8 June 2021
We have one of the largest and most established dietetic teams within mental health and learning disability services in the UK, supporting the people we care for to make healthier choices about their diets, leading to improved mental and physical health.
Our team of registered dietitians, nutritionists, associate practitioners and dietetic assistants work across Teesside, Durham and Darlington, North Yorkshire and York.
During Dietitians Week 2021, we’re celebrating some of our dietitians by getting to know them a little better and finding out the biggest myth about being a dietitian.
Laura Passman: I qualified as a dietitian from Leeds Metropolitan University (as it was then) in 2000.
Over my 20 year career I have mainly worked within mental health services; my speciality area being eating disorders. I have been lucky enough to support our great dietetic team in growing from just one dietitian in 2006 to almost 40 members of staff today.
Aiden: I am an adult mental health dietitian working across inpatient and community settings in Durham and Darlington.
Originally from Ireland, studied in Leeds and moved to the North East roughly a year ago to work at the Trust. I like to cook (which is par for the course with dietitians really) particularly Italian and Asian foods.
Kezia: I am the lead dietitian for mental health services for older people in North Yorkshire and York. I’m originally from Northern Ireland but started life as a dietitian in London, after graduating there.
I moved to Yorkshire last year, the day before the memorable first lockdown. In true dietetic form, I love all activities around food (apart from blue cheese!) including cooking and baking.
Vangelis: I completed my degree in nutrition and dietetics in Alexander Technological Educational Institute of Thessaloniki back in Greece in 2010.
My interest in sports led me to continue my studies and in 2015 I completed my master degree in Exercise and Nutrition Science at University of Chester. Since 2019, I have been working as a dietitian covering mental health services for older people for the Teesside and Darlington area.
What is the best thing about being a dietitian?
Kezia: Being able to work with and help lots of different people in lots of different ways.
Aiden: Outside of my professional life, people are usually interested in dietetics and ask questions about food, nutrition, diets etc, and that can lead to some fun conversations and makes meeting new people much easier.
Vangelis: There is definitely not one! But if I had to choose one, I would say the involvement with patients’ care and the fact that you are actively contributing in health improvements. It gives you the sense that you are a part of something bigger.
Laura: Working with lots of different people, from different backgrounds and helping them as best I can and being able to continually learn.
Why did you become a dietitian?
Vangelis: When I was back in high school a came across a book with title ‘food is medicine’ which triggered my curiosity. I remember finishing this book within a week and frankly I am not a book person! Then I realised that is the topic that pulled my interest. The fact that dietetics is an evidence based profession has decisively contributed to my choice, as I have always been attracted by research.
Laura: A love of food, a love of helping people and wanting to work in healthcare
Kezia: As a child, I loved reading the nutritional information on cereal boxes! This led me to love learning about nutrition and then how this can be applied to make improvements to health. I also knew that I wanted to be able to help people and dietetics allows me to combine these two things.
Aiden: I was interested in cooking as a teenager, then became interested in nutrition and health – particularly sports nutrition. As time went on I decided that using my interest in food and nutrition to help people would be interesting and rewarding.
What is the biggest myth about dietetics, or being a dietitian?
Aiden: That we just help people to lose weight when in reality dietitians work in a broad range of clinical areas.
Laura: That we never eat anything “unhealthy”!
Kezia: That we only eat salad and don’t eat cake…!
Vangelis: I think the misinterpretation of dietetics and dietitian’s role is the greater myth out there! People usually ask me what do I do for a living and when I give them the answer they usually reply that they need to follow a healthier diet or to lose weight. Surprisingly, similar responses I have also received from patients who have been referred for nutrition support or their family members when I explain them who I am and the purpose of my visit. I feel that the clinical aspect and our part in preventing malnutrition and weight loss is often overlooked.
And finally, if you weren’t a dietitian, what would you be?
Kezia: Probably still something to do with food such as having a café or bakery!
Aiden: Maybe a secondary school teacher, teaching a science or English, something like that.
Vangelis: I love travelling and meeting different people, new cultures and traditions. Therefore, if I was not a dietitian, I think I would either be a pilot or a bus driver working for a travel agency.
Laura: An interior designer, a florist or a party planner!