Student & ECR Spotlight – Chad Han research on health services to return autonomy back to patients; current PhD to help pre-frail/frail older adults prevent hospital readmissions and STAY AT HOME independently

Please tell us about your career pathway to date (positions and institutes).
I am completing my PhD (in 2022) in frailty and malnutrition at Caring Futures Institute, College of Nursing and Health Science, Flinders University, South Australia. That was also where I completed my Bachelor (Hons) Nutrition and Dietetics. In my honours year, I was lucky enough to have done my research with A*STAR Singapore, and worked on the GUSTO cohort study, as my university has ties with them.

After graduation, I worked as a clinical/research dietitian within the National University Health System, Singapore from 2014 to 2019. I have also worked in Australia, as a part-time home visit Dietitian in Adelaide from 2020 to 2022. I am now supporting patients as a specialist diabetes dietitian via a digital health platform, at NOVI-Health, Singapore.

Please watch my 2-min video on my career pathway from dietetic undergrad to full time researcher at this link:

What is your main research interest?
My main research interest is to help people self-manage chronic conditions, especially in vulnerable populations. I find it very satisfying enabling people to take charge of their own health. I started off doing research in management of type 2 diabetes, aiming to improve care and clinical effectiveness in the hospital and outpatient settings. My interest in helping individuals with chronic conditions self-management models grew after an mixed model study trying to link knowledge, self-efficacy with diet quality, and investigating barriers and enablers to it

My PhD is abbreviated as INDEPENDENCE, as that is what all older adults want. I’ve redesigned a nutrition-exercise intervention with the Flinders Chronic Condition management model, though the program was created for the indigenous population in Australia. You can watch a 3-minutes description of what it is at this link – Asia-pacific 3MT finalist 2021: 

How do you explain your current research/job to friends and family?
Some of my family thinks I cook for patients while others think I am a medical doctor…hahah … I tell them to watch this vlog that I made over Covid, where I couldn’t return home to visit. It has been 2.5 years and I am looking forward to see them in June after I submit my thesis.
Vlog link:

I tell them that I am mostly a teacher (teach clients and students about health and nutrition) and I do quality improvement projects to make health services better for everyone.

What do you think will be the next most important development in the nutrition and/or physical activity field?
One word: Implementation. We all know that nutrition and exercise are important components of any lifestyle interventions. I think that it is crucial to find out which of these have optimal effects for what population. Similarly to cooking, sometimes it is not about using the best ingredients, but preparing what the customer desires.

An important development area would be the self-management of multi morbidities with diet and exercise, particularly in geriatric cancer survivor population as the world population ages. This is  also something that I am passionate about, as I will be joining Professor Ray Chan’s team in cancer survivorship research for
my post-doc after graduating.

What’s something you have learnt about your research or yourself that was unexpected?
From my research on frailty and hospitalized olderadults, I’ve learnt much about my future self when I tick the >65years old box. By teaching the intervention participants self-management of chronic conditions, I am convinced that adhering to a good exercise and nutrition routine is the key to successful aging. It is also never too late to start. For example, I had an participant who was 93 years old that told me she never knew that exercising can be as simple as doing sit-to-stands with her dining chair. There is a Chinese saying “活到老,学到老“. It means that learning never stops, regardless our age.

If you would like to get in touch with Chad, you can do so by:
Email: [email protected]
Twitter or Instagram: chitchadkitchen