It's been a few months since we've featured an expert on the blog, and we can't think of anyone better than Maree to kick-start the series again. Maree Ferguson, AdvAPD, RD, FAND, MBA, Ph.D., is the founder of Dietitian Connection and works endlessly to provide RDNs with resources to thrive in the field.
See what she has to say, below.
Why did you get started in nutrition/ become an RDN?
I’ve been a dietitian for 21 years now. I had an amazing home economics teacher at high school who taught me about nutrition – both the science and the practical food aspects. This is what led me to pursue a career in dietetics.
What makes your niche special?
I have worked in a few areas over my career. After completing my Ph.D. developing the malnutrition screening tool (now used around the world), I worked in Research & Development for a nutrition company in the United States for 8 years. I then moved back to Brisbane, Australia, to take up a management position in a large hospital as Director of Nutrition and Dietetics. I now work in a rather unique role as the founder and director of my own business, Dietitian Connection.
Dietitian Connection is an online business, which provides professional development resources, webinars, podcasts, the latest news and research, and events to dietitians who reside in Australia and even those across the globe. We are a small team who aim to inspire and empower dietitians to realise their dreams.
What advice would you give a new RDN?
Dream big! In today’s digital age, the world is your oyster.
What change do you hope to see in the field of nutrition and dietetics?
I would like to see dietitians as the “go to people”, i.e. the first choice consumers make for nutrition advice.
How/why/when did you start the #DietitiansUnite campaign last year?
Through my work, I connect with thousands of dietitians and what I was hearing was that many dietitians in Australia didn’t have a job. Many were under-employed or underpaid. And others simply can’t make a living. I became aware of this earlier this year. To say I was shocked to the core is an understatement.
We know what a dietitian is, and does. But I am concerned that the public has little idea what that title means – and the value we can deliver. Frustratingly, the public is also getting nutrition advice from non-qualified experts. I could no longer sit on the sidelines and do nothing and hence started the #dietitiansunite campaign.
The crowdfunding campaign was designed for dietitians to contribute funds, which will be used to execute a national awareness campaign to educate consumers about what a dietitian does, and the benefits we deliver.
What is the most rewarding thing about having established this initiative? What else can RDNs do to further the profession and protect the RDN credential?
The most rewarding thing since having established this initiative is the overwhelming support we received from dietitians in Australia and beyond. Dietitians certainly united behind this campaign.
I think RDNs need to stand up and take their place as nutrition leaders, starting in their own workplaces. I think we could all benefit by becoming more marketing and business savvy.
What’s your favorite piece of advice you have received?
The most favorite piece of advice I have received recently was to watch one of Dr. Brené Brown’svideos: Why Your Critics Aren’t The Ones Who Count. I have since read some of her books including Daring Greatly where she shares her research on vulnerability. I highly recommend checking out Dr. Brown’s work.
Parts of this interview have been shortened and edited.