By BGSU Marketing & Communicationa
A recent Bowling Green State University graduate is using research to help highlight the need for inclusivity among dietetics students and early career professionals in the LGBTQ+ community.
Claire Tibboles ‘23, a registered dietitian nutritionist, surveyed students, interns and early career professionals in the LGBTQ+ community as part of her master’s project for the University’s Food and Nutrition program.
She wanted to understand LGBTQ+ individuals’ perceived acceptance in the field and ways healthcare organizations could improve inclusivity — spurred by her own experiences in rotations.
“Part of me felt like this was my duty,” said Tibboles, who graduated from BGSU in April with a master’s degree in food and nutrition. “I didn’t feel like I had a choice because if I didn’t do this research, who would?”
Tibboles said research on the experiences of LGBTQ+ professionals in dietetics is uncommon. Additionally, the Commission on Dietetic Registration, the credentialing agency for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, doesn’t track gender identity or sexual orientation of practitioners.
“They may not believe it’s extraordinarily relevant to them, but the experiences of LGBTQ+ individuals speak differently,” she said. “To not have that information is a disservice. We want people to feel comfortable and supported, beginning with recognition of their presence in the field.”
Associate Dean of the BGSU Graduate College Mary-Jon Ludy, who served as an advisor on Tibboles’ research project, echoed the importance of her research.
“By focusing on the unique needs encountered by LGBTQ+ dietetics students and early career professionals, Claire’s contributions epitomize the University’s commitment as a public university for the public good,” Ludy said. “Her work demonstrates that lived experiences and visibility matter, pushing universities and employers to build inclusive environments where members of marginalized identities feel that they belong and allies are empowered to take action.”
The survey responses Tibboles received as part of her research offered suggestions such as adjusting dress code requirements, adopting more neutral language, normalizing the recognition of preferred pronouns and encouraging organizations to become allies of the LGBTQ+ community.
An educational or mentorship program to bring awareness and increased understanding of the community is something Tibboles said would also be beneficial.
“The research has been really insightful,” she said. “I’ve resonated with a lot of the qualitative responses, but I know my personal experiences only go so far. Gathering a pool of them validates that this issue does exist, and I’m hoping my research can contribute to meaningful change.”
Tibboles said her goal is to publish her research in the Journal of Critical Dietetics and use it to make formal recommendations to the dietetics community.
Carrie Hamady, the university’s Department of Public and Allied Health chair and Distinguished Teaching Professor, said Tibboles was an exemplary student in the many roles she held throughout the program.
Tibboles’ research and numerous contributions to the profession garnered her the Graduate Emerging Leader Award from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
“The thing I love about Claire is that she wants to learn,” Hamady said. “She wants to get to the bottom of whatever we’re learning about and is passionate about everything she does. She has done a lot for BGSU and the profession, and we look forward to seeing the impact she continues to have in the future.”