BDA Ibex recipient: Lauren Bowen

15 Aug 2022
Lauren Bowen Ibex

Lauren’s first passion has always been food service dietetics and she has worked in this arena both in her homeland of New Zealand and in the UK for over 24 years. Lauren is currently the Head of Patient Food Service for ISS UK and Chair of the Food Services Specialist Group. Her focus is on development and innovation in patient food service.

Lauren has had wide experience in operational catering including menu planning, menu coding and design, electronic ordering, audit, nutrition training, development of resources, product and recipe development, menu nutritional analysis, tender documentation, presentations for bids, start-ups and project work focused on improving food and access to it. Lauren has very recently represented the BDA on the Independent Review of NHS Hospital Food published in October 2020. Lauren received an Ibex Award in 2022.

What does it mean to you to have been awarded the Ibex honour?

It truly is an honour to be recognised by your peers and the association. I have volunteered for many years, because I genuinely love connecting with different people and supporting dietitians new to food services in the hope that they will feel as impassioned about it as me.

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

It’s an interesting story, as I had intended to study medicine but on completing my pre-med year, I ultimately didn’t feel it was the right path for me so after seeing a careers advisor they suggested dietetics. I thought, well I love science and I love food, so why not?

On reflection now, there were obvious signs. As a teenager, I collected the menu cards my Nana had completed in the hospital and pondered whether her food choices were going to support her to get well. I worked in a care home after school heating and serving the evening meal and washing up afterwards. I also worked in hospitals as a menu collator, on the tray line, and in the diet bay. During my dietetic training, I loved my food service management papers and on graduation took my first role managing a 450-bed hospital food service, I have never looked back.

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

Dietetically all the great food service dietitians who put our specialism on the map. Eileen Steinbock, Anne Donelan and of course the late Jackie Smith.

Jackie was the first dietitian who worked for ISS UK and helped shape us as the major food service provider that we are today. From the very beginning, Jackie taught us all, that the patient was at the heart of everything we do – without the patient we, and the NHS, do not have a reason to exist. Therefore, the way in which we provide our food services is critical to the health and wellbeing of all. Her battle cry of “But what about the patient?” soon became a legend and a touchstone of everything I have done in my career.

Non-dietetically my husband and daughter are my driving force they encourage me to lead by example.

What advice would you give to future dietitians?

A quote I often reflect on is, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got”. I love this because I believe that if you want something different either personally or professionally you will need to put something different into it. Don’t be afraid to be innovative, challenge what you do, or take a risk. It’s this behaviour that will help drive change.

Be ambitious and put your hand up to get involved.

Don’t underestimate what you can do or achieve, you might surprise yourself.

Be kind to people.

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

It was an absolute privilege to represent the BDA on ‘The Independent Review of Hospital Food’ review panel. It gave me the opportunity to express the operational issues both caterers and dietitians face in the healthcare setting. I had perhaps underestimated my years of experience in food services, and I feel this was a unique opportunity to get the patient’s voice heard and translate this into quantitative recommendations for change. Improving the quality and safety of healthcare food and drink is the ultimate challenge and needs to be continuous. What I do know is that there has never been a better time for food service dietitians!

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

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