Blog | #RaceEquityMonth | What more can be done at university to support and celebrate diversity in dietetics?

7 November 2022

A guest blog from Fatimah Khathun, dietetics student at Leeds Beckett University and one of the #150Leaders. The blog follows her recent attendance at the BDA Yorkshire Celebrating Diversity in Dietetics event.

I recently attended the BDA Yorkshire Celebrating Diversity in Dietetics event. It was an eye-opening event which gave me the opportunity to hear from inspirational speakers from a variety of diverse backgrounds and also network with students and healthcare professionals. Attending the event enabled me to gain better insight into what diversity actually means within healthcare and the challenges individuals from diverse backgrounds potentially face in practice.

Truthfully, before attending the event, I had minimal knowledge on a few areas covered such as Invisible Disabilities, Autism, Ableism, Diverse Diets, and NHS Workforce Race Equality Standard (WRES). Although challenges were shared by speakers for each topic, it was equally incredible to hear their encouraging stories. It has made me appreciate how they are paving the way for the next generation of students with their inspiring work. It is important awareness of diversity is raised and universities can even make small changes to further support and celebrate diversity. More education around diversity can have a positive influence on future professionals, expose students to new perspectives, and challenge their belief systems.

It was fascinating to hear from individuals with lived experiences of disabilities sharing their honest stories. To enable students to learn more about challenges around disability, universities could incorporate these topics in lectures and provide extra reading resources. It would also be valuable to host workshops, possibly led by students or professionals with lived experiences, to share both the positives and challenges that they face. This can educate students and staff to be able to have open conversations with individuals living with a disability and find out more about their experiences in a safe environment.

Another talk by a South Asian dietitian on diverse diets made me more aware that future professionals need to be educated around different foods, traditional beliefs around different cultural diets, and how to overcome any barriers faced in practice. They could also share and discuss innovative cultural resources such as the South Asian and African and Caribbean Eatwell Guide, which can equip students to have better conversations about cultural diets with patients in future practice. Students could be encouraged to join university cultural societies which often host festive events and would allow students to learn more about different cultures.

A talk on race and change included data from the NHS WRES. The data highlighted how BME staff within the NHS are less likely to access development opportunities than white staff and that BME staff are underrepresented at senior level roles. It was surprising to witness this especially being a student from ethnic minority. Understandably, there are a variety of reasons linked to this. Universities could raise more awareness of this by having open conversations with students from ethnic minority backgrounds to ascertain exactly what may discourage them from taking advantage of leadership opportunities now and  in the future. Staff could provide information on the importance of representation within senior roles in healthcare or host guest speaker talks including ethnic minority staff in senior roles to motivate students to develop in their future careers. Personally, I am inspired and motivated when I can see people from ethnic backgrounds in senior leadership roles in healthcare. They act as role models for future professionals and, if they can do it, so can I.

There were lots of takeaways from the event for me but, reflecting on the whole event, hearing from knowledgeable healthcare professionals with lived experiences was truly inspirational. It has inspired and has prompted me to learn more about these topics to educate myself. There is no doubt that little changes could also be made by universities to support and celebrate diversity.

Fatimah Khathun, dietetics student at Leeds Beckett University and one of the #150Leaders

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