Meet the Dietitian: Philna Eksteen

Philna Eksteen serves on the ADSA Executive Committee 2021 – 2023 in the Portfolio CPD (Continuous Professional Development). Read on to get to know her better!

  • Tell us a bit more of yourself?

I was born, raised and went school and university (North West University – NWU) in Potchefstroom. Having a father as a lecturer at the university and a mother as a school teacher, I know very early in my life that would like to be ‘some form of teacher’, later it became clear to me that I would like to work with students at a university. I am therefore very fortunate to have been involved in academics as a registered dietitian in the training of dietetic students for the last 25 years, at first at SMU (Pretoria) and the last 10 years at NWU (Potchefstroom).

  • Why did you become a Registered Dietitian?

As a student, I first enrolled for Home Economics (now known as Consumer Sciences). I did ballet and modern dance for many years and continued with it into my student years. This created a natural interest in general health and fitness and triggered as much bigger passion for evidence-based nutrition, leading to me changing my studies to Dietetics already early in my 1st years at the university. With more studies, I learnt that general health & fitness and weight management are only very small components of the scope of dietetic practice. Since I also seriously considered studying medicine at a point in time, medical nutrition therapy and the difference we a registered dietitians can make in the life of patients and clients, made a big impact on me.

  • What would you have wanted to do if not Dietetics?

Becoming a medical doctor or an accountant.

  • Where did you study (degree and/ or postgraduate)?
  • BSc Dietetics (1992) and BSc Honours (Dietetics) (1993) degrees – North West University (NWU), Potchefstroom Campus
  • Post-graduate Diploma in Hospital Dietetics (1995) – at University of Pretoria (UP)
  • MSc (Dietetics) degree (2014) – NWU (Potchefstroom Campus)
  • Where do you work and what does your job entail?

From 2010, I have been working at the NWU, Potchefstroom in the Dietetics department, mainly as a lecturer & the internship coordinator of the 4th year Dietetics students, travelling to students at training facilities, evaluating and supporting them and ensuring quality control of the internship training.

  • Walk us through a day in your life?

Not one day is the same, depending on where I need to do visits to and evaluate my students in the internship – hospitals, various community settings or foodservice units. A day when visits are not required will be typically spent at the office, managing admin and other academic duties.

  • What do you enjoy most about the work you do? What are the most satisfying moments?

Working with my students and encouraging them to do their best and becoming the best young dietitian they can be. Nothing is more satisfying when students improve on their performance with hard work and dedication, and receiving positive reports from training personnel.

  • What has been your career highlight?
  • Every year bring highlights, especially when the 4th year Dietetic students graduate
  • Obtaining my MSc in Dietetics and publishing my 1st article
  • Serving my profession by serving on ADSA branch committees (NW and Pretoria) in several portfolios and also several terms as chairlady
  • Serving my profession by serving on the ADSA executive committee (terms 2009 – 2011 and 2011 – 2013 in the membership portfolio and also, the current term 2021 – 2023 in the CPD portfolio)
  • What are the most challenging aspects of your career?

Act as a go-between my students and dietetic internship training personnel, always having to have an open ear, mind and heart for both parties, not judging either side too quickly and facilitating good communication between the parties involved to ensure quality training of the students. And also, not getting angry too quickly about incompetent individuals in my profession.

  • What is something that people don’t know about you?

I am a dancer in my heart, doing ballet for most of my young life as a child, young girl and student. I love music and also want to dance when I hear good music.

  • What are your favourite foods?

Salads, eggs, pasta, pizza and seafood dishes

  • What are the three things that you think people should stop saying when they meet a dietitian?

“Hey, maybe you should work out a diet for me, then I will lose weight!”

“I should actually not eat this in front of you”

“Have you heard about this …….. (newest fad) diet? It really works!!”