Spotlight on: Wanda Firth, PDt
Program Lead/Clinical Dietitian
Hearts & Health in Motion, Nova Scotia Health Authority
"Time flies when you are having fun!" In November 2018 Wanda was recognized by the Nova Scotia Health Authority for 30 years of service. She is amazed it has been this long! Throughout her career she has been fortunate to do work that she loves while also being creative, taking on challenges and unique projects, and developing personal areas of expertise. Wanda has a particular passion for cardiovascular nutrition in prevention and wellness and have vast experience working with patients in cardiology programs and lipid clinics. In 2005, in collaboration with the medical director, she helped to establish Community Cardiovascular Hearts in Motion, a cardiac prevention and rehabilitation research program. The success of Hearts in Motion led to permanent funding and Wanda was proud to be a part of the team when the program received a 2014 Accreditation Canada Leading Practice award. Wanda is currently the program lead of the expanded Hearts & Health in Motion programs.
During the past 12 years, along with our Hearts in Motion research team, Wanda conducted research on our nutrition and behaviour change interventions, validity and reliability testing of our food scores, cardiovascular risk factor outcomes of our patient population and knowledge translation from urban to rural communities. Wanda has presented nationally and at the annual European Society of Cardiology conferences and American Heart Association conferences. She actively involved with research teams in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver as a co-investigator for a pan-Canadian ACCELERATION wellness study on health behaviours.
Wanda has served on many committees in the field of nutrition, risk factor management, and behaviour change including review panels and committees for dyslipidemia guidelines and the Canadian Association of Cardiac Prevention & Rehabilitation Dietitians Working Group. Her love for nutrition education and teaching led to great experiences in giving presentations for the public, patients and peers over the years, as well as media opportunities with regular segments on “Live at 5” and the weekend version of Good Morning Canada. Wanda has also had the privilege of teaching at the School of Nutrition & Dietetics for four years at Acadia University.
What one food is always in your fridge/pantry/freezer?
My two sons have always been active in sports, and have great appetites, especially when they were paddling competitively, so there is no such things as leftovers at my house. They often empty the fridge well before grocery shopping night! The one food that I can always count on being in the fridge is tofu… they won’t touch it.
How do you unwind when you’re not working?
Yoga, spin class, running, painting, going to the beach and hanging out with my sons and husband.
How do you make food fun and healthy for your family?
When my sons were in elementary and junior high school, I went into their classrooms every year during nutrition month to promote healthy eating. In the early years we played games using food models and that was always a big hit. I then moved on to fun food quizzes and experiments. I’m still known as the Mom with “rubber food.”
When I was doing “Live at 5” nutrition segments on ATV I would practice at home with the kids, and if they liked the message and the food props, I knew I was on the right track. It became fun teachable moments.
I also liked to involve the boys in planning and preparing meals — and when the mood hit us we would put on our own cooking show. My favorite “food joke” came from my youngest son when he was only five. When I asked him if he should remove the skin from chicken before we cook it, in all seriousness he said, “Well at least I’d remove the feathers.”
What first sparked your interest in nutrition?
Like many teenagers, I decided to follow a diet one summer. It was called the “9 Day Wonder Diet.” I don’t remember much about it except that a lot of foods were excluded and I was very hungry for nine days. On the last day I decided that there had to be a better way than this and my interest in nutrition was sparked. I was in Grade 10 and from that moment forward there was no question about what I was going to do professionally.
What do you look forward to each day in your job?
I am thankful to have had such great connections to patients throughout my career and have learned so much from my patients with regard to listing skills, compassion, and mindfulness. As my practice changed over the years and now in my current role as the program lead, I still ask myself, “what is best for the patient?”
I am also so grateful that I get to work with such a dynamic, dedicated, and passionate team who demonstrate abundant strengths and expertise. No two days are the same and I look forward to what each day will bring.