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Sandy Xiao

Dietitian, Tan Tock Seng Hospital (Singapore)

I grew up in a family where both my mother and grandmother operated their own food stalls in hawker centres. I used to help my mum out when I was young, and the exposure subconsciously influenced me and cultivated my interest in food.

During high school, I enjoyed science so much that I opted to study Biomedical Science for my diploma in polytechnic. The completion of my diploma ignited my passion for food and nutrition. However, because the universities in Singapore do not offer nutrition programs, I held off my undergraduate studies and went on to work as a Public Health Officer, working closely with HIV/AIDS patients for the next 2 years. Having interacted with many undernourished patients, it dawned on me that sicknesses, to a large extent, could adversely impact the nutritional status of a once healthy person.

I strongly believe that nutrition is the basic building blocks of life: good dietary habits and healthy lifestyles make up the basic algorithms of good health and overall well-being. As a result, I made the decision to apply for a scholarship to pursue my passion in Nutrition and Dietetics.

My sponsor provided me with a list of their preferred universities to apply for. Curtin University was one of them. Among all the universities which offered me a place, my sponsor eventually decided to send me to Curtin University – a decision which I am extremely grateful for.  (scholarship with National Healthcare Group)

The knowledge acquired from the Curtin University’s Nutrition degree not only equipped me to be an expert in nutritional science, but it also provided a strong foundation for my postgraduate diploma in Dietetics.

The postgraduate diploma in Dietetics empowered me to be an accredited dietitian in both the clinical and community settings. The experience garnered during the various placements not only enabled me to put my knowledge into practice, but it also strengthened my confidence in communicating sound nutrition principles to the various population groups.

My learning journey was made easier with the support of my lecturers and tutors, who were very approachable and knowledgeable. In addition, Curtin University promotes a culture of good study-life balance by offering a wide variety of interest clubs, activities and gym facilities.

Since I completed my placements in December 2013, I started working in Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH), my sponsor and bonded institution. TTSH is one of the largest acute and multidisciplinary hospitals in Singapore. Clinical dietitians in TTSH are divided into teams and rotated semi-annually to different wards or/and teams to increase our exposure to various (all, if possible) medical disciplines.

I am currently in my first rotation and holding two wards – one which I mainly see cardiology/respiratory and occasionally neurology patients, and the other a sub-acute ward which is housed in a community hospital next to TTSH. Whilst shuttling between the inpatient wards is where I spent majority of my time at work, I also have an afternoon outpatient clinic to do on every Wednesday.  As a result, work is really busy but at the end of the day, it is so fulfilling I would do it all over again and again.

I must admit that studying got really tough at times (yes, some of you may even say it’s ALL the time). However, it is not until where I am now that I realized that those were essential to empower me with the knowledge and skills that I would need as a dietitian. If I were to look back again, I would choose to go through it again. And most definitely in Curtin University too because of the experiences I have had; the great lecturers and friends I have met and learnt from all contributed to who I am today.

Sandy Xiao