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An IMU Student’s Experience Advocating “Eat Right, Live Right” at Webinars

21 Dec 2020

As a final year student from the DN116 cohort in Dietetics with Nutrition Programme, International Medical University (IMU), I was fortunate to be the leader of a series of webinars to advocate for “Eat Right, Live Right”. The five webinars were conducted from 23 July to 29 July. This opportunity came as part of fulfilling the remaining credits hours in community placement which was brought to a halt due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the ensuing Movement Control Order. These webinars were conducted to impart knowledge on dietary management and lifestyle intervention in hypertension, gout, high blood cholesterol, chronic kidney disease and diabetes.

Date Date of Webinar Time
24 July Diet and Cholesterol, What You Need To Know 10.00am – 11.00am
28 July The Gout Diet: What’s In and What’s Out? 10.30am – 11.30am
28 July Diet and Kidney: Do’s and Don’ts 2.00pm – 3.00pm
29 July Manage your blood pressure through diet 10.30am – 11.30am
29 July Diabetes is not only about ‘Kurang Manis’! 3.30pm – 4.30pm

I was grateful for the dietetics skills that I learnt for the past 4 years, skills which were put to good use especially during times of a movement-controlled operation. From the beginning, it was a great learning experience when I accepted the offer to lead the first webinar ever conducted by students from this programme! I am grateful for my supervisor, Jamilah Bt Abdul Jamil, the faculty members and my peers who had supported me throughout the webinars. Though challenging, it was fruitful as I managed to learn and explore new skills to ensure a smooth implementation. To me, this was one of the projects that I can really relate to and witness the significance of teamwork to produce a successful outcome. It is always important to work closely and have the full cooperation from team mates to prevent any delays in work progress and miscommunication. In the midst of preparation, we managed to handle the project specifications and requirements before it was too late for promotional activities.

It certainly had its ups and down, in the organising the webinar. Since virtual seminar was relatively new, most of us were confused and were uncertain on how to identify the focus areas during the initial phase. It might have been due to the fact that the students had only prior exposure doing face-to-face sessions at the hospitals handling patients with comorbitites.

More importantly, internet connection was a critical factor to be of concern, and true enough, during one of the webinars, my peers encountered such issues. Nevertheless, they managed to deliever the message without any major delay. Despite all the challenges, we managed to execute the webinar successfully. The webinars received good feedback especially the speakers’ ability to engage the audiences with interactive activities such as quiz and Q and A sessions. I personally believe all students did their best to deliver the messages that will have a lasting impact to the audience.

A Different Learning Experience
Beyond doubt, it was a test of my ability as this was my first experience to set up a virtual seminar that requires much IT skills and most of the communication were done virtually on text which was far different from the past project managements which was done physically. Along the journey, I learnt both soft skills and technical skills when delivering an education programme via a virtual platform. Technical skills included presentation skills and IT skills to conduct a live webinar through Microsoft Teams. As for soft skills, there was a need to better articulate during an online presentation and to be creative in view of the limitations of not having the audience in front of the speakers physically. It was thrilling when I applied my new skills especially on creating an automated reply email to the audience once they registered. Besides this, I played the role of a moderator in the webinar, it was an advantageous opportunity to train my public speaking skills and multitasking skill. This is because it requires skills to engage the audience closely, deal with sudden situations/issues and at the same time listen to the speakers closely. At the end of the sessions, my peers and I realised that there was difference between a face to face versus a virtual session. For convenience, virtual platform certainly provides better effectiveness in time and flexibility. It allows the organisers more time for preparation, compared to a spontaneous face to face session. However, virtual platform had its downside, whereby, the speakers were only be able to provide general education and information instead of individualised or personalised advices. At the same time, there was no possible communication through body language to gauge the attentiveness and understanding of clients/audience as most of the client/audience videos are off.

During the times of being quarantined during the COVID-19 pandemic, digital dietetics practice plays an important role in the community to raise awareness on public health.

Although I am glad that I was involved in leading this webinar project, I was doubtful at first. This is because I foresee that we will not be able to conduct discussions physically, and I am personally unsure of the effectiveness in communication across media. However, it turned out to be great when communication was made clearly and a close contact with one another through media such as WhatApps was maintained. It was a worthwhile experience where I received encouraging comments despite all the worries as a leader. Thanks to technology today, I managed to learn the required IT skills with just a search on the internet. With this opportunity, I also learnt the basis of conducting a webinar such as knowing how to attract audience after understanding the normal human behaviours of people attending webinars ar a virtual platform. This is because most people were occupied with their own work before the screen and it could be challenging to keep their full attention in the virtual platform. From this experience, I learnt ways to attract the audience as a moderator by having interaction with the speakers and audience. On top of that, I’m glad that I have also learnt ways to wrap up the topics presented in a simple and holistic way. During the webinar, it was important to make the nutrition education delivery as attractive as possible despite the large amount of scientific sharing. Being a patient centred dietitian, it is important to simplify our nutrition education to the audience’s understanding and this skill is fairly important in the dietetic field. As a future dietitian soon, I hope I could contribute the skills I have learnt and in a digital dietetics platform with my newly leant skill. With that, I hope everyone will eat right, live right and stay safe. Cheers!

Written by Celine Tan Shir Ping, DN116

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