One of the most exciting times for me as an undergraduate was discovering that books (whole books!) about the history of our profession in Canada had been written. In order of publication, these are: The Dietetic Profession in Canada (Margaret Lang and Elizabeth Upton, Eds., 1973), and Canadian Dietitians: Making a Difference (Eleanor Brownridge and Elizabeth Upton, Eds., 1993). Reading these books were important moments for me because they connected me to the enduring stories of the profession that I was joining – how it had grown, the struggles and adversities it had overcome, and how it had strategized for the future. As I finished reading Canadian Dietitians: Making a Difference I thought about the internal and external changes that have affected dietetics over the last 20 years. These include changes in government funding of healthcare in the 1990s and 2000s, the change from the Canadian Dietetic Association to Dietitians of Canada, the creation and growth of the Canadian Foundation for Dietetic Research, and the development of the Vision 2020 plan. I wondered how an updated resource could be made of the history of dietetics in Canada that would encompass and inform about these times.
I met David at the Beyond Nutritionism Workshop at Ryerson University in June 2009. We discovered our shared interest in the history of dietetics and had a few quick conversations about how one could go about composing such a history. After I returned home, I thought that it would be a fascinating and lifelong project to co-create a history, not just with David, but by inviting others who were interested to contribute. I shared this idea with David, he loved it, and the result is this invitation to join us in a history project. My interests in the history of dietetics are twofold; what practitioners actually did, and how social, political and technologic developments influenced practice; and the evolution of dietetics education. These areas of research differ from, but are complementary to, the focus of existing publications about dietetic history in Canada (those David mentioned and Roseann Nasser’s article on the Saskatchewan Dietetic Association in issue 46 of Practice) that focus on the creation and accomplishments of dietetic associations. Years ago, I invited readers of Practice to send me any documents, books or resources they were planning to throw out so that I could begin to compile an archive of materials to support history projects. To this day boxes and packages of these cast offs arrive at my house that frequently contain treasures. There is now a nice collection of diet manuals from different parts of the country, as well as records of local, provincial, and national initiatives. These are the sorts of things that can be digitized for widespread access in support of historical research.
A constantly updated history of dietetics in Canada would inform and connect students and practitioners to the course that their profession has charted to the present day, and it would provide a new vehicle for the public and researchers from other disciplines to discover more about the history, spirit, and specialized skills of dietitians. We imagine presenting information in different formats such as a website, book or book series, and/or film(s), whatever media would best achieve the goal of connecting people with the emerging history.
We are interested in connecting with any dietitians, currently practicing or retired, from all decades of practice who have an interest in contributing materials or thoughts about the history project, or who have written history papers for course work, presentations to colleagues, or for personal interest.
Other possible contributions to the history include accounts of areas of specialization or super-specialization, resources or tools formerly used in practice, government documents that influenced practice or policy, recollections of practitioners or educators, and narratives of the evolution of practice. Please be in touch with either of us if you are interested in participating in helping to document our story.
David Smith, BASc. - Dietetic Intern
The Ottawa Hospital Dietetic Internship Program
T: (819) 777-0815
Catherine Morley, PhD, RD, FDC
West Vancouver, BC
T: (604) 925-1209