22 Oct 2021

Sian Porter, Freelance Consultant Dietitian (Mole Communications), was awarded a BDA Fellowship in 2020 for her achievements in dietetics. 

We caught up with Sian to find out about what it means to have been awarded, why she became a dietitian and her advice for future dietitians.

What does it mean to you to have been awarded a BDA Fellowship?

It is a huge honour and I am thrilled and touched to receive it. I am particularly proud as it is the first time a Fellowship has been awarded for media-related work. The fact that the process involves a nomination and vote by your peers that you have no idea about, means it came as a total surprise. To me it is a validation of all the hard work and direction I have taken my career. I would like to convey my heartfelt thanks to everyone who was involved in my nomination and award and to those who have helped, mentored, inspired, and supported me along the way.

What drove you to become a dietitian in the first place and be where you are today?

The combination of science and communication, caring for and working with people and other health professionals to achieve better health. The fact everyone must eat means nutrition is relevant to all. Nutrition being a rapidly developing science means there is still so much more to be discovered and shared. What we know needs to be communicated effectively, put into context and misinformation countered. There is always something new to learn and so many ways to use your skills and knowledge.

Who would you say inspires you both dietetically but also non-dietetically?

I was inspired as a dietitian by, amongst others, Pat Howard and Dr Margaret Lawson who were excellent role models, assertive, respected and took the profession to another level whilst being ‘real’ people too. Dietitians Catherine Collins, Kevin Whelan, Anne Holdoway, Nicola Guess, Susan Price and Clare Shaw who are at the top of the profession, have vast yet practical knowledge and still care very much. Dietitians such as Lucy Jones and The Rooted Project who are the ‘whole package’. The trend for more mature entrants who have had careers in other areas joining the profession. This can only do good to promote our profession, question what has gone before, challenge our beliefs, practices and biases and bring in new skills and knowledge, leading to the evolution and adaptation of the profession. Some younger dietitians who have embraced the world of social media and technology whilst maintaining professional integrity to take the profession to a whole new audience.  

In the wider world I admire and am inspired by people who are genuine, who try and change things, who do rather than just talk, don’t take themselves too seriously, stand up for science and use their position for good such as Michelle Obama. I love a bit of ‘bad science’ exposure, French and Saunders (AbFAb) and Karen in ‘Will & Grace’. 

What advice would you give to future dietitians? 

  • Be curious. Ask questions, find answers, be open minded, be courageous, be tenacious. 
  • Don’t wait for someone else to do it or give you the opportunity - you make your own luck.
  • If you feel you are losing your way, remember why you became a dietitian in the first place.
  • Keep your professional integrity even though it may be really challenging at times – what goes around really does come around. 
  • It’s never too late. I went back to university to study for my Masters in Health Economics in my mid-thirties.
  • Respect others and their choices. We are all different but united as a profession. 
  • Stick to facts. Know your limitations. Everyone cannot know everything. It’s OK to not know and find out. Don’t be afraid to ask.

What has been the highlight of your dietetic career to date? 

I worked in the NHS (acute and community) and the pharmaceutical industry prior to going freelance in the mid-nineties. My work now is split between consultancy, media, lecturing and private patients. Having worked in many areas including clinical, the food industry, TV, radio, print, advertising, PR, marketing, lecturing they all have had high points.

The Queen’s Garden Party at Buckingham Palace was pretty memorable. However, being a BDA Spokesperson and becoming a BDA Fellow have to be up there!

Find out more about the BDA Fellowship, and how you can nominate a colleague here.