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James Bradfield and Shane McAuliffe

This couldn’t be truer for two dynamic dietitians, who’ve made the most of their time at the University of Chester and are already flourishing in their burgeoning careers.

Shane McAuliffe and James Bradfield, both 25 and both from Cork in Ireland, embraced every opportunity available to them while studying for a Master’s in Nutrition and Dietetics.

During their studies, the pair volunteered for the NNEdPro Global Centre for Nutrition and Health think tank – Shane as science communications lead and James as the global innovation panel lead.

This has not only led to a peer reviewed publication in the BMJ Nutrition journal, but also a well-received health and nutrition podcast with dietitians, doctors and public health as guests, and a growing social media presence.

And all of this was done while completing placements during the pandemic, which has proved to be a huge learning curve and significant challenge.

Shane, who was a finalist in the 2020 CN Award Student Dietitian of the Year category, said the support of the University and placement staff has been invaluable during this period of global uncertainty.

He said: “I found the COVID period of our studies to be quite a challenge. Our placement was stopped very abruptly given the circumstances and suddenly, we were finished. Luckily, I had a job secured at this early stage, so I knew that was on the horizon, but didn’t know when, given the extraordinary circumstances. I’m glad that I had the MSc research project to get stuck into straight away.

“I’m also lucky that I was involved with NNEdPro Global Centre for Nutrition and Health at this time. This period turned out to be an extremely busy and productive one for my work with them. During the pandemic I’ve been responsible for the management of our dedicated COVID-19 microsite and Nutrition Resources site, which aims to provide up-to-date and evidence-based nutrition information and research for our stakeholders, including the public, practitioners and policymakers.”

James added: “We were on clinical placement at the time and I was at a hospital in Manchester. I think like most people, when there was discussion about it in January and February, I didn’t think that it was going to affect me much.

“However, being at a hospital with an infectious diseases ward, we had some of the early confirmed cases of COVID-19. This was approaching the end of the placement, where you’re managing a full caseload of patients, and it was a significant disruption to everything we were doing. That said, the University and the team I worked with were conscious that my learning had to continue, and they tried their best to support me throughout.”

Both say the support they received during their studies has been integral to their success.

Shane said: “My time in Chester was an extremely enjoyable, productive and worthwhile learning experience. I really loved every minute. I met and worked alongside some brilliant peers, academics and clinicians over the last two years and learned more than I could have hoped for. It has laid the foundations for what I hope will be a great career in the NHS and wider academic world of clinical nutrition. It is a place and a University that I hope to always keep ties with and can attribute many of my achievements to so far.”

James added: “We’ve always had a really good relationship with our lecturers. They always seemed to want to help us and I felt that they treated us more like peers, who we could have a chat with after classes to build on the topic or clear up any issues. They enjoyed debating and engaging in discussion with us and were always generous with their time.”

Lecturer in Nutrition and Dietetics at the University of Chester, Dr Kirsty Martin-McGill, said: “James and Shane have been exceptional nutrition and dietetic students, academically excelling and very diligent learners.

“Their success has led to a first author peer reviewed publication in BMJ-Nutrition, a host of well-reviewed podcasts and an ever-growing Twitter presence – all while being student dietitians and completing placements during the COVID-19 crisis.”

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