Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Alumni Profile: Ashley Toh

“You need to work hard and take the initiative to learn; then trust that you are well equipped with the skills and knowledge to make a difference.”

Having graduated from the Bachelor of Nutrition and Dietetics in 2014, Ashley Toh has found herself in an exciting position at the nexus of healthcare and technology. Today, Ashley works at Holmusk, a digital health company based in Singapore, where she coaches diabetic and overweight clients through a mobile app.

“As I coach my clients on a daily basis, I build great rapport with them and I am also able to monitor their progress more closely than in a typical outpatient setting. I achieve a great sense of satisfaction seeing their progress and I like being able to be ‘there’ and providing them with the support they need to keep going.”

Her studies at Monash University, combined with her immense passion for food (from eating, cooking, modifying recipes, to studying food and its impacts on health as well as talking about food), allowed Ashley to explore the breadth and depth of the world of nutrition, providing a strong theoretical and practical foundation.

“I truly appreciate the exposure to a wide range of dietetic opportunities during our course of study. The placements and projects we completed at Monash were helpful not only to provide insight to the various areas of dietetic work but also an advantage whilst starting my first job as a dietitian. I would say that Monash has provided me with an all rounded skill set to set foot in the industry.”

Ashley finds being a dietitian and being able to help others to improve their health to be incredibly rewarding. To those who want to pursue a career in the field, Ashley says that perseverance and confidence is key, but it is also important to not be afraid to make mistakes as she has learnt the most from her mistakes.

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Patients’ experiences of written, spoken and visual menus in hospital

Many hospital patients are familiar with ticking boxes on a written menu to select their meal preferences each day. Although the written menu is used in many hospitals, filling it out can be challenging for patients, including those who are visually impaired, frail or confused, or those who speak or read little English. This means that patients may not get the foods that they prefer, putting them at risk of undernutrition.

Researchers from Monash University’s Department of Nutrition, Dietetics and Food explored hospital patients’ experiences of three meal-ordering systems – written, spoken and visual menus – in a recent study published in Nursing Standard. They found that patients responded positively to spoken and visual menus, where patients felt better cared for and had a clearer understanding of the meals they had selected, with meal orders better tailored to their needs.

“We wanted to find out what patients thought about using the written menu, and whether there was a better way to collect meal orders from patients” said PhD Candidate and researcher Ella Ottrey.

Spoken menus are when food service staff read menu options to patients, and visual menus involve showing patients images of food and drink items. 

The research found that meal quality and menu variety was important to patients, regardless of which meal-ordering system was used.

Those patients who received the spoken and visual menus appreciated the additional information provided by these systems, helping them make their meal selections and form more realistic expectations of what would be delivered at meal time.

Interestingly, Mrs Ottrey noted that “participants receiving the spoken and visual menus described how these systems promoted the sense of care and attention, adding the personal touch to meal ordering.” This sense of care and attention may contribute to a more positive patient experience during hospital stays.

Mrs Ottrey said that “hospitals should consider using spoken and visual menus as a way to offer a more personalised meal-ordering service and to improve patient satisfaction with hospital foodservices.” She added that “hospital foodservice departments should focus more on providing patients with adequate choice and information about menu options, and minimising the time between meal ordering and delivery.”

“This research has given us insight into what is important to patients with regards to meal ordering, as well as identifying some ways to improve hospital foodservices in the future.” Mrs Ottrey said.
The research team are now investigating staff, volunteer and visitor perspectives of hospital mealtimes, to learn more about the hospital mealtime environment and the practices of staff, volunteers and visitors.

Ella Ottrey is supported by a National Health and Medical Research Council postgraduate scholarship.

Access the publication in Nursing Standard here.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Monash Nutrition students make a difference abroad

Last month, a delegation of 10 students from the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics visited Fiji as part of the volunteer program. Friends4Fiji is a not-for-profit organisation, based at Monash UniveristyClayton, that aims to bring medical knowledge and resources to the Urman Prasad School of Medicine at the University of Fiji.

It was such a privilege to be able to empower people with the skills to change their futures. It was really impacting to see ‘the light turn on’ for people when they realised that they could improve their health and the health of their families through food”. said Hannah Vass, who volunteered with the program.  

The group delivered programs to local high school students including nutrition education and cooking classes as well as pre-diabetes testing. 

Delegates worked with Medical Students from the University of Fiji who were interested in learning more about the role of nutrition in health. Here they spoke about their work at a Public Health forum at the University.

Free health screenings and individual nutrition counselling sessions in community centres and villages were provided as part of the program.

