Meet The Dietitian Night

Tonight was the annual Meet The Dietitian Night at UBC, sponsored (hosted by? endorsed by? I’m not sure the right term) the BC Representative for Dietitians of Canada and our Student DC Reps. Deviating from the traditional “panel at the front answering questions from the audience” format, this year the set up involved rotating through small group discussions, with students getting to choose the speakers they wanted to sit in on. We were provided with a list of 10 dietitians in BC, all with diverse backgrounds and areas of practice, and ranked our top five choices. When we arrived this evening, we were given our “schedule”, and away we went. I was lucky enough to end up with my top three choices.

Vesanto Melina, MS, RD

Vesanto Melina, MS, RD, is a Registered Dietitian and co-author of Dietitians of Canada’s and the American Dietetic Association’s position paper on vegetarian nutrition and of 9 books on nutrition which have become classics in the field (Becoming Vegetarian, Becoming Vegan, Becoming Raw, Raising Vegetarian Children, the Raw Food Revolution Diet, the Food Allergy Survival Guide, Health Eating to Prevent and Treat Cancer, Cooking Vegetarian and a book on Yves veggie products). She has been in private practice for 30 years and acted as a consultant for individuals (including Shania Twain and Bryan Adams), companies (Natures Path, Sunrise Tofu, Yves, Omega Nutrition, Grainworks) and government (B.C. Corrections). She trained at the University of London England and the University of Toronto and taught at UBC: her website is .

Gelina Syfchuck, RD

Gelina graduated with her B.Sc. Hon (Dietetics) from UBC in 2004 and completed her internship at St. Paul’s Hospital the following year, choosing electives within HIV/AIDS and Aboriginal health. She also did part of her schooling on an exchange to the University of Wollongong in Australia in her third year.  Her first job in dietetics was in long term care- it allowed her to really connect with the people she was caring for, manage a food service team, and being the lone dietitian on site, provided her with excellent experience.  In 2008, she began  working as a counselling dietitian at Copeman Healthcare.  She works one-on-one with clients in a comprehensive, prevention-based, clinic environment. She sees a range of clients across the age spectrum, from healthy people to those currently managing health conditions. She loves what she does, and looks forward to chatting with you about it!

Desiree Nielsen, RD

Desiree Nielsen earned her degree from UBC and went on to complete her internship at Capital Health in Edmonton in 2008. Desiree is currently Nutrition Operations Manager at Choices Markets, where she helps customers eat well through direct consultation, seminars, her Partners in Wellness newsletter and more. She is also on the medical advisory for the Vancouver Celiac Association chapter, the dietitian for the Christy Clark Show on CKNW radio and a new mom.

(bios from the event email)

I was so happy to get the chance to sit with all three of these women, as they all hold diverse roles in the dietetics community outside of the traditional clinical area of practice. To me, it’s important to get these kind of exposures and interactions with those outside of a clinical setting, because the majority of our schooling, and our internship, is really geared towards working in a clinical setting. I’m not saying I don’t value that, and that I don’t want to work in a hospital, but part of me really wants to move beyond that, as I see so much potential for growth of the dietetics profession outside of the hospital and health authorities walls. To get to sit and talk with these dietitians out there in less traditional roles, even if only for 20 minutes, really is inspiring and validates that your own aspirations of doing something “different” are worthy of pursuing.

I felt like the three I met with were the perfect compliment of all the areas I find myself gravitating towards – Vesanto is an accomplished author and runs her own private practice and consulting, Gelina works in a private holistic health care centre where prevention is a key focus, and Desiree gets to interact with people right where all their food decisions are being made in the grocery store. Of course I would have loved the chance to sit down with any of the other guests, as I’m sure they all have valuable stories to share, but there are only so many hours in the day!

Thanks to all of the Dietitians of Canada representatives for putting on such a successful event, and to all the RD’s who gave up their Monday evening to head out into the –6 degrees Celcius (plus wind chill) weather to come talk to all of us aspiring students. Networking events like this are so important, even for us students, so if there are any individuals looking to apply to the UBC or any other dietetics program, don’t miss out on these events!

If you’ve made it this far through all that text, good on you! Perhaps you’ll also take a moment to vote for my Cranberry Mango Quinoa Salad over at the 20 Minute Supper Club Food FIght? Pretty please? I promise I will have an awesome foodie fun post for you tomorrow 🙂


Categories: Dietetics


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One Comment on “Meet The Dietitian Night”

  1. November 23, 2010 at 12:40 am #

    I really enjoyed the evening too. I liked it so much better this year then the previous years, it was nice to go and be able to sit and talk with dietitians who have career paths that are interesting and different. I’m loving getting all these experience stories from people, even in 380.

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