A young Bristol doctor says the next generation are likely to be less equipped to adequately prescribe patients in the area of ‘diet and lifestyle if more emphasis on training is not given in UK medical schools.
Dr Ally Jaffee, 25, said as a former medical student she was shocked by how little training UK doctors were given about nutrition during her five years of study.
She said: “While at Bristol University I realised just how little emphasis the medical profession puts on diet and lifestyle, despite the huge impact they have on people’s mental and physical wellbeing and future health.
“Having a lifestyle that benefits us is so important, not just for physical health but also our mental health.”
In her efforts to put nutrition squarely on the curriculum, she and fellow classmate Iain Broadley, decided to set up a community interest company called Nutritank which advises UK medical schools on teaching students about diet and nutrition.
She said: “I wanted to put nutrition squarely on the curriculum so that the next generation of doctors can be equipped to prescribe ways for patients to help themselves.”
The young doctor felt that only a few qualified doctors are able to address key issues such as high blood pressure and heart disease due to poor diet and was determined to change that.
Thanks to her persistence, she has been honoured with a prestigious Diana Award for leading a campaign to get diet and nutrition on the medical curriculum.
Only a handful of people around the world each year are given one for going above and beyond in their daily life to create and sustain positive change.
Dr Jaffee said: “Winning a Diana Award was so out of the blue – I’m still absolutely stunned – but it’s amazing to see the work that Nutritank is doing being recognised by such a prestigious scheme.
“Princess Diana was truly inspirational: a dedicated humanitarian who embraced leadership, activism and philanthropy whilst exuding kindness and passion. Diana is someone who should be endlessly celebrated, and to be associated with her is a true privilege and honour,” she said.
Nutritank’s success has led to Dr Jaffee and Iain appearing on Jamie Oliver’s Channel 4 Show Jamie and Jimmy’s Friday Night Feast and later to a BBC Food and Farming Award. Since then, she has gone on to speak at international conferences.
The junior doctor who finished at the University of Bristol in June 2021, now hopes to put nutrition, diet and lifestyle on the map for the whole of the NHS while continuing her work with more than 25 UK medical schools.
Ashley Blom, Head of Bristol Medical School, said: “We are extremely proud of what Ally has achieved. It is so encouraging when students are proactive and help co-create the curriculum in this way.
“Healthy living is immensely important in preventing both physical and mental illness.”
Dr Jaffee also hosts live interviews on her Instagram platform @drallyjaffee, which discusses topics around psychiatry, mental health, doctors’ wellbeing, food and mood, racism and discrimination within healthcare.
She said: “I have wanted to pursue a career in psychiatry since I was 15, it is the specialty I want to invest all my passion and energy into. There is so much we can do to reduce human suffering and increase wellbeing.
“My dream is to see more nutrition and cooking programs for NHS mental health patients. I have recently helped lead a pilot cooking program on a London Psychiatric Intensive Care Ward – watch this space for more of this.
“I am also open about my experience of living with depression and believe we should strive for a culture in healthcare where doctors and other healthcare professionals are not afraid of being discriminated against due to mental illness. COVID has shone a light on the importance of community support and togetherness.”
About the Diana award
Established in memory of Diana, Princess of Wales, the Diana Award is given out by a charity of the same name and has the support of both her sons, The Duke of Cambridge and The Duke of Sussex.
Tessy Ojo CBE, CEO of The Diana Award, said winners of the Award were “changemakers for their generation”.
She added: “For over twenty years The Diana Award has valued and invested in young people encouraging them to continue to make positive change in their communities and lives of others.”
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