Notable for its comprehensive and insightful conferences, the Malaysian Dietitians’ Association (MDA) has successfully organised its 23rd annual conference this year—which was held at Hotel Istana, Kuala Lumpur on 10th and 11th of July—welcoming approximately 500 attendees. The two-day event had a line-up of insightful case discussions, coupled with interactive sharing sessions and workshops conducted by prolific facilitators, representing various fields of clinical dietetics.

Health Director-General, YBhg Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah (second from left) officiated the conference together with members of the MDA team, Professor Dr Winnie Chee (first from left) and Mageswary Lapchmanan (centre). Photo credit: YBhg Datuk Dr Noor Hisham
Health Director-General, YBhg Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah (second from left) officiated the conference together with members of the MDA team, Professor Dr Winnie Chee (first from left) and Mageswary Lapchmanan (centre). Photo credit: YBhg Datuk Dr Noor Hisham

A multitude of educational activities planned


Presenting the theme, “Advancing Clinical Nutrition Care in Dietetics”, the 23rd MDA National Conference kickstarted on Monday morning – with the opening ceremony, graced by the Health Director-General, YBhg Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah. This year’s conference also placed a focus on the launch of the updated Medical Nutrition Therapy (MNT) Guidelines for Critical Care.

Reiterating the four pillars of MDA—competency, professionalism, visibility and breakthrough—in her welcoming address, Professor Dr Winnie Chee, President of MDA and Conference Chairperson, shared about the association’s aim in presenting various themes at its annual conference – focusing on what is necessary for dietitians to note at that given time. “For instance, it was an international conference focusing on the various aspects of a dietitian’s role in last year’s conference... Prior to that, the conference centred on community dietitians such as in outpatient care,” she elaborated.

Noor Hisham took to social media, later that day, expressing the importance of dietitians in the country. “The MOH is cognisant of and recognises the importance of dietitians and their unique role in the curative, as well as preventive, promotive and rehabilitative aspects of healthcare,” he expressed.

“Dietitians are an important member of the multi-disciplinary healthcare team who ensures early nutrition support is provided to aid the recovery of patients, so they can return to their normal lives as soon as possible. More importantly, the role of dietitians in preventative medicine is paramount; especially since the prevalence of obesity and NCDs are increasing in this country,” continued Noor Hisham.

Associate Professor Dr Rebecca Brody, a dietitian from the United States, demonstrated patient examination during a workshop.
Associate Professor Dr Rebecca Brody, a dietitian from the United States, demonstrated patient examination during a workshop.

Participation from various dietitians, students, clinicians and other healthcare professionals was also evident throughout this event. We also witnessed dietitians from Australia and the US attending this year’s conference—as they shared their expertise in the field of dietetics and nutrition, alongside local experts.

Numerous symposiums and workshops were held to educate local healthcare providers and students. These symposiums also aided in providing insights into the new MNT guidelines, and how to utilise them in the healthcare. For example, an interactive workshop, conducted by Associate Professor Dr Rebecca Brody, a dietitian from the United States – whereby attendees had hands-on experience in sharpening their cranial nerve examining skills.

There were also competitions for oral and poster case study presentations, in which students and dietitians presented their research cases and management skills.

Attendees were able to view posters pertaining to case studies, research and other MDA activities during the conference.
Attendees were able to view posters pertaining to case studies, research and other MDA activities during the conference.

Importance of the MNT guidelines and conveying key messages


Mageswary Lapchmanan, head of committee for the new MNT Guidelines for Critically Ill Adults Patients 2017, shared her thoughts on the importance of these new guidelines. “It’s been 12 years since the last guidelines and we have a lot of updates. Hence, we thought we would form this new guideline based on the latest evidences. We reviewed all evidence, publications and researches throughout the years and divided it into three recommendation types – should follow, encouraged to follow and consider having in your practice,” she remarked.

Mageswary then elaborated on the need for guidelines to harmonise the way dietitians practise in Malaysia. “These guidelines are specific to our country because we had to consider a lot of ICUs, which are not very advanced with varied equipment and formulations.” Besides the addition of a few new things, a pocket-sized version of it “to serve as an easy reference” is in the pipeline.

Addressing the shortage of dietitians in Malaysia, Mageswary explained roughly 80% of hospitals have dietitians. “It would be ideal to have dietician in each ward or 2 for every 50 patients. We have outpatient clinics to run as well so it can be difficult to divide our time appropriately, similar to doctors.”

Professor Chee explained that the MDA—established in 1994—currently comprises 1,000 members from various hospitals and clinics. A conducive platform which provides the opportunity for participants to come together, to network and build on their professional relationships—it is with great hope that the crowd would take home important messages, to benefit healthcare providers and patients, after attending this year’s conference. “We hope they have exchanged their views and methods, as well as are able to improve their service and take better care of patients,” expressed Professor Chee. MIMS

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