There is a vital role for dietitians and nutritionists in Fiji to influence individuals eating behaviours, as well as making the food environment and culture more supportive of healthy eating to prevent disease.” Said Hannah. “When we saw the individuals and families suffering from largely preventable conditions, we realised how crucial education is.”

Travelling to Fiji allowed students from the department to address nutrition issues first hand. ‘I've learnt as a future health professional that you can never predict what a person will need, rather it is extremely important to have an open mind and listen to them’.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Alumni Profile: Roxanne Tan

We sat down with Monash Nutrition graduate Roxanne Tan to find out about her role as a Graduate Nutritionist with Simplot Australia. Starting out in a Commerce degree, Roxanne realised early on that her passion lay with food and its role in health. After completing her Bachelor of Commerce, she enrolled with Monash University and has never looked back.

You only need to take one look at her Instagram account to see that her passion for food is also explored through photography (@roxanne_thelemonandjar). Roxanne also produced the photography for the Department of Nutrition, Dietetics and Food’s e-recipe book ‘Using Food as Medicine: Fighting Inflammation’.

“Say ‘yes’ to as many opportunities as you can; work hard and don’t doubt yourself; and always have time to make real connections with the people around you.”

What do you love most about your job/career?
The diversity of my role at Simplot and the amazing people I get to work with every day. The great thing about being a Nutritionist in food industry is that I get to work closely with other professions such as Marketing, Product Development, Sensory, Culinary and Corporate Quality. There are always new projects to work on and exciting things to be involved in… and at the end of a project, you get to see a product you worked on, on the supermarket shelves! It is also a very rewarding career. Food industry nutritionists are able to positively affect the food supply (i.e. the food people buy at their weekly grocery shop) and hence influence the health of many Australians.

How did you get to where you are today? Was there a pivotal decision or occurrence?
It was a pivotal decision. Halfway through my Commerce degree, I realised that my passion was in food. Nutrition in particular had always fascinated me because I had experienced firsthand how powerful nutrition was in health, both physically and mentally. From there, I made the conscious decision to complete that commerce degree and pursue a degree in Nutrition Science at Monash.        
I think it was this passion for nutrition that ultimately drove me to do well; I really challenged myself to do well in my course and also participated in activities (at and outside university) that I knew would help me gain the fundamental skills I would need to succeed as a Nutritionist. Mind you, it was fun too! I met an awesome group of likeminded people and we supported each other through the course. They were quintessential to my university experience and I still see them all the time!

To summarise – it was hard work, good friends and passion.

How has Monash University influenced your career?
Honestly, Monash has been enormously influential in shaping my career thus far.

My faculty brought in external speakers to talk about all the different career paths we could take from our course. That really helped me get a proper grasp of what my options were, what they entailed, and more importantly, where I wanted to go. My lecturers were fundamental to my learning experience and were even so kind to offer their support when it came time to finding a job; they gave me some amazing and very practical advice, which ultimately helped me find my dream job!

Alumni Profile: Shistata Shrestha

My advice would be to not to be afraid if things aren’t going according to your ‘career plan’. Be open-minded and take every opportunity, you may pleasantly surprise yourself.” 

Shistata Shrestha graduated from the Bachelor of Nutrition Science in 2016 and hasn’t slowed down, not one bit. In 2017 she started her research career, enrolling in an Honours by research year.

“I was offered my Honours project by Hawkins Watts, a food ingredient company, where I undertook placement in third year. I had never expected to be provided such an opportunity, and despite my initial fear, I decided to do it.” Shistata is assessing the plausibility of using fruit and vegetable extracts to improve the food supply and ultimately increase health on a large public health scale. 

“As an Intern in the food industry, I love seeing the processes involved in product development. I have definitely found a new appreciation for food products now!”.

Combining her internship with Hawkins Watts Australia and her Honours year with her supervisors, Shistata “develop(s) new perspectives and think(s) more innovatively.”

Studying Nutrition Science at Monash University exposed Shistata to various nutrition related careers from the beginning of the course, such as public health, research, clinical, and the food industry. She notes that it widened her outlook and encouraged her to broaden her own career journey.

“I started my degree with a sole passion for clinical dietetics. As my studies went on, I delved into new aspects of nutrition, including partaking in an industry placement as well as research.  This allowed me to see what else I enjoy and was capable of, leading to my current Honours degree.” 

Monday, 24 July 2017

Margaret Murray places 3rd in Faculty 3MT finals

Congratulations to SCS PhD student Margaret Murray who was placed third in the Faculty's 3MT Finals.

A PhD candidate in the Department of Nurtition, Dietetics and Food, Margaret is investigating the benefits of seaweed polyphenols and whether they may reduce the risk of chronic disease.

Watch Margaret's 3MT presentation HERE.