Dietitians doing Research: Winners Perspective

The five winners of the 2015 Research Symposium provide great examples of dietitians involved in research. Here, they talk in more detail about their winning research projects.

Winners are listed below with their views on abstract submission:

Clinical Nutrition - Jill Twomey, Evaluation of the Nutrition Impact Symptoms (NIS) score as a nutritional screening tool for renal inpatients.

New to Research, supported by Yakult - Amy Eldrid, Validity of digital photography as a means of assessing the dietary intake of post-operative colorectal surgery patients.

Paediatric, supported by BDA Paediatric Specialist Group – Georgina Barton, Cross-sectional survey to assess the adherence of commercial weaning foods for four to six month-old infants with UK recommendations on the timing of gluten introduction.

Public Health, supported by Cereal Partners UK – Dr Duane Mellor, Weight status of student & practicing UK registered dietitians (RDs): Influence of self-stigma & professional confidence, an interim analysis.

Service Evaluation - Anya Bricknell, Effectiveness of a dietitian-led weight management intervention in patients with severe mental illness.

research winners photo

Picture of Winners: L-R Amy Eldrid, Dr Julie Lanigan, Georgina Barton, Julie Foster, Dr Duane Mellor, Jessica Sheppard, Anya Bricknell and Jill Twomey.

Jill Twomey – Clinical Nutrition stream winner 

I was so delighted that my abstract was chosen as the winner of the Clinical Nutrition stream at this year’s BDA Research Symposium. It was a great achievement after all of the hard work I put into it as part of my MSc Dietetics research project at King’s College London.  The aim of my project was to assess the validity and reliability of the Nutrition Impact Symptoms score as a nutritional screening tool for renal inpatients.

I learnt so much and developed so many skills whilst completing my research. Throughout the process I was lucky to have had lots of help and support from my project supervisors, Professor Peter Emery and Dr Helen MacLaughlin. The project allowed me to build on my analytical and statistical skills. I also became competent using SGA and handgrip strength as methods of nutritional assessment. Throughout the project I worked with other healthcare professionals, which enabled me to further develop my communication and team working skills.

The BDA Research Symposium was a great day out. It was fantastic to be able to present my work in front of fellow dietitians, lecturers and students from all over the country. It was also great to hear about the research being undertaken by others in the dietetics field.

Amy Eldrid – New to Research stream winner 

I was delighted to be accepted to present the abstract for my project at the BDA Research Symposium 2015. I recently completed the project as part of my undergraduate degree in Dietetics at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh.

During my final year of university, I wanted to undertake a project that would be challenging and relevant to clinical practice. I worked closely alongside another student dietitian, supervisors at university and in the clinical setting to plan and implement the project. The study was designed to determine if digital photography could be a feasible method of dietary assessment in the clinical setting by taking photographs of meals before and after they were served to patients. This method was compared to a weighed intake.

Overall, the results were really encouraging and demonstrated that digital photography could be used as a method of dietary assessment. This could help to improve the recording of dietary intake in future research studies or in clinical practice. This was a challenging process but obtaining results at the end of the project that I could interpret and discuss was very rewarding.

I wasn’t expecting to be awarded the prize for the best abstract in the New to Research stream and it is a privilege to have my work acknowledged in this way. I could not have achieved this without the support of my fantastic supervisors at university and at the hospital where the project was based. I also gained a greater understanding of my results and received useful feedback from others by submitting my abstract to the Symposium.

The event was a fantastic opportunity to meet other people and learn about other research projects – I would highly recommend it! I now feel inspired to incorporate research into my future clinical practice as a dietitian.

Georgina Barton – Paediatric stream winner

When I entered the abstract from my final year project into the BDA Research Symposium I was not expecting it to be picked and was surprised when it was. When I looked at the line up for the day, I would never have predicted that I could win the best abstract in the stream, my research looked so simple compared to the abstracts being presented alongside it. I was just proud to be there and be part of the day.

The research that I entered into the Symposium looked at the adherence of commercial weaning foods for four to six month-old infants, considering the UK recommendations on the timing of gluten introduction. As far as I was aware, there was no current research on this and I was excited to present new information to the leading research dietitians in paediatrics. I was so nervous about presenting my abstract but glad that I pushed myself out of my comfort zone to do so. The feedback that I got from the audience was amazing and really has empowered me to take my research project further.

The Symposium provides a platform for dietitians to share their research and was a brilliant opportunity to develop my own skills and knowledge, the entire day was extremely thought provoking. It was an inspirational day and has encouraged me to seriously consider research as another career avenue to pursue in the future.

If I have taken one thing away from this experience it is to be confident in your knowledge because we are the experts in diet and nutrition and we need to lead research in the area.  

Duane Mellor - Public Health stream winner 

It was a very pleasant surprise to win the best abstract for the Public Health stream 2015, and slightly embarrassing after giving a presentation, chairing two new-to-research and being a member of the Angels Cradle panel. However it should give all the other presenters confidence in the quality of the BDA Research Symposium and encourage work from university academic world to be shared there too.

This work represents a change of direction from the more biomedical work looking at the effects of cocoa polyphenols to investigating behavioural aspects of nutrition and health. This project started as student projects, and the vital role of Abigail Maybank, Lucy Kendrick and Jo Williams must be acknowledged, as they looked at the healthcare students views about their own weight, weight stigma and self-efficacy. Following the completion of their dissertations, together with Dr Judy Swift at the University of Nottingham, we looked at extending this project into qualified healthcare professionals. The data we presented at the BDA Research Symposium was an interim analysis of UK dietitians and student dietitians. We have also looked at views of dietitians in Australia, Canada and Ireland as well as hoping to obtain data from the USA too. Our next step is to hopefully develop a numbers paper for publication, based on this and our other findings.

Research including understanding how dietitians work and think is essential, it is a vibrant and evolving profession that needs research and evidence to help it change and grow. Having been involved in dietetic research for the past nine years, there is not a day that goes by when another question arises that needs to be explored. This can also be distracting, and a skill I have struggled to master is to focus on a single area of research, instead of enjoying a broader view of our area. For any potential researcher in dietetics, I would recommend contemplating whether you are a broad thinker or do you want to focus on one area, as this might affect where you end up working.

Taking part in the BDA Research Symposium is an excellent opportunity to showcase our profession and the great research in dietetics, both from emerging and established researchers. Also, I would recommend the research environment as it is a supportive place to share and further develop your ideas. Questions and comments here always tend to be helpful and constructive, far less aggressive and threatening than many conferences I have presented at in the past.

Anya Bricknell - Service Evaluation Stream Winner

I was really excited at the prospect of presenting at the BDA Research Symposium, and being able to hear what everyone else had been researching. I presented the work I had done as part of my final year project, working with the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust to analyse their weight management programme for people with severe mental health disorders. After gathering data throughout a three year period, we found that the programme was successful in achieving stabilisation of an upward weight trend, and actually achieved significant weight loss.

When doing the project, it struck me how unique a piece of work this was, and that there wasn’t anything about the role of dietitians within mental health weight management in the current literature. This switched my way of thinking about the project, and I realised the importance of other dietitians hearing about our results, which motivated me to submit to the BDA Research Symposium.

At the Symposium this way of thinking was extended, as I met other dietitians who were using their everyday practice as research opportunities. The talks from the main speakers also emphasised the need and opportunities for research in clinical practice. Before I thought of research and clinical work as separate career paths, whereas now I see how they each inform the other. As a newly-qualified dietitian, I am interested to see where research involvement could be incorporated into my future career path!