Interview with Lily Chen, MS, RDN, APD, FAND, IAAND CR for Australia
By Marion Eckl
It is with great pleasure that I introduce the CR for Australia and the current chair of Strategic Communications, Lily Chen. Lily is a multi-talented dietitian with a diverse array of experiences in nutrition, including clinical-care, teaching, management, private practice, and research.
Meet Lily Chen
Originally raised in Los Angeles, California, Lily initially made the move to the east coast in order to complete her university education in New York city. She received a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health from New York University (NYU) and subsequently completed a Master of Science in Clinical Nutrition at the University of Buffalo. After graduating, Lily first worked as a dietitian in a rehabilitation center for about two years before becoming a manager of clinical nutrition at a small hospital in upstate New York.
After a year and half working in management, Lily made the even bigger move of relocating to Sydney, Australia. Since dietitian credentials do not immediately transfer between the United States and Australia, Lily initially worked as a research assistant in cardiology, while simultaneously taking the necessary steps to obtain her Accredited Practicing Dietitian (APD) credential in order to allow her to practice in Australia as a dietitian. Now with her APD in hand, Lily splits her time working part-time in research and part-time in a private practice with a neurologist.
Besides working as a dietitian, Lily also has a history of serving on several chair positions in dietetics, which only exemplifies her leadership within the field. In the past, Lily has served as the Fundraising Chair for the IAAND and is now currently serving as the Strategic Communications Chair for the IAAND in addition to the Nominating Committee Chair for the Dietitians in Business and Communications (DBC).
Health Issues Impacting Australia
Similar to other western countries, Australia is currently grappling with the rise of cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes, and childhood and adult obesity.
The rise in cardiometabolic diseases is seen even more prominently in the Aboriginal populations in Australia who suffer from higher rates of obesity, heart disease, and type II diabetes. Considering their increased risk, efforts are being made in Australia to provide nutrition services that are both culturally- and spiritually-appropriate for the Aboriginal populations.
Health status of Aboriginal populations in Australia:
Opportunities in Australian Dietetics
The Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA) is the official Australian dietetics association responsible for the accreditation of dietitians and, thus, administering the APD credential. There are a number of DAA certified university programs in Australia, whose programs encompass both didactic learning as well as a built-in internship placement.
For overseas qualified dietitians, however, the process of having their credentials recognized and gaining an APD is slightly more complicated. Foreign educated dietitians must first undergo Dietetics Skills Recognition (DSR), which involves three components. The first part consists of assessing one’s eligibility to sit for the dietetics exam, which involves sending in academic transcripts for approval by the board. After receiving approval, one can move on to the second step of completing a written examination in the fields of foodservice, clinical nutrition, and community nutrition. The third step is an oral counseling interview examination often involving a case-study. Even after passing these three steps, however, the first year with an APD is still considered provisional. During the first year, the candidate must meet with an APD mentor at least once a month in order to further assess professional competencies before being officially awarded an APD.
Dietetics Association of Australia (DAA official website):
List of DAA accredited universities:
Recognition of overseas qualified dietitians:
Traditional Recipes and Current Food Trends
Although not a native of Australia, Lily notes that breakfast appears to be especially beloved in Australian culture. Fondly referred to as “brekky” or “brekkie” for short, breakfast is often available all-day in cafes and restaurants in Australia.
One current food trend in Australia is the low-FODMAP diet. Designed by researchers at Monash University in Australia, the low-FODMAP diet is specifically formulated to treat patients suffering from IBS. While the low-FODMAP diet is known within specific circles in dietetics and gastroenterology in the United States, Lily explains that the diet is much more widely recognized by the lay population in Australia. Consumers can even find low-FODMAP certified food products in grocery stores.
One of the challenges unique to practicing as a dietitian in Australia is the lengthy process required for foreign-educated dietitians to obtain an APD credential. Additionally, Lily observed that it is often difficult for entry-level dietitians to obtain jobs in dietetics after graduation, even if they were educated in Australia.
Nevertheless, Lily goes on to highlight that one of the major opportunities of working in Australia is their ground-breaking research in nutrition, best exemplified in the low-FODMAP diet.
Inspiration for Joining IAAND
Overall, Lily asserts that her chief motivation for involvement with the IAAND was and is to maintain ties with the dietetic community. Formerly a member of the Greater New York Dietetic Association, Lily found that involvement with such professional practice groups proves extremely helpful in both providing support and gaining inspiration from other dietitians—which becomes even more important as an expat dietitian!