Meet our Volunteer Spotlight for July 2023, Siddharth (Sid) Bhattacharyya
Sid is a Specialist Diabetes Dietitian working in Salford. He recently volunteered with Diabetes UK for the first time, at one of our Type 1 Family Weekender events.
"It’s very much a diabetes-filled weekend; it’s great!"
A career in diabetes
Sid has worked as a Diabetes Dietitian for almost 4 years. He grew up in Australia, where he trained to be a dietitian, before he emigrated to the UK in 2017.
Sid’s first role was in general dietetics, which gave him good experience in all types of clinical dietetics work. He says he’d always had an interest in diabetes, although he admits it wasn’t his best subject at university! After his partner was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2017, he learned a lot about the condition from first-hand experience. He offered to take on more of the diabetes management at work, and increased his skills in this area, then moved into the Diabetes Dietitian role he has now.
Finding out about volunteering
Sid found out about volunteering with Diabetes UK when his team leader shared details of the opportunities available in a work-team WhatsApp group. One of Sid’s colleagues, who had volunteered on Type 1 Events in the past, told him it was a great experience and encouraged him to find out more.
After reading the volunteer dietitian role description, he felt he had the right experience, so applied to volunteer. He attended an (online) volunteering interview with two members of Diabetes UK staff and learned lots more about what’s involved at both Type 1 Family Weekenders and Type 1 Summer Camps.
He registered to volunteer at a Family Weekender that was happening in Sheffield in May. And after a colleague told him how much more experience he’d get at a Summer Camp, he registered to attend one of those in Dorset in August too.
A dietitian’s role at a Family Weekender
At the Family Weekender, Sid was in a team with a volunteer diabetes healthcare professional (HCP) and a couple of general (non-clinical) volunteers, who were looking after the 5- and 6-year-old children. Some of the children in the team live with type 1 diabetes, and some were the siblings of other children and young people with type 1 attending the event.
Before setting out to an activity centre for the day on the Saturday, Sid and the other dietitians were responsible for packing their teams’ lunches for the day out. During the day, Sid’s role as team dietitian was to carb count the lunches and snacks for the children with type 1. Back at the hotel in the evening he supported the children with carb counting their evening meals.
On the Sunday, the children attended a mix of fun and educational sessions, and Sid’s role was to supervise them and be on hand for carb counting any snacks.
The benefits of volunteering as a dietitian
Sid says he got a lot out of volunteering at the Family Weekender, from networking with other dietitians to spending time with people living with type 1 diabetes.
“I learned about an online resource that we now use in clinic, I’m developing some guidance about diabetes and alcohol following a conversation over breakfast with other dietitians, and I’ve updated our exercise leaflets using what I learned during the volunteers' training session on the Friday afternoon”
As the Lead Dietitian for type 1 diabetes at work, Sid mainly sees newly diagnosed patients and so doesn’t see many patients who use insulin pumps. But after spending the weekend surrounded by the children and young people – and many of the adult volunteers too – using insulin pumps, he learned lots about how they work, the differences between patch and tubed pumps, how different glucose sensors work with pumps to make a closed loop system, and how patients manage their pumps in ‘real life'.
He feels his own patients have benefitted from this as he now feels more confident answering their questions about pumps that come up during their appointment with him.
Highlights and looking forward to more events
The highlight of the Family Weekender for Sid was mentoring the children and watching them grow in confidence over the event. “I had a really fun time and I’ll definitely do it again.”
Thinking about the Type 1 Summer Camp in Dorset next month, Sid knows it’ll be a different experience to volunteering at the Family Weekender, and he’s looking forward to meeting the young people and being more involved in teaching them about dietary and diabetes management.
“Lots of bonding, lots of teaching, lots of learning.”
He’s also excited about travelling south of London for the first time and getting involved in the activities at the camp.
A message to other dietitians
For any other dietitians thinking about volunteering at a Type 1 Event, Sid’s message is “even if you’ve not done anything similar before, go try it out.” He says the event was “hectic but enjoyable” but it was so useful networking with other HCPs and the other volunteers, learning from the children and young people with diabetes and their families, and meeting the Diabetes UK staff members. “You’ll learn a lot. You’ll be around like-minded people who work in, or live with, diabetes. It’s very much a diabetes-filled weekend; it’s great!”