Meet Community Service Dietitian, Iman Gierdien! She is passionate about forming relationships with patients, remembering faces and seeing the impact she is making on, not only the patients, but on their families too.
Written by Iman Gierdien
The thought of becoming a dietitian never crossed my mind. I didn’t know much about the profession until I came across it when applying for university. After researching, the then unfamiliar occupation showed to be a perfect combination of my interests and hobbies: the human body and food. The more I researched, the more I became excited even though the ‘’mighty’’ google couldn’t fully describe what, and how much, you do as a dietitian.
So, I started my roller-coaster journey at Stellenbosch University. Four years blinked away, and I was halfway through final year applying for community service. Being married and never having been away from home I naturally chose options close home or big cities. To me family and being close to those who love and support me was more important than the type of facility, the type of work I would do or the state of the working environment.
My greatest fears then came true; I was only placed after swops and appeals were closed. When I read the name I thought, wow, where is that? I had never heard of it, never even seen it on the list and it was definitely not one of my ‘’many’’ (5) options. Again, I relied on google and google maps to help me along.
Making the decision to accept the post was difficult. I would be 14hours away from home and family, 7 hours away from my husband and in rural Eastern Cape, deep deep rural. After much deliberation and many tears, I accepted. However, it is nothing close to what I was expecting both socially and emotionally. I have made friends that feel like family and I’m in an environment that is so uplifting and positive even though I came with such a pessimistic attitude.
I am one of two dietitians at the hospital and together we conquer the challenges thrown at us. We are working with a community riddled with non-communicable disease, TB, HIV, teenage pregnancies and severe malnutrition in its children. We are working with a community that is set in their ways and beliefs and that is crippled by their economic status.
However, the best part of work is the people. Being a primary, small, hospital you’re able to form relationships with patients, remember faces and you’re able to see the impact you’re making on, not only the patients, but on their families too with such limited resources and little contact sessions.
Community service shouldn’t be a year for you to think about how much academic experience you gain. It’s an opportunity to go outside your comfort zone and develop soft skills. It should be about gaining understanding and empathy for the determinants of health and actions so that it allows you to grow into a holistic healthcare practitioner and human.
So, the greatest advice I could give is to use your community service as a year for you to cultivate the skills that cannot be taught.