Grace Wong, RD
MENTAL HEALTH & PEDIATRICS
for something nutrishus
I love that Grace connects food to each person's story. During October I helped with our Agriculture Month in Saskatchewan and the theme was 'Our Food Has A Story' and it truly does. Food plays a large role in our lives and I would enjoy sitting down to a bowl of soup with Grace, especially this time of year in Canada. She mentions the variety of skills dietitians and entrepreneurial dietitians require to succeed and support their patients/clients, we wear many hats and do lots of extra courses and trainings.
Why did you become a RD?
I really did not know what to expect when I put in my application for dietetics. Fortunately, it felt right as I went through my training. I love stories, and I have always been curious about people's stories. Discovering the meaning of food to a person or a group (a family, a demographic group or patients who share the same health experience) is like reading a story. Every chapter and every detail matter. Being a dietitian allows me to connect with people through their day to day ritual - eating! And every client brings a new story!
What area of dietetics do you work in?
I primarily work in mental health and pediatric nutrition. Common diagnoses I work with include eating disorders, pediatric feeding disorders, mental health issues (addictions, mood and anxiety disorders), ADHD (Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), autism spectrum and so on.
How would you explain what you do?
I work with many clients who do not fall into well-defined diagnostic categories. Many individuals and families start out saying "it doesn't make sense". Then we embark on a journey of making sense of their food/nutrition struggles, whatever they may be. Their situations may not have obvious nutrition implications; and often there aren't any standard practice guidelines, so I do a lot of detective work!
What are your ‘typical’ daily/weekly tasks?
I work in a hospital outpatient clinic as well as in private practice. My work days are mostly taken up by client appointments. Besides that, I am still learning the ropes of managing a private practice. Other typical tasks include talking to inquiring clients, booking appointments, accounting, managing resources etc.
What has been your career path?
My very first job was in public health/community development. I worked with various social service and mental health agencies on food security projects. That was how I started working in mental health nutrition. And life happens, I have since worked in 7 different positions in 3 provinces. While these jobs were all different, there were some peculiar connections. My clinical work eventually branched out to a diverse mix of mental health and pediatric nutrition.
My current aspiration is to be more creative in my work. Operating a small business is really out of my comfort zone, but it certainly has allowed a lot of freedom and creativity.
What advanced education or special training do you have?
I completed a master's degree in Health Promotion Studies at the University of Alberta. My graduate work focused on the determinants of health in vulnerable populations including families living in poverty, single parents, Aboriginal groups and people living with mental illnesses etc.
Additional training I had: nutrition therapy for disordered eating, various model-specific trainings in eating disorders, group therapy facilitation, motivational interviewing, allergy & food intolerances, feeding therapy, parent-child relationship and feeding relationship.
In an ideal world, what does the industry look like 5 years from now?
This is a big question, maybe I would just touch on what's most relevant in my clinical practice. Dietitians are only working in a small subset of health care settings. It would be great to see dietitians working in more primary care clinics and specialized services. Over and over again, I hear other health professionals say "We need a dietitian on our team!"
What misinformation about RDs would you like to clear up?
Dear clients, we may assess your nutrition health for your well-being, but we do not judge you as a person based on what you eat. I sincerely mean it!
What are challenges you encounter as a RD?
Letting go of what I think is best for my clients and being patient with the journey they choose. Walking along with people is what I love about what I do, but it can be very difficult some days.
What are you passionate about in dietetics?
Make time to eat! Eat and hang out with your loved ones, even better! I am a huge believer that how you eat matters just as much as what you eat. It is my passion to advocate that eating is a self-care experience, not a chore!
What is your favourite meal?
A hearty bowl of soup is my all time favourite! Soups convey comfort and warmth, and you can pack a lot of nutrition in one pot!
More about Grace: