From a young age, I was fascinated with learning more about the different body systems and how all the various organs function. I had always enjoyed science, but biology was my favourite.
As a Muslim, I was always looking for ways to connect my religion to science and give me a deeper understanding of the Quran within modern science. I knew that despite so many advances in science, we had yet to find out everything about the body.
At school, I chose topics such as double science, IT and Design and Technology. This was to continue my love of science but also because I was good at IT and loved being creative.
At college, I had no idea what I wanted to study, but knew I wanted to work in a hospital setting. I therefore decided to choose two sciences, including biology and chemistry as I saw they were needed for many healthcare roles.
I continued with IT and chose to do English Literature as I enjoyed writing. At this point, nobody in my family, had been to university before and I was keen to educate myself further and then work in a profession where I would help others.
When I was younger, I had thought I wanted to become a primary school teacher, however after some work experience in year 10, I realised I didn’t want to do that anymore.
In sixth form, all my friends wanted to become doctors or pharmacists, but I knew I didn’t want to become a doctor or pharmacist. First, because I didn’t like the thought of physically touching people. Second, because I knew my grades wouldn’t be enough for those roles, and thirdly, because I wanted to use my science knowledge from biology in a way that would be helpful to others, and keep their bodies healthier for longer.
I realised, I had an interest in nutrition and often read books on vitamins, minerals and new diets. I started looking through prospectuses at Allied Health professional roles and realised there was a role called a Dietitian – which meant they worked with people (which I loved). They also worked in hospitals (awesome), and they focused on diet as a treatment or used diet to prevent disease (amazing!) This was my newfound career pathway.
I wanted to use my science knowledge from biology in a way that would be helpful to others, and keep their bodies healthier for longer
After I decided to become a dietitian, I realised it would be helpful to spend time shadowing a dietitian. I therefore, arranged to shadow a local hospital dietitian, and I saw her working on a ward with unwell patients, giving advice to help make them stronger. I also shadowed her in a clinic where I saw her give advice to people with diabetes and coeliac disease and help improve their lives with the advice she gave.
From this, I was very excited, as it involved helping others using diet and nutrition and it seemed you would have a lot of variety in the role. There seemed to be different dietitians working in different conditions in the hospital.
On applying to university, I didn’t know if I would get onto my course, as I didn’t do as well as I wanted, and got much lower grades than predicted compared to what the university had wanted!
However, to my surprise I got into the local university I really wanted to go to and really enjoyed the 4 year dietetics degree I did.
I particularly found the year of placements I completed, to be the most impactful, and realised I was much more of a kinetic learner than someone who learns well through listening to lectures at university.
During university it was quite apparent to me that there was not much diversity in people on the course, compared to where I had grown up in Bradford. I was the only South Asian student in my cohort.
I also saw that a lot of the information and studies that were being taught were based on Caucasian individuals and there were limited studies on other ethnic and minority populations.
I wanted to change this and so contributed to the “Born In Bradford” study for my dissertation, focusing on South Asian individuals. I realised my strength lay in working with patients from ethnic minorities as I had a better understanding about them as a whole and spoke the same language.
After I started working, I realised that I loved variety and wanted to learn as much as I could about the different specialisms i.e. in hospitals different organs of the body had their own department and teams that would only study and look after that part of the body. I therefore kept moving roles and worked in orthopaedics, paediatrics, older adults, cardiology, gastroenterology, colorectal, critical care (general, liver, cardiac, trauma), diabetes, oncology, rehab, neurology, home enteral feeding and many others.
Later, I realised I actually was quite interested in the pancreas as an organ and I enjoyed working in those specialities e.g. diabetes, or benign (non-cancerous) and malignant (cancerous) pancreatic diseases.
I also loved teaching and sharing my knowledge to students and other professionals. I really enjoyed using my IT knowledge and creative skills to produce interesting and engaging presentations.
Interesting, I also discovered through work that I may have dyslexia and dyspraxia, which I was supported at work with adjustments to allow me to work at my best.
I love training and supporting others to develop and using my knowledge in a diverse way
Recently, the government created new roles to support GPs due to the reduced number of GPs working in primary care.
