Meet the Dietitian: Community service series

If you have accomplished everything you have ever dreamed about… What is the next step?

By Rian Coutts


Story behind why I became a Dietitian.

Life is always full of twists and turns, full of unexpected journeys and becoming a dietitian was probably the most unexpected one for me. The real feeling of why, started when I was first introduced to the hospital and clinic environment when still at University. I studied at the University of Potchefstroom (NWU) and from the start I knew I wanted to make a difference. I always believed that it is the small thing in life that matters and nutrition, in every way is definitely one of the biggest smallest things that matters the most. If you can teach anyone to understand the importance of that, everything will just fall into place. That in extent will always be the main reason why I became a Dietitian, to emphasize the importance of nutrition in all aspects of life, more specifically in children. 

The second part of the journey lead me to a small town in the North West called Wolmaransstad where I’m currently working at the small primary Hospital of Nic Bodenstein.  A big part of my daily duties is the management of Malnutrition, more specifically Severely Acute Malnutrition (SAM) cases. You can almost say that this year made me a specialist in the management of SAM cases. It became a big part of me and I am very passionate about it. That being said it is also the biggest challenge. Not all the cases are the same, meaning every paediatric patient seen with SAM is a different case and when the opportunity presents itself you have to use more than your knowledge. But I have been given a lot of opportunities to promote health in all aspects, which is a big part of me as well.

In every situation you have to trust yourself, don’t be afraid. Use everything you have inside and be prepared to take risks when it comes to yourself. First impressions are difficult because, everyone sees situations differently. In the end you have to have a little faith, no one said it was going to be easy, but it is most definitely worth it. What I’ve learned is that every day has a different challenge, a different test will present itself when it is most unexpected. 


A small message of encouragement is…

Don’t worry about where you might end up, it doesn’t matter. You are there to make a difference and that is more important. Take every day as a new day, a new adventure and never forget that a dream is just the starting point of something, not the end.


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Meet the Dietitian: Community service series

“You care capable of anything”

By Bianca Lawrie


Why dietetics?

 Throughout school I had a ‘love – hate’ relationship with food. I felt like I never truly understood nutrition messages and how I could nourish my body without causing more damage to my disastrous relationship with food. Should I skip breakfast? Should I only eat fruits and vegetables? The diet says I need to eat eight carrots a day – side effects: your hands might turn orange (wait, what? I don’t want to look orange?). I wanted to understand the nuances around nutrition, what it truly meant to nourish my body and how to heal my relationship with food. I attended my first lecture at the Nelson Mandela University in February of 2014 and I was hooked.  I wanted the answers to the questions I so fiercely tried to seek. 


All about my current job: 

I work as a clinical community service dietitian in Zeerust, a small farming town near the border of Botswana in the North West. Our case load mostly consists of malnutrition, diabetes, hypertension, TB and anemia but we’ve seen an array of different cases. I am also involved in a lot of outreach work which I love. We are running a nutrition programme at the local primary school at the moment which has been so fun. We do a lot of work with the crèches in the nearby villages, clinics and community health centers. Throughout my university career I worked as a swim coach, so I was thrilled when we started working with the crèches and schools. 


My biggest challenge and what I love: 

My biggest challenge was tackling the idea that I will be 1100 km’s away from home. A new department, new people, getting used to a much hotter climate and limited resources to work with – I was nervous. However after a month of finally understanding the ropes and getting settled, the idea of being so far away from home wasn’t so daunting. 

Being able to apply the knowledge I’ve gained in order to help others is what I love the most. Irrespective of my placement, I can help make some else’s life better. You can be placed at a tertiary hospital or a small 80 bed hospital like mine, either way – you have the opportunity to help someone every single day. You are no longer in practice mode; your job now is to serve your patients and community every day. 


To the community service dietitians of 2020, remember you are capable of anything. Whether you’re close to home or 1100 km’s away, this year is yours. Explore and don’t be scared to be uncomfortable. Get used to the idea of working with few resources – soon you will figure out how to make it work.  Use this year to learn from your allieds and teach where you can. Make friends with the other comm. servs because they’ll soon become family.


Before you know it, you’ll be packing your bags to move back home.