Could you tell us a little about your career path/journey?
I am classified as a late bloomer when it comes to becoming an Accredited Practising Dietitian
(APD). After I completed year 12, my gap year extended out to more like 6 gap years. I then decided to roll the dice and enrol in a bachelor of Health Science at the University of Tasmania (UTAS). My original plan was to head into bioscience and pathology; however, I soon realised that being in a confined, sterile environment was not for me.
My interest pricked up when we started studying nutrition, so next thing I knew I was on my way to the University of Queensland to study a Master of Dietetics. I completed my Masters mid-2012 and initially I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time, on holiday back in Tassie, when I received an offer for 2 different part-time jobs, both in Tassie! Who said there are no jobs in Tasmania? I was then able to weave some magic to make both positions work in sync. I worked in diabetes, Aboriginal health, and then added sports nutrition to my bow a little later in 2013. Currently my sports nutrition work is more of a side project, where I conduct Skype and web-based consults under my private practice ‘McMASTER Nutrition’.
I was lucky enough to work and live in Tasmania for the best part of 4 years, until an opportunity at Diabetes Victoria came up in mid-2016. The chance to work in a larger organisation with other dietitians to progress my knowledge was hard to resist. I loved living in Tassie, and I was comfortable there, but being comfortable sometimes is a curse. I needed a new challenge and I wanted to see what all the fuss of living in the big city was about! My role with Diabetes Victoria varies from day to day. It could involve group programs for people living with diabetes, for health professionals or support workers wanting to increase their knowledge of diabetes management, diabetes camps and/or manning the Helpline service we provide. Another main area is article writing and resource development for the number of publications that we have for both consumers and health professionals. The real highlights so far have been presenting to large crowds for the Living Well with Diabetes events and the Diabetes Expo earlier this year, where we had over 3000 people attend.
2016 was the time for new challenges, as it was also my first year as a Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA) media spokesperson. The spokesperson role is fantastic to be involved in and challenging at the same time. You quickly realise not to assume anything with a journalist and that nothing is ever off the record. I will also never forget my first TV interview with the ABC’s rural show, Landline. The topic I was asked to respond to was whether alternative milks are healthier than cow’s milk. Sounds simple enough, but the filming was done in a vegan only café. Awkward…
What is one interesting fact about you?
Last year I ran my first ever full marathon in Melbourne, all 42.2km. The reason I did this was, in early 2016, I started working with an elite marathon runner about their sports nutrition. This made me think that perhaps I need to put myself in their shoes, to better fully understand the nutritional requirements of a marathon runner. It was a great experience, in a weird kind of way even fun, and I surprised myself completing the race in 3 hour 33 minutes. I plan to return in 2017 with the aim of a 3 hour 20 minute marathon personal best.
What is the largest lesson you’ve learnt?
Be patient. Not just with your patients, but with yourself. As a new grad I am sure we have all wanted to come out and change the world! Understanding when someone is ready to make a lifestyle change and when they are not ready to change, is equally as important. Help them identify their barriers to change and then encourage them to get the necessary help via other sources. They will come back to you when they are ready.
Who do you most admire as a leader and why?
I regard a real leader as someone who is selfless, authentic and provides a strong positive influence on others, to help get the best from them. The one person in recent years I see that fits this description is Neale Daniher, in regards to his campaign to Fight Motor Neuron Disease. I was lucky enough to hear him speak at a function before the Queen’s Birthday AFL match between Melbourne and Collingwood this year. If you haven’t seen his speech to the Melbourne players prior to the game, do yourself a massive favour and watch the video online.
Last book you read: I have a strong history of starting books and not seeing them to the finish. However, my last was Aussie Grit, an autobiography by Mark Webber. Not only am I a mad motorsport fanatic, (cheers dad), but I love a good underdog story. Webber is the definition of determination and dedication, in a sport where money usually trumps talent.
Highest priority on your to-do-list: To finally get my website for McMASTER Nutrition up and running. Moving to Melbourne and getting caught up in all the fun things to do and see here has been somewhat of a barrier, but watch this space…
I cannot live without: Coffee, strong coffee.
Something I always have on my desk and why: My big blue water bottle to keep myself hydrated and helps curb any unnecessary cravings and I also have an emergency coffee supply. I don’t have a problem, I can quit whenever I want to…