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Dietitians as leaders, past, present and future


  • S. Capra, PhD, FDAA, Chair, Board of Directors, ICDA, Professor of Nutrition

S. Capra, School of Human Movement Studies, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Qld 4072, Australia. Email:


Aim:  Dietetics as a form of study predates medicine, but the profession did not emerge until the nineteenth century and is still in an emergent stage today in many parts of the world. This paper seeks to demonstrate how the impact of leaders has been critical in terms of the growth and development of the profession.

Methods:  A narrative review was formed from searching the published literature.

Results:  The published literature is silent on many aspects of dietetics. In modern times, the majority of written works have come from North America and Western Europe. No work on historical or developmental aspects of dietetics from other parts of the world could be located. Leadership within the profession is well researched, but leadership by the profession in the broader arena of national and international policy and practice is harder to identify. There are calls for curricula to keep pace with the needs of modern healthcare systems if the profession is to flourish.

Conclusion:  Despite all the changes and the evolution of the profession, much remains unchanged. There are recurring themes throughout the literature reviewed here, those of the breadth of dietetics, the need for evolving curricula, the need for business acumen, the need for diversity and, in more recent times, the ability to work with interdisciplinary teams. But the profession has what it takes. It has within its ranks leaders of today and tomorrow. It is up to the profession to allow those leaders to emerge and take the profession to the next level.