Alumni Update: Julia Lang (MNLEND Fellow and Certificate in Disability Policy and Services, 2017-18)

Julia Lang

Julia Lang (MNLEND Fellow and Certificate in Disability Policy and Services, 2017-18) is a pediatric registered dietitian at Gillette Children’s Hospital in St. Paul, Minnesota. While a MNLEND Fellow and Certificate student, she interned at Gillette and the hospital hired her in July 2018. Her Gillette internship counted as MNLEND clinical observation hours and she saw lessons from her MNLEND training come to life at the hospital: patient- and family-centered care, the complexities of navigating the healthcare system for people with disabilities and their families, and the need to hear and advocate for them.

Lang had previously worked with adults as a Direct Support Professional but, when interning on an interdisciplinary care team, she immediately warmed to her young patients—many of whom are on feeding tubes or have very specialized diets—and their families. MNLEND trained her to give as much weight to their lived experiences, stories, and preferences as to evidence-based practice. Research on medical nutrition therapy for individuals with complex conditions is limited and relatively few dietitians specialize in this area. “Standard nutrition practice for general pediatrics is not appropriate for many of our patients and this is an inclusion issue on a systems level,” she observes. The scarcity of relevant evidence-based practice sparks Lang’s creativity and advocacy. She enjoys the challenge of creating (and, when necessary, advocating for) diets that suit the preferences of patients and families while still ensuring that children get the nutrition they need.

And MNLEND’s tradition of advocacy and systems critique may be opening new avenues in Lang’s career. “Topics discussed in MNLEND, as well as among my cohort, also gave me more insight on how oppressive, discriminatory systems are created and allowed to stay in place,” she recalls. “MNLEND reinforced the importance and power of advocacy both on the policy level and in my personal and professional life. I also pull a lot from what I learned in the Certificate program on things like the history and evolution of disability policy, and understanding how to contribute to systems change. It was always so interesting to hear which pieces of legislation were on the table, and learning how easy it is to get involved in changing these policies and laws. All this has helped me consider future education and practice in ethics, health policy, and law.”