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Distance Learning Student Profiles

Moira Smith

Moira Smith was a dentist with her own suburban practice when she decided to embark on study in human nutrition - an area not totally related to her profession.

A personal interest in nutrition alongside day-to-day presentation of poor oral health due to diet, led her to a Postgraduate Diploma in Community Nutrition.

“I also wanted to know that I could do things other than dentistry. You sometimes feel you get boxed into a narrow field, and this allowed me the opportunity to do something else,” Moira says.

Moira found the human nutrition study challenging and rewarding, “I enjoyed the challenge of researching to find information, of writing assignments and doing projects,” she explains. “It was something different after twenty years of practicing dentistry.

“As a dentist you can feel isolated with just you and the patient, so I really liked the audio-conferencing and meeting other people who had similar views about nutritional issues,” Moira adds.

Not only did Moira enjoy the content of her studies, but she also valued the fact that the paper was well-organised, staff were obviously invested in the paper, and she was well supported.

Moira believes the human nutrition study was the catalyst to her current career. She has sold her dental practice and now works as a Research Fellow in the Department of Public Health at the University of Otago, Wellington, while at the same time working on her PhD.

She has remained true to her interest in human nutrition, with her PhD looking at children’s and parent’s perspective of food in the sports related environment, and within her role as Research Fellow she is researching in a number of nutrition related areas.

“As a dentist I felt despite giving good nutritional advice with regards to oral health, I wasn’t really making any difference. I thought that there must be a better way than treating one tooth at a time,” Moira says.

It seems Moira’s combination of oral health and public health is putting her in good steed to make a real difference one community at a time.

Karen Munting

“This paper is a little removed from my original area of focus, but I have always had an interest in weight management. Added to my professional skill base in gastric bypass surgery support and education, this paper provided a preventive perspective that can be applied to manage weight and specific health conditions,” Karen explains. Karen has had a varied career in the nursing profession working in public hospitals, private practice, occupational health, and with a gastric bypass surgeon. She is currently an assessor for the over sixties age group, looking at patient needs and matching them with support in the community. “Diet is always important to everyday life, regardless of our age. Having this background in nutrition allows me to see possible obstacles for this group of people,” she says.

Karen highly recommends the paper as it was so applicable and practical, “I thoroughly enjoyed it – I just loved it,” she adds. “I particularly remember the projects we did. For one we needed to develop resource material for an identified dietary need that could be implemented to improve someone’s dietary profile” says Karen. Not only did Karen find the practical aspect of the paper interesting, but also some of the take home messages from her study have showed that there is often more than one approach things.

“Some stand out knowledge for me was raising the awareness that good nutrition can often be about adding something to your diet, rather than taking something out, which can often be the focus," Karen says. Karen believes the paper would be of interest and benefit to people working in many areas of health, and to anyone who has an interest in dietary requirements across a broad spectrum of health conditions.  “There is something of interest for everyone – lots of research is discussed and you are exposed to fantastic teaching that is supported by great resources.”

“The final outcomes allow you to apply a holistic approach to health wherever you are placed on health continuum,” Karen finally adds.