We chat to registered dietitian and ADSA spokesperson, Thembekile Dlamini to find out why she became a dietitian and what she loves most about her work. Thembekile works at the Free State Department of Health, is busy doing her PhD in Public Health and has a special interest in paediatric nutrition.
Why did you become a Registered Dietitian?
Saving lives has always been my first priority but I didn’t want to do it in the usual and obvious ways that society dictates. I saw a need to communicate the science of nutrition especially for the benefit of the black community. I thought if I understood healthy eating in any context, I would then be able to disseminate information correctly and with sensitivity to cultural preferences. That way I knew I would make a difference and save lives through nutrition.
What do you enjoy most about the work you do? What are the most satisfying moments?
I am mostly based in the paediatric ward, doing both inpatients and outpatients. When I meet a helpless soul in the ward admitted for whatever condition, just knowing that I will make a difference in their life makes my life and work enjoyable.
Most satisfying moments: every time my little patients get well and are discharged and I know I made a huge difference on their journey to getting better.
What has been your career highlight?
I have a couple of those:
- When mortality rates of a hospital dropped within 3 months of my arrival in the facility.
- When my child health and nutrition research paper got an award for best poster presentation in 2015 in the whole province.
- Getting a Gold award for saving cost of service delivery in the province through my hard work.
What are the most challenging aspects of your career?
Working with the most disadvantaged communities which cannot afford even the basic foods. Counseling them becomes a challenge because they always highlight their affordability challenges.
How do you cope after a day of nutrition disaster and bad eating choices?
I have a few of those but when they happen, I drink lots of water and morning exercise.
What are the three things that you think people should stop saying when they meet a dietitian?
- Please give me a diet
- I want to loose weight
- Give me a list of the right foods to eat
What should clients look out for when deciding which dietitian to work with?
- Dietitian must be registered with the Health Professions Council of South Africa
- Dietitian must have a practice number and/or have a facility practice number
- Must be easily accessible
- Must be reliable
- Must have a love for people
- Must provide quality services
What is your favourite dish and your favourite treat food?
Pap and Masonja (Mopani worms) in tomato sauce!
I love Rum ‘n Raisin ice cream. A bowl of that is the perfect treat!