Published on 11 August 2015
University of the Sunshine Coast student Dominique Ryan is confident her experience of living with coeliac disease will help inform her future practice as a dietitian.
Dominique, 21, of Sippy Downs, is in her final year of a Bachelor of Nutrition and Dietetics at USC and was inspired to study the discipline after being diagnosed with the automimmune disorder as a child.
“My decision to study Nutrition and Dietetics was initially based on my own childhood diagnosis of coeliac disease, and the experience of my parents in helping me cope with the difficulties of that,” she said.
Dominique described some of these difficulties – from innocently eating a cupcake at kindergarten to being singled out by classmates for her unusual sandwiches – in an article for The Australian Coeliac magazine in March.
“Those experiences inspired me to help others overcome the same challenges, and to show that being coeliac doesn’t mean you have to miss out,” she said. “You can eat normally and enjoy your life.”
Dominique said that while her personal experience had given her insight into the challenges of living with coeliac disease, her degree had provided plenty of opportunities to broaden her scientific knowledge and to share that information with fellow students through presentations and reports.
As one of a handful of Nutrition and Dietetics students enrolled in the embedded Honours pathway her research is focused on extending the scope of practice of dietitians, particularly in the area of gastro-eneterology (which includes coeliac disease).
While her initial goal was to specialise in the disease, Dominique said her first clinical placement prompted her to consider her degree’s wider applications.
“My clinical placement was very hands-on, and it was quite eye-opening for me in terms of showing that there’s more out there,” she said. “There’s a lot of scope to help people in this degree and so much that can be done.”
Dominique, who was one of four USC students recently awarded bursaries by the Graduate Women Queensland's Sunshine Coast branch, credits USC’s small class sizes and greater access to teaching staff with helping her prepare for one-on-one practice.
Nutrition and Dietetics Discipline Leader Associate Professor Fiona Pelly said that in addition to studying evidence-based scientific and nutrition principles, USC students undertook a range of professional development and practical experiences designed to support them in becoming skilled dietetic practitioners.
— Jarna Baudinette