New Faculty Profile: Tamara Cohen
Tamara Cohen started in January 2020, serving in dual roles as Director of Dietetics and Assistant Professor (Food, Nutrition and Health). Her research involves helping individuals maintain healthy lifestyle practices and improve their relationship with food. Cohen, who loves working with people, takes a holistic approach that never involves strict diet or activity plans.
Cohen was formerly a faculty member and clinical dietetics coordinator at McGill University. Also, she obtained her BSc, MSc and PhD at McGill. She hopes to bring lessons and best practices she gleaned from there – both in terms of dietetics programming and administration – to create at UBC what she calls ‘the Cadillac of dietetic programs across Canada’.
“I hope to offer unique learning experiences that students in our profession aren’t currently exposed to,” said Cohen. “I have an engaged and wonderfully diverse steering committee with representation across the province guiding me in the bigger picture programming.”
Some proposed changes include mandatory short-term Indigenous and rural placements and the implementation of practice education (also known as internship) for firstyear students. By getting students into workplace learning environments earlier, she believes they will have a better student experience in the classroom and apply knowledge into practice easier.
She also hopes to advocate for dietitians on a larger spectrum and, through her research avenues, be the voice of dietetics as she collaborates with other healthcare providers.
“There is a science behind diet intervention, where behaviour, emotions, and environment play significant roles,” said Cohen. “Dietitians have a truly unique expertise above and beyond nutrition and a different hands-on training with people.”
One of her projects involves helping cohabiting couples examine the role that relationships have on changing diet and activity practices. Enabling behaviours within a couple’s relationship can sabotage their efforts to lead a healthy lifestyle. Couples counselling is very novel for dietetics. Working closely with psychologists and physical activity experts, Cohen hopes to train dietitians to work with couples.
In conjunction with Montreal Children’s Hospital Adolescent Medicine Unit, Cohen also works with teenagers living with severe obesity undergoing bariatric surgery. She is working with a team of dietitians to create teen-friendly resources to help patients and caregivers as they go through the bariatric process. Her work is patient-centred, using focus groups or semistructured interviews to gain patient insight and feedback.
She is also studying how mobile diet applications can play a role in changing behaviour.
Cohen plans to continue collaborating across Canada and internationally, and she’s also excited to meet with potential collaborators here at UBC. She aims to bring a multi-faceted approach to improving health and wellness through our diets.