Evidence-based nutrition, debunking myths & content creation: a student dietitian's placement at the Simple App

How Adriana Salame, a student dietitian from University College London, went through a placement within the Science Team at the Simple App
Image credits: Unsplash
Adriana Salame is a student dietitian from University College London. She has just completed a 7-week placement within the Science Team at the Simple App as part of her 2-year Master's degree in Dietetics.

We talked with Adriana, and she revealed some details about her experience and new findings

Why were you interested in completing your placement with the Simple App and Palta?

I have always been eager to learn about digital health, and Simple's mission to improve people's relationship with food and develop habits to improve their overall health deeply resonated with me. Simple, among other digital health apps, has created a large-scale, accessible community platform for people to prevent and self-manage their health conditions. I knew that undertaking my placement at Simple/Palta would extend my scope of practice by allowing me to build a new skill set and approach a community health need.

Can you describe your tasks and responsibilities as part of your 7-week placement?

As part of my 7-week placement, I was assigned weekly and daily tasks and more extensive projects to complete by the end of my seven weeks. The most interesting learning curves for me in terms of daily tasks were:

  • Writing for Simple's nutrition blog
  • Creating resources and healthy recipes
  • Reaching out to the Facebook community

Both my longer-term projects, a presentation to the Simple team and creating a health course for the app, involved digging deeper into 'hot' nutrition topics and reviewing the scientific evidence.

How does this differ from the more traditional clinical placements seen in dietetics courses?

This placement completely differed from the more traditional placement setting, mainly in the skills and knowledge I acquired. With Simple's mission to improve a diverse community's health, I gained knowledge in topics which aren't of priority from a public health aspect. For example, intermittent fasting, emotional eating, and misconceptions around gut health are all hot topics I've learnt and applied at Simple and are not necessarily learning priorities when undertaking a placement in an in-patient/hospital setting.

Another stepping stone for me at Simple was developing my writing skills in creating blog posts/social media content, which I've always shied away from in the past. My placement at Simple really supported me in writing about nutrition in a fun, engaging and simple way. This likely wouldn't be part of a traditional placement experience, and yet it is such an important skill set for dietitians of the 21st century!

How can you apply this experience to your future career?

I will certainly carry over many skills and knowledge from my placement at Simple into my future career. I've spoken about this already, but as a dietitian nowadays, having a confident voice on social media and internet platforms is such an important part of my career. It's challenging for many dietitians, I think, because there's so much misinformation related to nutrition topics and being able to challenge that in a professional and evidence-based manner isn't a piece of cake!

As part of my placement at Simple, for example, I had to debunk myths and identify misconceptions around supplements, nutrition plans, and other marketed products, some of which I've never heard of! Since there's so many unqualified people who are trusted by the public on social media, I am deeply grateful to have learnt from Simple's approach to disseminating evidence-based nutrition in a fun and captivating way, and this is evidenced in the Simple app having an impact on such a large scale!

What is your opinion on the importance of health technologies and digital care for public and individual-level health?

We're in a digital era where technological advances allow us to apply nutrition and health science on a scale never attainable before. I think it's part of our mission as dietitians and future dietitians to use these advances to the greatest of our abilities. From witnessing Simple and other digital health providers' impact, for example, in digital weight management, self-management of health conditions, and scaled behaviour change, I believe there is so much scope here, and I will definitely seek to be part of it in my career.

What would be your top 3 tips for student dietitians about to embark on a non-clinical placement?

These 3 tips were particularly useful to me as a student on a non-clinical placement:

1. Keep an open mind, embrace the experience! It's certainly challenging to adapt to a new way of working, for example, the pace, nature of the work, communication styles, etc. Being curious and open to learning allowed me to make the most of my experience!
2. Prioritisation, prioritisation. Going from an academic, clinical background to a non-clinical placement means shifting to different tasks, resources, and time and having a different work pace! Learning to prioritise your time and workload lays the groundwork for your non-clinical placement.
3. Remember to reflect on your experience! Whether with fellow students and supervisors or writing formal reflections, reflecting should help you ground, check that you're meeting your learning goals, and take your experiences forward with a clear action plan. It's easy to get caught up in doing the work and getting into the nitty gritty of things, but it's as important to take a step back and see the bigger picture!
On the photo: Josie Porter, Adriana Salame, Ro Huntriss

Ro Huntriss, Chief Nutrition Officer at Simple, also shared her thoughts on Adriana's placement:

- As the role of a dietitian evolves, it's important that alternative, non-clinical placements are offered to students to further broaden their skills and experience, and to offer exposure to less traditional dietetic work settings. It's been a pleasure to work with University College London to provide a student placement in health tech at the Simple App.

If you are reading this and also are interested in placements at Simple, please reach us at [email protected]

MSc Student in Dietetics
Chief Nutrition Officer, Simple
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