Melissa Baker, MHSc, RD
UBC MANAGER OF NUTRITION & WELLBEING
for something nutrishus
I know Melissa through Dietitians of Canada and she's a dietitian in the series that I have met several times in real life! If you've been following the series, you may have noticed the variety of tasks dietitians do and that we often don't have 'typical' days or traditional paths to our current roles. I love that her current role has wellbeing right in the title, especially since she's passionate about preventative nutrition. I would say that my professional goals are in-line with Melissa's, so I'm glad we're on the same team!
Why did you become a RD?
I didn’t discover the profession until the third year of my microbiology degree at UBC Okanagan when I was looking at the list of professional programs available at UBC. I was feeling discouraged by the job opportunities available after graduating with a major in microbiology and wanted to explore other opportunities. Dietetics jumped out at me right away. I loved food, cooking and inspiring others to eat well. It seemed like the perfect match. So I switched majors to Food, Nutrition and Health and moved to UBC Vancouver to pursue it!
What area of dietetics do you work in?
I do a bit of everything! My full-time job is with Student Housing and Hospitality Services at the University of British Columbia. I work as the Manager of Nutrition and Wellbeing. This job is varied in itself, but I also manage the Practice Blog for Dietitians of Canada, write for the Huffington Post and my own blog upbeet.ca, and volunteer for theDietitians of Canada Board of Directors.
How would you explain what you do?
With all my roles, my goal is to work towards bettering the health and wellbeing of Canadians by focusing on prevention and making healthy eating easier, while also promoting the dietetics profession.
What are your ‘typical’ daily/weekly tasks?
I don’t have many “typical” days. But, some of the wide variety of things I do include providing one-on-one counselling with students living in residence at UBC, as well as education and training for students and Student Housing and Hospitality Services staff on a variety of nutrition related topics. I also co-chair the UBC Wellbeing Food and Nutrition Working Group, which some other awesome RDs at UBC sit on. I work with our culinary team to make sure we are offering healthy, balanced menu options, including many entrees with plant-based proteins. I do allergy training with staff so they know how to ensure our students with allergies get a safe meal. And I am working on a big labelling project to ensure we are providing accurate and accessible nutrition, allergen, and ingredient information to our customers. Outside of my day job, I spend some evenings and weekends writing and editing articles, testing recipes for my blog, and catching up on Board work.
What has been your career path?
I started out working in clinical dietetics for a health authority in BC, mostly working with patients with diabetes and doing outpatient counselling. After I decided working in this area wasn’t for me (I wanted to work in a more preventative focused setting), I went back to school to do my master’s degree at Ryerson University. Following that, I worked for the BC Dairy Association as a nutrition educator before starting in my current role at UBC. I also spent some time doing contract work on a variety of projects and working as a retail dietitian during my first couple years of practice.
What advanced education or special training do you have?
In an ideal world, what does the industry look like 5 years from now?
My vision for the profession for five years from now aligns well with Dietitians of Canada’s key priority: “Policy makers and the public acknowledge that nutrition is a primary contributor to improving health and that the dietitian profession’s unique body of knowledge and skills makes an integral contribution to health improvement.” We are definitely working towards that but we have a ways to go.
I would also love to see universities expanding their programs to allow more dietitians to enter the workforce. This is vital if we want to keep up with unregulated nutrition professionals.
What is your favourite meal?
Fish tacos shared with family and friends! (Or a traditional turkey dinner with lots of stuffing and Brussel sprouts!)
More about Melissa:
Facebook: Up Beet
LinkedIn: Melissa Baker, MHSc, RD