Changing the game through healthy eating

Faculty of Health Sciences

By University of Ottawa

Faculty of Health Sciences, Communication

Students and a professor smiling in front of a white board
Students in the Bachelor of Food and Nutrition Sciences — Dietetics program, together with Isabelle Giroux, director of the School of Nutrition Sciences (second row, second from right), and Rose Thivierge (first row, first from left).
Making wise food choices has a major effect on our well-being and our physical and mental health (yes, those notorious microbiota in our intestines communicate with our brains!). Students studying at the University of Ottawa’s School of Nutrition Sciences are taught all of the specialist skills they need to play a critical role in maintaining the health of individuals and populations.

Rose Thivierge (BFNSc — Dietetics ’21), who recently graduated from uOttawa’s nutrition and dietetics program, helps people adopt healthy eating habits as part of her work. “The bachelor’s program in dietetics really prepared me for starting my career,” Rose said.  

Patient-centred education 

The program provides hands-on learning opportunities with the use of simulated patients. During these practical exercises, students discover the reality of dietetic practice under the supervision of professors. This interactive, collaborative approach strengthens students’ skills considerably while enriching and stimulating learning. 

The simulated patients present with a variety of issues. Students may have to help someone with dysphagia (who therefore has difficulty swallowing) or assist someone struggling with weight loss as a result of cancer treatments or diabetes management. “Those situations prepare us realistically for the challenges we’ll be facing in our future careers,” Rose says. 

“The simulated patients are seasoned actors who present with a variety of actual nutrition issues. Once we’re in the real clinical world, we’ll be better able to respond to the sometimes unpredictable reactions that can come at us,” she adds.  

Understanding patients to better guide their food choices 

Some people may have multiple health challenges, but they can be rectified with a nutrition plan put together by a professional dietitian.  

The plan and the dietitians’ advice must consider each person’s own choices, which are influenced by numerous factors.  

“Individual preferences, as well as social, economic, cultural, ethnic and even political factors, have to be considered when promoting healthy and sustainable eating habits,” Professor Bénédicte Fontaine-Bisson explains. 

As for clinical placements, they help students to better understand the complex process of evaluating a person’s needs in the real world and to shape their professional interests.  

Rose recalls: “I had the opportunity to do four clinical placements with different types of client groups. One of the internships involved providing in-home support for disadvantaged pregnant women. I also did an internship in geriatrics, at a rehabilitation centre. My role was to prevent and treat nutritional deficits in the elderly to improve their quality of life and maintain their health for as long as possible at home, or in their chosen living environment."  

These experiences enabled Rose to choose her first job in home care for elderly.

Today, Rose Thivierge works in private practice, where she counsels her clients. “You have to be a real motivator and be empathetic when you’re providing nutrition guidance to clients,” she says.  

Find out more about our programs 

The School of Nutrition Sciences at the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Health Sciences offers two undergraduate programs: the nutrition and dietetics program, which provides instruction on healthy and informed food choices; and the food sciences program, which focuses on the development, processing and safe storage of food. They are the only programs of their kind in Canada at a faculty of health sciences and in a bilingual setting, with hands-on learning opportunities.  

In short, thanks to these two programs, graduates of the Faculty have all the tools they need to make a difference in people’s health and well-being! 

Find out more about the School of Nutrition Sciences programs and apply