Allied Health Q&A - Primary Care Services and Nutrition with Tameika Shaw

As a follow up to the Department of Health and Society Allied Health Speaker series, we're bringing you a series of Q&As from our incredible speakers. On November 24, Tameika Shaw, a registered dietitian and primary care services manager, talked our students through developing a career in her two fields. Here she shares her insights for students who weren't able to attend the event.

Tameika Shaw

Tameika Shaw, Manager Primary Healthcare Services at TAIBU CHC 

What drew you to a career in your field(s)? 

I started my career in the health sector as a Registered Dietitian (RD) and worked in this role for 15 years, first in the private sector and then in the not-for-profit community health sector where I have remained to date. I transitioned to a leadership role in 2020 at TAIBU when I took on my current role. It seemed to be a natural progression for me as I wanted to take on roles where I could be a part of broader impact and decision making with aspects to programming, policies and procedures that affect patient access. I wanted to create clinical programs that are responsive to needs and trends of clients, programs and policies that help reduce barriers to care. As an RD I often saw clients who did not have access to food, were unable to afford medication, or if they were new to Canada were unaware of how to successfully navigate a new healthcare system. Food insecurity and health literacy are still areas I am passionate about.

What education and training did you have to undertake to work in your field(s)? 

To be an RD, I completed 4 years of an undergraduate degree in Food and Nutrition from Toronto Metropolitan University. Other universities have similar programs even though the name might be different, for example Guelph University and Brescia College (University of Western Ontario). I then completed a combined Masters and practica from University of Toronto and earned a Masters of Health Sciences (MHSc.). That program is now called Masters in Public Health (MPH). Following this, one would need to be successful in writing the CDRE and apply for membership with College of Dietitians of Ontario.

For my current role, requirements are to be a member of a regulatory body e.g. RN, Occupational Therapist, RD and have a Masters in Health Sciences, Health Administration or something similar.

What do you find most rewarding about your job? 

I do miss the one to one encounters and engagement with my clients but I love being a part of new models of care. In my role at TAIBU I oversee an HIV Intensive Case Management program and two Social Prescribing programs which are newer models of care for Primary Care. I am most satisfied with helping members of Black communities, these are clients who remind me of my own family members who were instrumental in me even entering the healthcare sector in the beginning, as I saw firsthand the impact and value having supportive, caring and empathetic health care workers as part of your healthcare team could contribute to better health outcomes and longevity. My maternal great grandmother had diabetes but had a high quality of life until she passed away 96. I always wished I talked to her more about her diet and other non-medical lifestyle factors. Numerous family members had similar health concerns and the impact of diet on their outcomes drew me to dietetics.

What is one thing you wish you’d known before you’d embarked on your career? 

For transparency, that the salary is not always comparable to the level of work and also that helping clients sustain their health goals isn't always a simple linear journey. We in the CHC sector are here because we are passionate about equity and serving our community.

What advice would you give to an undergraduate who wants to get into your field(s)?

It is a satisfying experience. If you thrive on personal engagement and interpersonal connections, community-based work is satisfying. You can make change at an individual and community level, and this change is immediately noticeable. As an RD, if you enjoy cooking and nutrition and health this career allows you to do both. Food is so innate to survival, health, culture, creativity and social connection that dietetics allows a good blending of the two. If you enjoy working with people across the different life stages and demographics, there are multiple opportunities so this field is wide open with choices.