BDA Fellowship recipient: Dr Barbara Engel

12 Apr 2024

Dr Barbara Engel has received a Fellowship, in recognition of her outstanding personal commitment as Chair, Vice-chair and Post Registration lead of the BDA Renal Nutrition Specialist Group (RNG) and achievements in the field of Chronic Kidney Disease.

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Barbara is the Programme Director in Dietetics at the University of Surrey and throughout her career, her work and research has been conducted through an inclusive approach with a particular focus around diverse and disadvantaged patient populations.

She has used her experience and knowledge to selflessly lead and contribute to the development of the RNG, supporting the growth of the workforce and improving patient care for those with kidney disease. She is a true inspiration and is committed to supporting the development of the workforce though her leadership of national guidance development and post-registration education.

We asked Barbara about her work and what this honour means to her.

What does it mean to you to receive the Fellowship honour?

When I look at the previous recipients it is an incredible honour to receive this award and I want to thank the people who nominated me.

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

My first degree was in Biochemistry but I soon realised that I wanted to work with people (not molecules).

My grandfather always told the story of fighting off TB (which had killed his brother) by eating brambles (blackberries) and my grandmother effortlessly cooked for 10 people in a tiny kitchen where her mother used to bake for the whole village.

I do feel my career choice supports and improves people’s health by combining the scientific with the practical influences in my life.

Who inspires you?

All the patients and carers that I work with are an inspiration and the reason I love being a dietitian.

I was covering a renal clinic a couple of years ago at St Georges and the patient told me, ‘if it wasn’t for a dietitian I wouldn’t be here now’. That dietitian was Marianne Vennegoor, one of the first renal dietitians in the UK, who had cared for her 50 years earlier and has remained active in renal nutrition to this day.

Over the 33 years of my career I have contacted many of the dietitians on the Fellowship list for various reasons and they are always really generous with their time and help in sharing their expertise.

I am inspired by anyone who is brave enough to stick their head above the parapet and question things that shouldn’t be happening.

What advice would you give to future dietitians? 

Read Elizabeth Weekes' honours interview.

My cousin had Down’s Syndrome and she was told she couldn’t have a marmite sandwich because her kidneys were failing; always be caring, evidence based and pragmatic in your advice (possibly in that order).

What have been the highlights of your dietetic career to date?

Working alongside great colleagues and helping to create the next generation of dietitians (and renal dietitians) as Programme Director for Dietetics at the University of Surrey and also Education co-Lead for the Renal Nutrition Group (thank you Claire Gardiner and Eunice Musa). Helping to develop the Be Your Best Public Health Programme and seeing it support many families as well as inspire student dietitians to work in public health.

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