Unique degree may revolutionize professions

Diet and exercise go hand in hand, which propelled WSU Spokane to design and offer an undergraduate degree that combines the two concepts. Introduced last fall, the Bachelor of Science degree in Exercise Physiology and Metabolism enables health-science students to pack a one-two punch in nutrition and exercise.

“By creating this integrated program, we are transcending the boundaries of other health-science programs that limit students to a single emphasis,” said Sally Blank, associate professor and director of the Health Sciences Program at WSU Spokane. “Now students can have expert backgrounds in two areas instead of one.”

From corporate fitness and athletic training to clinical diagnosis, graduates will have the ability to coordinate balanced nutritional and exercise programs to benefit clients and patients, Blank said.

The only integrated program of its kind in the Northwest, the degree includes coursework in exercise and nutrition topics, hands-on experience in technologically advanced clinics and labs, and a semester-long internship at a Spokane medical facility.

At the end of four years of study, students may choose to receive certification from the American College of Sports Medicine to become exercise specialists.

Blank and other program leaders also have applied for accreditation from the American Dietetics Association. This would enable students to take a fifth-year coordinated program in dietetics and receive registered dietician certification. A decision is expected from the ADA by May.

Though rigorous, the degree program is expected to contribute more competitive, valuable graduates to the health industry and push health professionals into valuing the dual approach, Blank said.

“Our students will be at the forefront of rewriting job descriptions,” she said. “We expect them to be leaders in the health field.”