My passion for improving the future health of the population

Rebecca Smyth
Written by Rebecca Smyth

From an unknown career path, to wanting to make a difference in public health.

When I was younger, I was often asked the question ‘What do you want to be when you’re older?’. Nearly everyone is asked this question at some point in their life and like a large proportion of the population, I never knew exactly what I wanted my career path to look like. At one time I wanted to run an Open Farm with my cousin and convert one of our old barns into a petting zoo. I also wanted to continue playing the piano and flute professionally but was never really the child who could just sit down and play any song perfectly first or second time around – like most things in life, it took practice to get to a reasonable level.

Throughout my teenage years, I took a liking to Home Economics in school – especially the lessons where we learnt about the different vitamins and minerals and their functions in the body. I always enjoyed these lessons more than the practical cooking ones – I guess I was just fascinated by how different micronutrients come with their own benefits to our body. I studied Home Economics at GCSE (where I achieved a good grade) and A-Level (where I didn’t achieve as good a grade as I would have liked). It soon came to the stage of choosing what course I wanted to study at University, and here I was faced with that same question again – what do I want work as when I graduate from University? I applied to a variety of courses as I was still unsure, including Archaeology, Environmental Science and History and eventually accepted an offer to study Environmental Science. However, when the time came I was not ready to start University straight after leaving school – it was too big a leap all at once – so I took a gap year where I worked and travelled.

Food and NutritionThe following September, I decided to give University another try as I felt more mature within myself. I talked to my mum about what I should study, and she suggested I studied Nutrition as there was a good range of job prospects within this area. I studied Food and Nutrition for four years and it was the most rewarding 4 years of my life. I learnt so many new skills including how to take dietary assessment measurements, how to use a pipette and how to work out the correct calorie intake for an individual. I spent a year on placement with a local health promotion department where I helped deliver nutrition training programmes, run health promotion stands and carry out dietary audits on the hospital wards. There were days where I struggled with the workload, there were many late nights writing my dissertation and many days where we couldn’t get members of the public involved with our stands. But I kept my head down and managed to graduate with a First-Class Honours in Food and Nutrition and have now decided to continue studying a Masters in Health Promotion & Public Health. I have also been helping Professor Dr Melania A. Duca-Canavan (Head of the International Biocentric Psychoanalysis Institute, MC International Events Planning Limited) who has given me the opportunity to work alongside athletes (e.g. equestrians) to help them adopt an integrative approach to finding health solutions, which has given me an insight into the different methods which can be applied to make a difference to our health.

I am so thankful that I took a year out (although at the time it was difficult as all my friends were Freshers and were out enjoying themselves while I worked), as it gave me the opportunity to find myself, to take a step back from everything and analyse what I wanted to do in life. Through my course, I have learnt about the implications of diet and lifestyle on the health of the population over the coming years, and I have now realised that I want to make a difference to the population health status. I want to help imply the new nutrition and health guidelines which are released to see a difference in the world – even a small step can help make a large impact. We just have to watch the news or look on the internet to see the impact that obesity, portion sizes or sugar for example can have on our health. This is an area I am very passionate about and I will soon be ready to help put the theory into practice with regards to improving public health.

Sometimes all we need is another person’s opinion on something which will help steer us in the right direction. I feel it is important to remember that even if we are unsure of where we want to be in a few years’ time, things will fall into place eventually and we will realise that it is worth waiting for in the end.

About the author

Rebecca Smyth

Rebecca Smyth

Rebecca Smyth is a recent Food and Nutrition graduate from Ulster University who is very passionate about nutrition and improving health. Her main career goal is to help make a difference to the health and wellbeing of the population and aims to pursue this after she completes her Masters in Health Promotion & Public Health.

She is a keen writer and won the VOYA Prize for Best Final Year Research Project in her final year as an Undergraduate student. Through her degree, Rebecca has gained an insight into all aspects of Food and Nutrition including Microbiology, Nutrition Through The Lifecycle, Food Product Development and how to conduct a scientific Research Project. She also gained practical experience while out on placement which has been valuable in giving her an insight into the world of work.

Rebecca has also achieved all three Duke of Edinburgh Award’s – Bronze, Silver and just recently Gold which have also been a valuable addition to her CV. She particularly benefited from improving her confidence and teamwork skills, which are both valuable assets going forward in public health.

She has recently started working alongside Professor Dr Melania A. Duca-Canavan (Head of the International Biopsysis Psychoanalysis Institute and Founder of MC International Events Planning Limited) who gave her the opportunity to work with athletes to help them adopt a more integrated approach to finding health solutions, as well as allowing her to gain an insight into the field of Psychology (which she studied briefly through her degree) and Psychoanalysis.

Rebecca is looking forward to completing her Masters degree and getting one step closer to achieving her career goal – to make a difference to the health of the population.

Twitter: @Rebecca_Smyth3

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