The Interviews: Paeds and Punjabi Delights with Anjanee Kohli

November 22, 2020
I’m Anjanee (known as Anna to friends), a dietitian who graduated from the University of Nottingham in July last year. I started my first job as a Community Band 5 in August 2019, which was a split role working with adults and children. I’m now a Band 6 Community Paediatric dietitian, and started this role in June. I also have an interest in Public Health advice, Diabetes and the effect of the South Asian diet in the prevention and management of lifestyle disease. I’ve got a strong passion for cooking, and especially love Punjabi dishes with a twist! I post about these things and more on my page @anjaneedietitian !

How did you get into dietetics?

I hope you have a cup of tea ready because this is going to be a long answer…

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I initially did a law degree at 18 (12 years ago!) , because I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, but thought I’d go to uni just because all my friends were! I never classed myself as a “science” person (lol) but liked English, which my parents thought didn’t lead to a career, so landed on law. I didn’t do the greatest, because it wasn’t where my passion was, so didn’t pursue it after graduation. I continued working in an Asda bakery part time, which is a job I had since I was 20! I also even did voluntary work in a school to see if teaching was something I was interested in, it was not 😂 because I panicked when I was left in a classroom with 30 kids alone for 5 minutes. In this time I’d also gained a bit of weight, so I started to read around “healthy” eating and exercise, as my weight was something I always (and still do!) struggle with. I also transferred to the pharmacy in Asda during that time too. I soon realised that food was where my passion was, and realised I really enjoy working in healthcare. So I looked up jobs that I could do that are to do with food, and dietetics came up, which was a convenient mix of healthcare and nutrition! I attended a dietetics open day and loved it, I found out it would take me 5 years to become a dietitian. That really was not something my parents were keen on, because I was already “over the hill” by Asian standards at 24 😐 (lol), but what else was I going to do in that time? I went back to college to do an Access to Science course, and got the grades for a place at Nottingham Uni, an experience which I loved! I told you it was long, but I got there in the end and loved it all.

What do you love most about your current paediatric role?

There’s a bit of everything and no two days are the same! In my general clinics I do everything from helping children with allergies to autism and then in my school clinics I can help in the management of home enteral feeding. Obviously I’m not doing face to face yet because of COVID, but I’m looking forward to seeing patients face to face soon as children are good fun! This also sounds a bit corny but my colleagues are very supportive in my current role, and no question I ask ever seems like a stupid one (despite the fact that they probably are 😐 ). I’ve recently been signed off as competent in paediatrics, but still need a bit of help sometimes, so my colleagues never seem to mind when I ask for help. This is definitely key in being happy at work.

How does paediatrics differ from adult work?

A big difference is often parents or carers are the gateway to the patient themselves (the child) so you’re not giving advice directly with the patient, you’re reliant on parents to adhere to it. Also, there’s so many different stages in paediatrics which makes how you deliver dietetic advice differ. Premature babies, newborns, infants, teenagers, we’ve got them all! In face to face scenarios, you never really know what to expect depending on the mood of the child, although from experience this could also apply to adults! Usually parents bring distractions like books or toys to cope with this, or sometimes they’re already available in the clinic room! I remember once a child who was potty training just squatted and pooped during clinic, that was a low point, but we’ve seen it all!

Where has your love of cooking originated from and would you ever take this further?

Honestly, my mum! I’ve grown up watching her cook, she and her friends learnt how to cook together when they dormed in Amritsar (in Punjab) during midwife training. Family and my friends honestly love her food, she’s never cooked a bad dish (except for when she tried to make dosa once, the less said about that, the better). I think this is an Asian Mum (and Punjabi) thing, but she can honestly put together a banquet at the drop of a hat! I also used to watch a lot of cooking programmes growing up, Ready Steady Cook anyone?! I feel like I would’ve loved to have gone on there, followed by Jungle Run and Crystal maze. I would loooove to take cooking further! It’s always been a dream of mine to open a cool little cafe, where I could serve chai and warming dishes all day long. I’d also love to do some media work or write a cookbook as it’s a big passion of mine, let’s see where this will take me!

What advice would you give to anyone considering the transition from adults to paeds?

The big thing for sure would be to get experience where you are in your current job if possible, but I know it always isn’t when everyone is so busy! I was lucky because my previous job was a split role (3 days adults and 2 days paediatrics) so I had some experience to bring to my new job. If that’s not possible then do lots of reading around the subject, and apply for jobs! If there’s a Band 6 job going, apply anyway and show lots of enthusiasm in your interview, they might be willing to take you on as a progressive band 5 to 6 and train you on the job. That’s what I did 🙂

Thanks for much for taking part Anjanee, loved hearing about your work so far and your fabulous food!!
Emma x

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