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Kyla Smith

Senior Dietitian with Child and Adolescent Community Health

I enrolled in a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition straight from high school. I wanted to study nutrition because I’d always loved food and wanted to understand more about the relationship with health. I continued on with Dietetics to make the most of my undergraduate degree and I wanted to be able to use my knowledge and skills to help people in a clinical setting.  At the time of my study, Curtin University provided the only course that would lead to a dietetic qualification. I was happy to study at Curtin because it was close to home and had an excellent reputation.

I learnt a lot during my time at Curtin, and found the PostGrad study in dietetics particularly interesting. I was involved in as many volunteer opportunities as I could sign up for and this gave me some great contacts. Clinical and community placements gave me a taste of the ‘real world’ of dietetics and fuelled my passion even further. I loved the counselling units and the chance to put my knowledge into practice. I was always well supported during my studies.

I’ve had a very varied career since I graduated in 2006. I started with a locum position at Princess Margaret Hospital, where I really found my calling in paediatric work. I was also lucky enough to pick up other locum positions at some of the adult hospitals to further some of my clinical skills. I moved to a community dietitian position at Fremantle Child Development Service where I joined the Mealtime Management Team working with children aged 0-5 with feeding difficulties. It was here that my appreciation of OT’s, speechies and social workers developed. I moved to establish a Mealtime Team in the Peel, Rockingham and Kwinana catchment area and work there with an incredible group of health professionals as part of a trans-disciplinary team. I continue to work here one day a week and my typical day involves home visiting appointments where we help parents and children to work through difficulties with diet, sensory processing, oro-motor skills, behaviour and attachment. The other big part of my career has been working in the field of childhood obesity. I have run the obesity service through PMH, the Lifestyle Triple P program for overweight children and developed and run the Curtin University Activity, Food and Attitudes Program (CAFAP) for overweight adolescents. I took this one step further after my team received a Healthway grant to evaluate CAFAP and I signed on to do my PhD. I am now only a few weeks away from finishing my thesis! My typical day at the moment involves reviewing the literature and writing my thesis, but in the last few years has included working directly with adolescents and their families, developing research protocols and training other health professionals in the delivery of CAFAP. It has been busy but ultimately very rewarding.

My advice to future graduates would be to take on every opportunity that you can once you’ve graduated. Locum work is particularly useful to help you experience different workplaces and work out where you want to be. Plus, the contacts you make along the way are invaluable. I’ve ended up on a completely different career path to the one I’d planned for when I finished studying, but I wouldn’t change it for a thing!

Kyla Smith