About Dr. Sunitha Zechariah
Dr. Sunitha Zechariah is a highly skilled clinician, dietetic educator, and researcher with extensive experience in practicing & teaching clinical nutrition in the United States and Overseas. She completed her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in reputed institutions in India. She later received a full Australian Government Scholarship for further education and completed a Master’s Honors Degree at the University of Wollongong, NSW, Australia. She completed her PhD at Augusta University, GA, USA.
Dr. Zechariah took her passion for Nutrition Focused Physical Exam (NFPE), her experience and skills through systematic and comprehensive research, has developed a much needed tool that will help the industry move the Dietitians’ profession forward. Her acknowledgment of the exorbitant numbers of malnourished patients in hospitals today that go undiagnosed, untreated, and undocumented and recognizing the potential that accurate performance of an NFPE by Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDNs) could have in improving diagnosis of malnutrition, resulted in the research and development of the Interactive Nutrition Specific Physical Exam Competency Tool (INSPECT).
She has asserted that without a standardized, reliable, and valid tool to access dietitians’ ability to perform such an examination, educators and clinical supervisors are unable to evaluate RDN/student needs relating to instructional training in completing an NFPE. Dr. Zechariah’s groundbreaking work has helped to fill this gap by developing a reliable and valid tool to evaluate RDNs’ competency in performing NFPE on adult patients.
Dr. Zechariah has worked tirelessly to educate both dietitians and dietetic interns on performing NFPEs by developing and conducting extensive training and hand-on workshops.
Published articles on her NFPE research work:
1. “Item Generation in the Development of an Interactive Nutrition Specific Physical Exam Competency Tool (INSPECT): A Qualitative Study Utilizing
Technology-Based Focus Groups in the United States” which was published in Healthcare in May 2021. https://www.mdpi.com/2227-9032/9/5/576/htm
2. Content and Face Validation of a Novel, Interactive Nutrition Specific Physical Exam Competency Tool (INSPECT) to Evaluate Registered Dietitians’ Competence: A Delphi Consensus from the United States” which was published in Healthcare in September 2021. https://www.mdpi.com/2227-9032/9/9/1225
3. Inter-Rater and Intra-Rater Reliability of the INSPECT (Interactive Nutrition Specific Physical Exam Competency Tool) Measured in Multi-Site Acute Care Settings” which was published in Healthcare in January 2022. https://www.mdpi.com/2227-9032/10/2/212
4. Item-Level Analysis of a Newly Developed Interactive Nutrition Specific Physical Exam Competency Tool (INSPECT) Using the Rasch Measurement Model, which was published in Healthcare in January 2022. https://www.mdpi.com/2227-9032/10/2/259/htm
Dr. Zechariah’s NFPE Research Impact:
1. Invited and authored book chapter on Nutrition focused Physical Exam to Detect Macronutrient Deficiencies in the first comprehensive book on Adult Malnutrition: Diagnosis and Treatment – November 2022
2. 2022 People Choice Award for the poster “Development and Validation of an Interactive Competency Tool to Evaluate RDNs’ NFPE Skills – CNM DPG Symposium 2022
3. Conducted over 103 virtual NFPE workshops and trained over 400 dietitians.
4. Conducted in-person and virtual NFPE workshops and trained over 360 dietetic students.
5. Presented micronutrient deficiencies exam hands-on workshop for the South Carolina Dietetic Association in April 2022.
6. Conducted NFPE hands-on workshop for Augusta District Dietetic Association during Spring Workshop in 2019
7. Conducted NFPE exam hands-on workshop to University Hospital dietitians in 2019.
8. Conducted NFPE macronutrient deficiencies exam webinar and NFPE micronutrient deficiencies exam webinar in 2020 to Morrison Healthcare dietitians
9. Presented guest lectures to University of Alabama Masters students on advanced diagnostic focused physical exam. (2021 and 2022)
10. Peer Reviewer for multiple journals – Nutrition in Clinical Practice, Journal of Dietetic Education, Asian Journal of Physical Therapy and Healthcare
Other Publications:1. “Attitudes and Behavior towards Interprofessional Collaboration among Healthcare Professionals in a Large Academic Medical Center”, published in Healthcare. https://www.mdpi.com/2227-9032/8/3/323 2. “Interprofessional Education and Collaboration in Healthcare: An Exploratory Study of the Perspectives of Medical Students in the United States”, published in Healthcare. https://www.mdpi.com/2227-9032/7/4/117 3. “Minimizing False Positive Referral Generated from the Malnutrition Screening Tool”, published in the Journal of Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. DOI: 10.1016/j.jand.2016.05.014 4. Poster on “Don’t Wait Until a Disaster Strikes: Use an Innovative Disaster Planning Calculator and Menu Toolkit to Accurately Project Your Facility’s Emergency Food and Water Supply” at the FNCE in 2016 5. Poster titled “Minimizing inappropriate referrals from Malnutrition Screening Tool – Is It Feasible? along with Wendy Phillips at FNCE in 2014 6. Poster titled “The simple effective approach in reducing the inappropriate use of adult parenteral nutrition therapy” at FNCE (October 2012)
- 2023 Distinguished Researcher award from the Georgia Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
- 2022 Outstanding Dietetic Educator Award for the South-Central Region from the Nutrition and Dietetic Educator and Preceptors of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
- 2022 People Choice Award Winner for the poster “Development and Validation of an Interactive Competency Tool to Evaluate RDNs’ NFPE Skills – CNM DPG Quality Improvement Project
- 2019 Distinguished Service to the Georgia Academy from the Georgia Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
- 2018 Outstanding Dietitian of the Year from the Georgia Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
- 2018 Sally Fischer Registered Dietitian Scholarship Award from Augusta District Dietetic Association
- Morrison Regional Clinical Nutrition Manager of the Year 2014
- Morrison Clinical Excellence Award two years in a row – 2012 and 2011
- 2012 Georgia Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Distinguished Service to a District – Augusta Area
- 2009 Morrison Clinical Nutrition Manager of the year for the O’Brien Region
- 2007 VHA Georgia Award for a project I led on “reducing nosocomial blood stream infection, a multidisciplinary approach” at the University Hospital (currently Piedmont Augusta)