National Dietitian Day (March 15)

Alison and Sarah
Two of Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre’s registered dieticians, Alison and Sarah, took the time to connect with us and give us a glimpse into their roles.

March 15, 2023 marks this year’s celebration of National Dietitian Day in Canada. It celebrates dietitians as regulated health care professionals, committed to using their specialized knowledge and skills to translate the science of nutrition into terms everyone can understand to unlock food’s potential and support healthy living for all Canadians.

Dietitians are rigorously trained and regulated health care professionals and remain the most credible source of food and nutrition information. Dietitians can help cut through the clutter of fads and gimmicks. They provide ethical, evidence-based nutrition advice to help you eat in a way that works with your culture and traditions, preferences, nutritional and personal needs such as taste, food skills, budget, and health conditions.

Two of Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre’s registered dieticians took the time to connect with us and give us a glimpse into their roles.


Alison Donovan, Registered Dietitian
Diabetes Health, St. Joseph’s Care Group and Regional Bariatric Care Centre, TBRHSC

What does it take to be a registered dietitian? 

There are three main steps to becoming a registered dietitian. The first is the completion of an accredited university degree in nutrition & dietetics. The second is the competition of a highly competitive, one-year, supervised practical training program typically referred to as internship. Following internship, individuals must then sit & pass a national exam known as the Canadian Dietetic Registration Exam (CDRE). Once those components are complete an individual will meet the qualifications to be a registered dietitian with their provincial regulatory body, which is the College of Dietitians of Ontario (CDO) for dietitians working in Ontario. The CDO then ensures its members meet ongoing requirements for continuing education, as well as competent and ethical practice.

What inspired you to work in bariatrics?  

I have always had an interest in the science of weight management. Weight management and obesity are extremely complex and nuanced, and often misunderstood by the public and even other health care professionals, leading individuals who live in larger bodies or with obesity to experience weight stigma and bias. My goal is to help support changing the narrative around obesity, weight, and body size. Additionally, I personally have lived in a much larger body than the one I currently present with and my own personal experience with weight, health, and nutrition influenced my decision to become a dietitian and inform my current work in bariatrics. I bring a unique perspective and lived experience to my role when working with our bariatric patients.

What is unique about your role? 

As clinical dietitians, the work that we do is very specialized to the area we work in. Bariatric surgery patients have very specific pre- and post-op nutrition requirements. In my role at the bariatric clinic, I work with our interdisciplinary team to assess if patients are candidates for bariatric surgery from a nutrition perspective and provide ongoing counselling to these individuals following surgery. Additionally, I help to provide evidence-based nutrition education, recommendations, and support to individuals in our medical program.

What do you love most about your job? 

I love it when I can help contribute to people changing their relationship with food from negative to positive. Witnessing a patient’s mindset change to no longer being fearful or scared of food is a really great experience.

Promoting a healthy lifestyle is part of your daily message to patients. Do you have any personal tips on how to stay healthy?

So many individuals look at foods as “good” or “bad”, which ultimately creates a sense of morality around food and increases feelings of guilt and shame when certain foods are consumed. However, no one food is inherently good or bad, some are simply more nourishing than others and all foods can fit in a nutritious, balanced diet. I encourage people to develop an add, don’t restrict mindset around food. Focus on what we can add versus what we feel we need to remove. For example, maybe we pair a portion of chips with some raw veggies + Greek yogurt dip or a frozen pizza with a homemade side salad for a more balanced snack or meal. When it comes to movement, don’t underestimate the benefits of going for a walk. And lastly, but definitely not least, make getting a good night’s sleep a priority!

Sarah Miller, Registered Dietitian, Certified Bariatric Educator
Clinical Team Lead, Regional Bariatric Care Centre, TBRHSC

What does it take to be a registered dietitian?

To become a dietitian, you need to complete a degree in human nutrition and dietetics from a program that has been accredited by the Partnership for Dietetic Education and Practice (PDEP), supervised practical training and pass the Canadian Dietetic Registration Exam (CDRE), which is managed by the regulatory College in each province.

What inspired you to work in bariatrics?

Before I started practicing in the area of bariatrics (13 years ago), and before the science of obesity emerged (revolutionizing the way we approach treatment of obesity), I knew there had to be more to body weight regulation, than what I was taught during my training (in the 90’s-early 2000’s). When I first started working as a registered dietitian (2003), I met many patients who were frustrated by traditional approaches to weight loss. In most cases, despite their best efforts at navigating the toxic dieting culture and integrating public health messages, they continued to struggle with weight cycling/gain and with their eating patterns and food relationship. It was very clear to me, early in my dietetic practice that there is pervasive weight bias and stigma towards people living in larger bodies. Patients’ are blamed for their body size and their health concerns are often attributed to their weight alone. Research shows that this leads to many negative health consequences for the patient.

What is unique about your role?

I work collaboratively with a multidisciplinary team of surgeons, internal medicine, Psychologist, social worker, nurses, kinesiologist and other dietitians. As a certified bariatric educator (CBE), I have achieved competency of evidence-based, specialized knowledge in the principles of obesity management. Achieving my Certified Bariatric Educator designation was very important to me to demonstrate my commitment to professional growth in the field of bariatrics. As the clinical team lead of the Regional Bariatric Care Centre, I practice my unique RD skill set while applying my specialized knowledge as a CBE to support my team. I endeavor to ensure that patients receive comprehensive, patient-centred care consistent with best practice guidelines outlined by the Ontario Bariatric Network (OBN), Obesity Canada and the American Society of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery. I participate in provincial task force committees (Medical and Weight Regain) through the Ontario Bariatric Network, to help ensure consistent practice across the province. As a lifelong learner I have completed education and training in eating disorders, concepts of intuitive eating, Health at Every Size®, nutrition and mental health and am a certified Craving Change™ facilitator.

What do you love about your job?

It’s very rewarding to see people living healthier lives and experience a better quality of life!! I am also very grateful to work and collaborate with a multidisciplinary team.

Promoting a healthy lifestyle is part of your daily messaging to patients. Do you have any personal tips on how to stay healthy?

Be kind to yourself and practice self compassion daily. Remember, healthy bodies come in all shapes and sizes! Your weight does not define you.