A decade of mastering Nutrition and Dietetics

Friday 9 June 2023

The College of Health recently celebrated the 10-year anniversary of the Nutrition and Dietetics major within the Master of Science.

Professor Kruger with Fiona Baggett, Whakatōhea, who was a student in the very first intake of the Dietetics programme.

Last updated: Friday 9 June 2023

The event was attended by students in the programme, alumni, industry partners and current and former staff. Clinical Lead Diabetes Dietitian Fiona Baggett, Whakatōhea, and Professional Clinical Lead for Dietitians at Te Whatu Ora Waitemata Ashleigh Share, who were graduates from the first and second cohort respectively, spoke on the night about their career journeys.

The catering for the event was organised and executed by current first year students of the programme as part of their foodservice management course. This allowed the students the opportunity to showcase their capabilities and provide further hands-on learning, with their hard work commended by guests on the night.

Discipline Leader and Coordinator of the programme Professor Rozanne Kruger says the event was a great opportunity to reflect on how far the programme has come.

“The last decade has held many achievements within the programme, the biggest being the many wonderful graduates now making their way in the workforce. It’s a privilege to see Massey Dietetics alumni working everywhere, and more so, to have them be involved in the training of current students, either in the classroom, in workshops and through providing Work Integrated Learning (placement) opportunities.”

Attending the event was Senior Adviser Food Claims at Ministry for Primary Industries Donnell Alexander, who said she felt fortunate to take part in the celebrations while visiting Auckland for work.

“It’s so important to honour these achievements through a celebration. I commend and applaud all the staff and students for the impressive work they have completed over the last 10 years, and for their significant contribution to the dietetic workforce in New Zealand.”

Professor Kruger with Ashleigh Share, who was among the second intake of students for the Dietetics programme.

History of Nutrition and Dietetics at Massey

The Nutrition and Dietetics major was founded to teach students about the intricacies of and relationships between food, nutrients, health and disease, as well as how they can be navigated to improve wellbeing. The full-time qualification is made up of course work, professional dietetics practice training as work integrated learning and a research component.

The programme provides specialised training in all aspects of nutritional science, medical nutrition therapy, public health nutrition and foodservice management with dietetics graduates meeting the registration competency requirements of the New Zealand Dietitians Board upon completion.

By introducing the Master of Science major in 2012, Te Kunenga ki Pūrehuroa Massey University offered the first Auckland-based Dietetics training programme for students who had completed a Bachelor of Science in Human Nutrition.

The foundation of this course has provided an optimal pathway into the workforce and continues to grow. With the 10th cohort graduating this year, 148 dietitians will have graduated through the programme, with another 46 finishing their training in the next two years.

Head of the School of Sport, Exercise and Nutrition Associate Professor Andy Foskett says it has been wonderful to see the establishment and growth of the Dietetics programme at Massey over the last decade.

“The staff have developed an exceptional programme that produces highly employable, work-ready graduates who are very well respected across the profession.”   

Professor Rozanne Kruger and Head of School Associate Professor Andy Foskett with current first year students Phillipa Henderson and Ruby Young who organised the catering for the 10 year celebratory event.

Over the years, the programme has seen many achievements from staff, students and alumni. Research progress has been made across a wide variety of topics including being involved in three Health Research Council project grants. Four members of staff have been promoted to Professor within this timeframe, one to Associate Professor and Professional Clinicians moving into senior roles.

The successful application to the Massey University Strategic Innovation Fund saw the opportunity to further increase community outreach by establishing a Nutrition and Dietetic Centre on the Auckland campus. The Centre provides in-house training as master’s students are involved in the running of the clinic as part of their teaching and placements. The Centre has grown to incorporate several clinics through stakeholder partnerships, supported by Massey’s professional clinicians and students, in relation to diabetes, allergy and intolerances, eating disorders, Active Eating and general nutrition and dietetics.

Alumni success

A range of significant research has been produced through the PhD studies of graduates. One example is Dr Jeanette Rapson, who produced a study showing a vegetables-first approach for babies as an effective strategy for forming better eating habits in the future. Current PhD candidate Andrew Xia, who was among the first master cohort to complete the course, is investigating the nutritional response to chyme reinfusion therapy in patients with intestinal failure. He says his research will help guide the development of diets for these patients to help them return to eating without relying on long-term intravenous feeding.

Three graduates have returned to the programme as members of staff, including Professional Clinician Allie Towgood who helps manage the Work Integrated Learning component, and Kimberley Brown who also works as a Professional Clinician in a specialist clinic for allergies and intolerances, which is the focus of her PhD research. Alumna and PhD candidate Maria Casale is currently involved in teaching the foodservice management course and some of the teaching clinics to educate the newest cohort.

Other cohort graduates have moved into the workforce across a range of sectors including Te Whatu Ora Waitemata, retirement and aged-care conglomerate Arvida Group Limited and foodservice company Compass Group.

Members of the cohort have been recognised for excelling in their work by Dietitians New Zealand, including alumna Lydia Henderson, Dushanka Hettige and Rachel Blair who were recipients of the Bernice Kelly Award which recognises the academic, practical and professional practice accomplishments of emerging entry-level dietitians. Ms Hettige went on to receive the Young Achiever Award in 2022 for her work as the Clinical Coordinator for Wellington Hospital Dietitians.

Current master’s students preparing the catering for the event.

Professor Kruger says she expects to see the programme and those involved continue to make exceptional strides to benefit the industry.

“With the limited amount of placement sites being our current challenge, our focus going forward is finding ways to utilise other settings for Work Integrated Learning such as private practice and private hospitals, as well as other institutionalised settings like aged-care facilities and schools. We’re considering different pathways into our programme to better support future students, such as offering international options. I’m proud of all we’ve achieved in the last decade and look forward to seeing what the next 10 years hold as we continue to contribute world-class research and proficient dietitians to the workforce.”

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