I graduated from a Bachelor of Health Sciences at the University of Sydney in 2013, majoring in health sciences (public health, health ethics and health policy) and nutrition science. I then began a Master of Nutrition and Dietetics, which has enabled me to become an Accredited Practicing Dietitian (APD) registered with the Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA). This degree equipped me with skills and expertise in clinical nutrition reasoning, public health and health research.
What is your current role?
I am currently a research officer at the BSU, Sydney Children’s Hospital. I work predominately within the nutrition and health behaviours study stream across the Reboot Kids and Adolescents studies. Many children have difficulty adopting healthy eating habits after they finish cancer treatment, and it can be challenging for parents to support their child to eat healthily, especially fruit and vegetables.
Reboot Kids hopes to better support childhood cancer survivors and their families through a series of guided phone calls providing information, strategies and support about healthy eating and other health-promoting behaviours. Reboot Adolescents aims to assess the interest of adolescent cancer survivors and their caregivers in a lifestyle intervention to promote healthy eating and physical activity. Feedback from Reboot Adolescents will help us to create a program that meets the needs of adolescent cancer survivors and their families, supporting them to re-establish and maintain healthy habits into adulthood.
What are the ‘best’ parts of your current role?
The people at the BSU! I love that I work with people from a variety of academic, research and other backgrounds who are friendly, supportive, passionate and believe that their research can make a real difference to families affected by cancer.
I also enjoy the variety of my role. So far, I have written nutrition content, taken photos for a parent resource and investigated various dietary assessment measures for Reboot Kids, started to recruit participants to Reboot Adolescents, and contributed to a systematic review related to children’s nutrition. I am excited to begin the Reboot Kids intervention with interested families soon.
What are the most challenging parts of your current role?Research into what people eat is notoriously difficult, and designing nutrition research studies which gather accurate and useful data in a feasible and acceptable way can be trickier still. I am challenged in my role to think outside the square, contact other researchers in my field and evaluate dietary assessment tools for their applicability to our research. It is challenging (but also rewarding!) to find solutions to these complex, ‘real life’ research problems.
Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
I aim to be working as a leader in paediatric nutrition, conducting qualitative and quantitative research alongside clinical work. I have always wanted to complete a PhD, and hope to be planning – or working on – a PhD in five years’ time.
What advice would you have for someone wanting to follow a similar path in terms of their study/career?
Try to be assertive and develop as much experience and contacts as you can as a student. During university, I completed two research projects in addition to my studies, one related to cancer and another focusing on prenatal nutrition. I read about the work of other researchers at my university and contacted those working in areas that interested me. I also continue to volunteer with organisations related to food and nutrition (Jamie’s Ministry of Food and OzHarvest).
These experiences bolstered my skills in qualitative and quantitative research, academic writing and communicating nutrition information to different audiences, including parents, children and people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. They were also invaluable opportunities to make connections with academics and food advocates that are now my mentors and friends.
For more information about the Reboot Kids and Reboot Adolescents studies, please contact Lauren Touyz or Allison Grech.
The Behavioural Sciences Unit is Proudly Supported by the Kids with Cancer Foundation.