending?

To prospective students interested in attending Maryland University of Integrative Health, my advice aligns with cardinal advice for all of life’s endeavors: center yourself to fully identify your desires and ensure that they resonate with the offerings of what you are pursuing. Take the time to explore the resources available to students—do they meet your expectations? Don’t be afraid to “interview” a representative from the University. For example, discuss your goals with an Admissions Advisor and ask him/her how the University will help you achieve them. I also recommend requesting to speak with a current student or recent graduate from the program of study in which you are interested. Overall, investing time in delineating your standards and researching the University’s resources and philosophy will maximize your success.

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