A healthy start to a career in health promotion

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Seamus Damstrom was initially a little concerned that attending a small college would set him back in his post-secondary journey, but he soon learned he need not have worried.

“That can’t be further from the truth. You can learn how to be successful in post-secondary education in an environment that is supportive, due to the small class sizes and accommodating professors,” he said. “You are also able to complete many courses that can transfer to many universities while avoiding the large classes of 300+ which are extremely daunting at times.”

With his eye on a career as a dietitian, Seamus completed most of the pre-requisite courses he needed for the UBC Dietetic Major program through University Science courses at College of the Rockies.

“I was able to get high quality education in a comfortable and accommodating setting and was able to live at home and save money before transferring to university.”

With his prerequisites complete, Seamus transferred to the University of British Columbia where he completed a Bachelor of Science in Food, Nutrition, and Health – majoring in Dietetics. He was able to return to the Kootenays after graduating, earning a position with Interior Health as the East Kootenay Public Health Dietitian.

“My work involves health promotion and food security initiatives at local, regional, and provincial levels. My personal interests include the intersection between public/population health and Indigenous ways of knowing, and how to apply an anti-racism and harm reduction approach to population health and food security work.”

As an Indigenous Registered Dietitian from the Oneida Nation of the Thames (Turtle Clan), Seamus strives to work with Indigenous populations to advocate for conversations around Indigenous food sovereignty and Indigenous ways of knowing in the field of dietetics and healthcare in general. His efforts to improve health outcomes and food security issues in Indigenous communities includes becoming involved in research.

“I am completing a research project with UBC’s Nutritional Epidemiology for Population Health laboratory, a scoping review of dietary guidelines for, and involving, Indigenous populations in the US and Canada. This review of scientific literature as well as reports, working papers, government documents, etc., was born from conversations with ongoing research project partners in academia as well as in food, nutrition, and health sectors in Nunavut.”

After his initial hesitation, Seamus is grateful that he got started on his educational journey at College of the Rockies.

“The College experience provided me with the opportunity to appreciate and respect the importance of building and strengthening relationships. Staying connected with the community is vitally important to providing informed feedback and advice on population health and food security policy and program design. The small class sizes at the College helped me gain experience in building trusting relationships as you need to support one another as you progressed in your class.”

Having gone through many years of study to get to his dream career, Seamus has some reassuring words for other students.

“Remember to be kind and gentle to yourself. It’s a journey and you will get there.”