15 Aug 2022
Qualifying from University in Dublin in 1983, Ruth’s early career focused on clinical and community dietetics in the National Health Service (NHS) in Belfast. Having completed post-graduate education in the field of Performance Nutrition, she worked with several athletes from various sports in the Sports Institute Northern Ireland (SINI), before taking up a full-time position as the Performance Nutritionist with the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) in 2006, working primarily with the Senior Men’s squad.
After 16 years of service as the Head of Nutrition with the IRFU, she has recently retired (2022) from this position, having developed a nutrition team of 11 Performance Nutritionists across Elite Player Pathways and professional rugby programmes on the island of Ireland.
What does it mean to you to have been awarded with the Ibex honour?
I have been a member of the BDA all my professional career (39 years) and its support network both professionally and in Union business is fantastic. Knowing members can get advice from professional peers as well as office staff is fundamental to career progression.
What drove you to become a dietitian in the first place and be where you are today?
Science and people. Also being from a farming background gave me a passion for the importance of responsibly produced food. My years in Performance Nutrition taught me that food is so much more than fuel for the body. Sharing good food helps us all form connections that are healthy for the mind and the body.
Who would you say inspires you both dietetically but also non-dietetically?
Dietetically – the people I have worked with who understand the value of good food. Non-dietetically – friends and family – honesty, respect and ultimately support for the decisions I make.
What advice would you give to future dietitians?
Take all opportunities and believe in yourself. Learn to be open-minded and understand that not everyone you will meet throughout your career will have the same passion for nutrition as you. Decide what is negotiable and what is not and enjoy the journey!
What has been the highlight of your dietetic career to date?
It has to be my last 16 years working with the Senior National Irish Rugby Team and developing the Performance Nutrition service for all professionally contracted rugby union players on the island of Ireland. Enjoying the highs (two Grand Slams, four Championships, five Triple Crowns) and dealing with the lows of professional sport is challenging but ultimately rewarding to know that nutrition has played it part. Developing the nutrition service from one person to the current 11 great practitioners around the island of Ireland has been particularly rewarding.