They also created Primary Care Networks (where lots of GP surgeries work together) and Advanced Practitioner roles, one of which includes a dietitian who can see patients in GP surgeries instead of patient seeing a GP.
I work as a diabetes dietitian working with 7 GP surgeries to provide advice and support to patients with pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes. The great thing about working in primary care instead of secondary care (hospitals) is that it involves a lot more prevention of disease rather than treatment of a condition where it’s at its worst.
With this new role, I have clinics or it might be group education sessions where I provide advice to those people wanting to achieve remission of their type 2 diabetes (reducing their risk of developing type 2 diabetes).
I also support people to make dietary and lifestyle changes so they can reduce their medications or reduce the amount of insulin they take.
I work with the GPs, nurses, and other professionals (e.g. occupational therapists, social prescribers, health and wellbeing coaches) in the network to help patients achieve their goals. This is done either face to face in the GP surgery or due to the COVID-19 pandemic, via the telephone.
The role allows for progression to be able to work at an advanced clinical level and do additional extended roles such as prescribe and review medications.
I started my career as a general dietitian, where you don’t really specialise and cover a lot of areas.
Then, I went on to become a specialist dietitian and changed specialisms a number of times before discovering diabetes later in my career.
A few years ago, I started working as a specialist diabetes dietitian in a hospital working with different types of diabetes, including gestational diabetes (during pregnancy), type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes and other types of genetic diabetes. I mostly worked with adults and young adults who came to clinic with type 1 diabetes.
Soon after this, I decided to try some part-time private work (working for myself). Where, I started seeing people with type 1 diabetes interested in sports or people with type 2 diabetes wanting to improve it.
I also started a new company with a few other dietitians, called Nutribytes. Which is a creative media company, where we create educational and nutritional content for health care professionals and the public. We create patient explainer videos, create educational social media content, run CPD webinars for health professionals and mentor prospective dietetic students.
We have supported many prospective dietetic and nutrition students to gain experience in a novel way, who have then gone onto secure places at university in Dietetics.
Since then, I have left my hospital and GP role and I have gone onto start another company with others, called Primary Care Dietitians. In this role, I support dietitians to work towards becoming Advanced Practitioners working in GP practices in areas such as diabetes, obesity, frailty and gastroenterology. I love training and supporting others to develop and using my knowledge in a diverse way.
The feeling of helping others and knowing you were involved in their journey and made a difference to that persons health, is very rewarding
I really love the fact that through my expert food and nutrition knowledge I can support people by diagnosing and treating dietary problems at an individual, group and wider public-health level.
I always think of myself as a creative solutions person and I love to give ideas and suggestions in different ways pitched to suit that individual for maximal benefit to them.
The feeling of helping others and knowing you were involved in their journey and made a difference to that persons health, is very rewarding.
I love that as a dietitian you have so much variety in what you can do and where you can work e.g. hospitals, community, GP surgeries or private work. Or you could do other things such as teach others as a lecturer, manage a team or department, work in media or work with apps to offer consultancy to companies or much more.
I love that the role always changes and advances and you can develop as a person and in your profession, there is so much variety and choice of roles.
Throughout my career, I have also volunteered a great deal. I have been an active member of the British Dietetic Association (BDA). I have been involved in running our local BDA branch, as Chair of the committee, for the last few years.
I have also helped set up new specialist groups when there hasn’t been anything to support dietitians in that area e.g. I recently created a new group for sports and exercise and type 1 diabetes, as there isn’t a lot of support for dietitians working in this area.
I have also volunteered a lot for a charity called Diabetes UK. I have mostly supported them on their type 1 diabetes children’s events, where I supported children to manage their carbohydrates and insulin for exercise.
I am also a Board Member of the BDA Sport and Exercise Nutrition Register (SENR), where I contribute on a national level, helping to set, maintain and enhance professional and ethical standards in sport and exercise nutrition.
I have tried to raise awareness and “Be a Voice” where I needed to advocate for a particular cause, person or condition. I will continue to try and use the most up to date evidence based nutrition advice to help people live longer and healthier lives.
I love that the role always changes and advances and you can develop as a person and in your profession, there is so much variety and choice of roles