Researcher Profile: Adrienne Young

8 Dec 2023

My name is Adrienne and I'm a passionate dietitian working in the field of health services research. Currently, I’m part of the Ageing and Geriatric Medicine team at the Centre for Health Services Research and also contribute to the Dietetics and Food Services department at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital. My primary research focus revolves around enhancing health through food and nutrition, with a special emphasis on older adults and individuals admitted to hospitals.

Adrienne with with consumer representative Anja Christoffersen

The driving force behind my career choice was a deep-rooted love for food. Food has always been the heart of family gatherings, and I cherish the memories of preparing and enjoying meals with my grandparents. Their influence has continued to guide me, especially in my pursuit of improving nutrition for older adults.

As I ventured into dietetics practice, I quickly recognized the widespread issue of malnutrition among older individuals in hospitals. This realization sparked a desire to conduct research aimed at transforming the hospital system, nutrition care and mealtime support. Consequently, my research shifted its focus towards health service improvements and programs.

The decision to pursue my research at The University of Queensland was influenced by the remarkable opportunities it offered. The Centre for Health Services Research saw the potential in me and invested in my research development. Being part of a dynamic, multidisciplinary research team at UQ has provided me with invaluable learning experiences and opportunities for collaboration, support and personal growth. 
Currently, my latest project involves leading a national study to create quality indicators for hospitals to assess and benchmark the quality of nutrition care. The goal is to promote and enhance best practices in nutrition care by involving patients and caregivers in the development of these indicators. This approach aims to ensure that healthcare facilities are "measuring what matters" and ultimately improving the quality of nutrition care, leading to better patient outcomes.

Adrienne and Anja presenting their co-design framework at the Health Consumers Qld conference last year

Looking ahead in the next few years, I aspire to lead a national program dedicated to improving nutrition care on a broader scale. While my previous research has primarily focused on Queensland hospitals, I believe there is much knowledge and insight to be shared across the country, and I hope to play a pivotal role in fostering consistency in care quality across all hospitals.

Throughout my journey, I've encountered various challenges, with one of the most significant being the perception that complex issues like malnutrition in hospitals can be solved through simple solutions or quick fixes. Addressing nutrition care in hospitals requires a coordinated effort involving multiple individuals, staff groups, and systems. This process is time-intensive, which can be challenging within the constraints of limited resources and research funding. However, I am encouraged by the increased focus on nutrition in aged care and hope it leads to more investment in research to tackle this issue.

Outside of work, my life centres around my family. My weekends and evenings are often spent cheering on my kids at their various sports activities, which I have come to genuinely enjoy. Additionally, I'm a member of a book club and relish reading during my rare moments of spare time, even though being an academic has somewhat changed the way I approach reading for leisure.

One of my most memorable and proudest moments to date has been the development of a co-design framework in partnership with a consumer representative. This project involved collaboration with consumers from diverse backgrounds and resulted in a publicly available framework that guides health professionals, researchers and consumers in co-design. What made this project truly special for me was the relationships I formed with consumers who taught me invaluable lessons about humility and the importance of supportive research partnerships, principles that I now carry forward into all my research collaborations.

For those who wish to pursue a similar pathway or career journey, I offer this advice: actively seek out and collaborate with individuals who bring to the table diversity in experience, skills and perspectives. Diversity enriches both research and life, opening up new learning and career opportunities that you may never have considered.