Five Top Tips for New Dietitians:  

The Dietitian Connection Interview with Dr. Joanna McMillan

By Laura Byrne, Dietitian Connection newsletter editor


Dr. Joanna McMillan can be found atop any list of the most widely known dietitians in Australia today. From her work as the official nutritionist of Channel 9’s Today Show, to her own Get Lean health and wellness platform, she contributes leadership and expertise to advance the field of dietetics and nutrition in the media. 

She’s not become a leader by accident, though – Joanna put in years of hard work to become the incredibly well spoken, respected and media-savvy commentator on nutrition that she is today. (For those who caught her remarks at our recent Dietitian Day, you know that she was good enough to fully engage our audience at the very end of the day! Missed it? Check out our complete recap here.)

We were lucky enough to catch a few moments with Jo during Dietitian Day to gain her advice on how new-to-the-field dietitians can become leaders, just as she has become.

Here are her five top tips for new dietitians just entering the field:

1. Develop a thick skin.  If you want to work in the media and push (nutrition) messages across, you have to stand by your guns — you’ve got to develop some confidence. The thing that I see in a lot of (particularly young,) dietitians is that they lack the confidence to stand up and speak. A lot of these more alternative or more extreme [nutrition] theories have a lot of strong or big personalities who are immovable in their discussions – and you’ve got to be equally strong to stand your ground, otherwise you’ll get swept along with the tide — and I see that happening with some dietitians.”

2. Stay up to date. “We’re taught to be sceptical, we’re taught to question studies and research, so sometimes I’m amazed at the arrogance of people with no nutritional qualifications with the strength of their convictions to whatever their particular cause is, be it paleo or sugar or whatever we’re talking about. I think some of that comes from the fact that they’ve not been taught any other way – but dietitians have. Dietitians should know your evidence, keep reading, keep up with the research.”

3. Learn from the experts. “Follow more experienced dietitians. Rosemary Stanton mentioned Dr. David Katz [in her Dietitian Day remarks], and I’m also a big David Katz fan.”

4. Check — then double-check. “I’m a 20-year-experienced dietitian, and I still go back to who I consider to be my mentors, to double-check my facts and to make sure I’ve got my chain of thought correct.” 

5. Be willing to move with research. “If we use medicine as an example, medicine has changed dramatically over the last 50 years — and no one questions that. But when we make changes in the world of nutrition, then all of a sudden it’s portrayed as, ‘Ooh, we were all wrong and now it’s all this way’, instead of being a progression and a building of what we understand about the way food affects us.”


Keep up with the latest wisdom from Dr. Joanna here.

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