skip to content

Dietitians of Canada Says a Fond Farewell to Jayne Thirsk, Senior Director of Knowledge Translation

An illustrious career, right from the start

Jayne Thirsk’s career has been one of progressive responsibilities and strategic business collaborations. Jayne’s career began, as many do, with undergraduate studies and internship; in her case at the University of British Columbia and at the Calgary General Hospital. She quickly demonstrated that her love of research and nutrition science runs deep by undertaking a distinguished program of study at the University of Calgary Department of Medical Sciences, where she completed both a PhD thesis in the area of Nutrition and Metabolism, and an additional project investigating energy use in space conducted aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery in 1992, one of 5 Canadian experiments in the first International Microgravity Laboratory.  

Before joining DC, Jayne worked as a dietitian in Calgary for 13 years in clinical care, food service and clinical management, policy development and research. Beginning her career in the ICU, Surgery and Burn Units of Foothills General Hospital, Jayne took on ever more complex and expanded roles, completing her services in Alberta health care as the Manager, Clinical Nutrition Services Adult Acute Sector, of the Calgary Regional Health Authority.

A leader at DC and in dietetics

Since joining DC in 1997, she has been involved in profiling the role and leadership of dietitians, policy development and the design and delivery of a broad scope of professional development initiatives to support the dietetic profession. As Regional Executive Director, Alberta, Yukon and Northwest Territories, Jayne developed and grew this new role with work on various advocacy files that have had lasting impacts in Alberta and beyond, and she was highly successful in competing for project grants and research funding. Programs that she was instrumental in supporting include Seniors Community Action in Nutrition (SCAN), including the Senior Friendly Grocery Store Project; multiple grants that supported action on food insecurity in Alberta; and programs in diabetes. Her ability to work in partnership were honed through her leadership in the creation of an Intersectoral Workshop and Toolkit, and a CIHR-funded grant that supported a collaborative project meeting that looked at increasing dietitians’ roles in knowledge synthesis and use.

In the early days of DC, she planned and delivered the National Conference, developed Practice, which has since evolved into the Practice Blog; and coordinated the Canadian contributions to the 70 chapters of the 6th Edition of the Manual of Clinical Dietetics published jointly by the ADA and DC. She also helped create the first online learning portal for dietitians in Canada – Dietitians@Work.

Following the publication of the Diet Manual in 2000, Jayne’s interest was piqued by new approaches being discussed on how professionals keep up with the explosion of research and practice change, and she became engaged with the work of Dr. Robert Hayward and the Centre for Health Evidence at the University of Alberta. Along with Lynda Corby and Beth Armour, she created an online course called Evidence-based Decision Making, intended to enhance the skills of dietitians in critical appraisal. Over 500 Canadian dietitians enrolled in the course and it was considered by other national dietetic associations as a foundational piece to promote dietitians as leaders in evidence-based practice.

PEN® - The crown jewel of Jayne's many achievements

Jayne’s passion and commitment to evidence-based practice set the stage for what has become an international success story - PEN. With users in more than 150 countries worldwide and managed as a collaborative partnership with the British Dietetic Association, Dietitians Association of Australia and DC, the PEN System is understandably the ‘jewel in the crown’ of Jayne’s extensive professional achievements.

Jayne’ commitment to the PEN System and use of evidence is also reflected in her work with dietitian call centres across Canada. Jayne has worked closely with the call centres in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Ontario, and Newfoundland and Labrador in creating innovative systems for dietitians working in dynamic work environments to easily access the PEN System and consumer and professional tools.

Jayne has an impressive portfolio of presentations and publications to her credit. Between 2009 - 2012, she and colleague Dr. Debbie MacLellan co-chaired an international working group of 31 individuals in 15 countries to develop a definition of evidence-based dietetic practice, which was endorsed by the Board of the International Confederation of Dietetic Associations in 2012 as a standard of practice to be adopted by dietitians worldwide. She has presented to audiences at ICD in Chicago, Japan, Australia, Spain, and as the leader of the PEN System in Mexico, and at the European Federation of the Associations of Dietitians (EFAD). She has presented in most major cities in Canada at events such as the conference of the Chronic Disease Prevention Alliance, at the Canadian Cochrane Symposium, at the Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research and Health Transfer Network, and of course, and DC Conferences across the country.

In the last three years, she has worked closely with Dawna Royall in the management and publication of the only peer-reviewed journal dedicated to nutrition and dietetics in Canada, the Canadian Journal of Dietetic Practice and Research. Her personal contributions to the research literature both as formal publications and as research abstracts are many, beginning in 1989.

Jayne’s professional career has been one of progressive responsibilities and creative endeavours. She has been a leader and a mentor for dietitians around the world in her steadfast commitment to nutrition research and the use of critical appraisal and knowledge synthesis to guide best practice in nutrition care and public policy for the last 23 years. She is a talented ‘team-builder’ and team player and will say that her achievements are the work of a dedicated and committed team. Of course, this is true, but to be successful, a team needs a leader that is visionary, strategic, an excellent communicator and who has integrity, courage and humility – Jayne has it all. She is an exceptional leader and highly respected by her national and international teams. One member says “It has been an honour and a pleasure to work with Jayne over the years. Her enthusiasm and passion for PEN is contagious, making us all proud to be part of the PEN Team. PEN is where it is today mostly as a result of her brilliant mind and calm thoughtful demeanour”.

Please join DC in wishing Jayne a joyful and adventurous retirement after 23 years of extraordinary service to Dietitians of Canada, dietitians in Canada and across the globe.

Back to top