Health Careers in Alaska

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Angela Hochreiter


The person…

Angela Hochreiter, a registered dietitian, is currently the Director of the Community Health and Wellness Department with the Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corporation (YKHC) in Bethel. Angela became interested in the dietetic field as a senior in college while she was pursuing a degree in biology. “I took nutrition as an elective course and it just clicked with me. I had always been interested in food and eating healthy-even in high school.” It was this course that led Angela to the field of dietetics.

After finishing her biology degree at a university in California, where Angela grew up, she took a year off to work in a boarding school in Boston. Even there she was thinking about the nutrition field. “Kids would ask me advice on what to eat before their basketball games.”

In 1998 Angela enrolled in a program at the Loma Linda University in California where she was able to earn her master’s in public health (MPH) in Nutrition. Angela spent two years taking classes and did 6 months of internships.

It was one of the internships that brought Angela to Alaska. The Norton Sound Health Corporation was advertising for a dietetic intern. “Because of the way my graduate program was set up, I was able to travel there in the fall of 2000. “ As part of the internship in Nome, Angela traveled around to the nearby villages with a dietitian, who worked in their WIC (Woman Infant Child) office. Angela also spent time working in the hospital and community. “For my master’s project I worked with the local women’s shelter doing a series of nutritional classes.”

During her internship she began looking for jobs and soon found a position on the internet with WIC in Bethel.  After being on the job for 3 months she passed her board exams and became a registered dietitian. She has been living in Bethel now for almost seven years.

When Angela is not at work, she especially enjoys cross country skiing during the winter months and walking out on the tundra during the summer. “Berry picking season is almost ready to start and I enjoy doing that as well. Also, my husband and I really enjoy traveling.” Angela says she met her husband in Bethel, He, too, works for YKHC as an optometrist.

When asked if she was a good cook, Angela responded, “I like to think so. My husband and I enjoy experimenting cooking different vegetables and recipes that we didn’t grow up with.”

The job…

Angela has held a variety of positions at YKHC. She started her career working with the WIC office. This job, which she did for about one and a half years, involved counseling young mothers with kids up to 5 years of age. “I would talk to them about diet and health behaviors.”

From the WIC position, she eventually became a hospital dietitian working with patients in both out-patient and in-patient facilities and also with the OB unit. “Doctors would refer patients to me. My job as a dietitian was to look at the diet needs for individual patients. I would work with the hospital kitchen staff to make sure patients with special diet needs were getting appropriate meals.”

After spending a couple of years as the dietitian, Angela moved into a position where she coordinated a cardiovascular grant for people with Type II diabetes. She worked at getting this new program started by hiring staff and getting the plans and procedures in place for what work they were to complete over the next 5 years.  The care of patients includes nutrition counseling and referrals to other health care providers.

For the past year, Angela has worked in management. She now oversees a staff of 25. “Actually dietetics has become only a small part of my current job as director. I mostly work with grant programs now. I am involved with program planning, reporting and passing on communications from the corporate office level to my staff.” The staff under Angela hold a variety of positions including: nurses, dietitians who work with the YKHC diabetes program, paraprofessionals that are trained on the job, teachers, and health educators. Angela also hosts a dietetic intern from the UAA program for three weeks every fall.

When asked what Angela likes most about her job, she responded, “I like mentoring the coordinators on my staff. I enjoy helping them set and meet goals and finding ways to improve their programs. I especially enjoy sharing their successes. I also like that my job allows me to be creative and to try different leadership concepts. I like that I am empowered to do that.”

Along with her enjoyment of working with her staff, Angela also says that communication, which is a big part of her job, can be the most challenging part of her job. “I work with lots of different people and need to have the ability to get messages across clearly to everyone.”

When asked if she found anything unique about working in the dietetics profession in Bethel, Angela noted, “In Bethel you can immerse yourself in the local culture. By having a dominant culture here, it allows you to get more in depth about learning about the culture and how the diet relates to it. This would be more difficult in a place like Anchorage which is so multi-cultural.”

Besides her job at YKHC, Angela also does some volunteer work in the community. She is a participant on a school wellness team and is chair of the Eat Smart Alaska program. (Note: Eat Smart Alaska is a group of volunteers from across the state working towards a healthier Alaska. Eat Smart’s mission is to help shape food consumption in a positive way, and promote health and reducing disease among Alaskans.)

Advice to students…

When asked to give advice to students interested in the field of dietetics, Angela said, “I think in many ways the field of dietetics is similar to nursing. If you are someone who loves working with people and wants to help people live better and longer, that’s what will carry you through. It also helps to be proficient in math and science to get through the dietitian program. I think the field is always looking for people who are creative.”

Angela observes with obesity being the nation’s number one problem, she expects the field and job opportunities within the field will continue to grow. Angela noted that there is the opportunity to work in a variety of different positions and organizations if you are a dietitian. “Almost every community is going to have a WIC position. Dietitians are also finding jobs in school districts now. And then you have university food services and there is the public health side of things. There are just a lot of opportunities to move around in the field.”

This page was last updated by Janice Troyer on August 07, 2007

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