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Spotlight on: Dr. Leah Cahill, RD, PhD

Assistant Professor and Howard Webster Department of Medicine Research Chair, Dalhousie University


Dr. Leah Cahill completed her undergraduate degree in nutritional sciences at the University of Manitoba and a dietetic internship with the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority. She completed her PhD in medicine focusing on nutrition and genetics at the University of Toronto, and then moved to Boston to work as a post-doctoral scientist at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health. During her five-year postdoc at Harvard, Leah worked in the Department of Nutrition collecting skills in nutritional epidemiology and research methodology as she investigated the dietary and genetic origins of cardiometabolic disease in large cohort studies. She recently accepted the Howard Webster Research Chair in the Department of Medicine at Dalhousie University, and moved to Halifax, where she is establishing a nutrition research program in public health and clinical patient-oriented research initiatives. She is also enjoying exploring the beaches and parks of Nova Scotia with her husband and two young children.


What amazes you the most about your career choice?

I am always amazed by how complex and fascinating the field of nutrition is; I have never once been bored in my career! Nutrition is a fun and intriguing mixture of biology, chemistry, cooking, psychology, ecology, public health, marketing, counselling, biostatistics, medicine, farming, and so much more. It is a tool to help us heal and prevent disease, and is so simple and so complicated at the same time.


How do you unwind when you are not working?

If I am not working I am definitely with my family! My kids are hilarious and we have a lot of fun. We love to be outside in nature as much as possible. With a 1 year old and a 4 year old, most of my hobbies involve playing with them, but I do also love dancing, especially tap dancing.


What is your next big project or goal?

I have just started my own research group at Dalhousie University in the Department of Medicine, so my next big project is to recruit team members and obtain funding for research projects. My goal is to grow a strong research program where anyone who wants to conduct nutrition research can work, study, collaborate, or consult. One area of immediate interest is quantifying the attributable risk of dietary factors to disease burden in Canada.


What is the best adventure you have been on?

Honestly it is a tie between parenting my kids and a 2-year long backpacking trip working odd jobs to support myself along my way through Africa and Europe when I was 19-21 years old. Both experiences have made me grow as a person and establish my priorities (while having a great time).


Do you have a favorite food spot in Nova Scotia?

It has been really exciting to discover delicious food in Nova Scotia. I am especially impressed by all the farmers' markets. On Friday mornings, I go to the Partners for Care farmers' market at work (the QEII VG site) and load up on lots of good food for the weekend.


What is one tip you could share with future/current dietitians?

I always like to remind new dietitians how unique and valuable their knowledge is and to tell them the world needs and wants them. It seems like everyone thinks they are nutrition experts these days, but dietitians actually are the nutrition expert, so I like to pump them up!

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