Ashley Ng completed four Deakin degrees, and has used her passion and personal experience to increase support for young people living with diabetes.
Interview with Ashley Ng
Can you tell us about your time at Deakin? Is there anything you especially remember?
The moment I stepped foot onto campus, after getting really lost because the buildings were not located in alphabetical order, I loved it. Burwood had an amazing community atmosphere that made me feel welcome straight away. It also helped, of course, that Deakin had a great reputation for Health Sciences and the staff I spoke to were really friendly and supportive.
Throughout my degrees, I always explored other options, but Deakin drew me back.
What has been your journey since finishing your course? Briefly outline your career path prior to your current role.
My journey has been a whirlwind of an experience! Just before I submitted my thesis, I accepted an offer to work at La Trobe University as a lecturer in dietetics and human nutrition, and to help build their online nutrition course. I was excited as online education aligned well with my PhD that looked at mobile health support for diabetes education in young adults with diabetes during life transitions and built upon some other work I had done to help transfer Deakin’s Graduate Certificate of Diabetes Education onto the Future Learn platform.
There was never a dull moment!
What has been the biggest influence on your career?
The drive to help others understand and navigate the healthcare system, to streamline healthcare with innovative technology and delivering health education to empower patients. This drive stems from my personal experiences living with diabetes since I was 19 years old.
I’ve also been lucky in that I’ve had some amazing and supportive mentors throughout my studies who have helped me get to where I am today.
Have you always wanted to pursue the kind of career you have embarked on? If so, when and how did you realise?
Never in a million years would I imagine myself doing a PhD! I still pinch myself some days.
When I first started university, I was dead set on being a sports dietitian or a remedial massage therapist. After a lot of persuasion by others, I decided to apply for university to study health. In my first exercise physiology lecture, we looked at something physics related, and I bolted together with my dreams of being a sports dietitian. I ended up majoring in Nutrition and Psychology because I became interested in the behaviours of others around lifestyle choices. I took everything step by step and before I knew it, I was on stage with a floppy hat.
What advice would you give graduates wanting to pursue a similar profession?
Work life balance is not a myth and needs to be part of your day to day plan. You need to look after yourself before you can look after others and change the world.
Take it slow and accept that there will be good days and bad days. Not every day is productive, and you need to have a plan to account for those days.
Finally, surround yourselves with people who will make you a better person and who will support you. Even if it means providing honest and truthful support that can be painful to hear. Believe in yourself and your capabilities. Imposter syndrome will always be there.
What do you believe Deakin University has shown you/given you as a person?
What are your passions outside your work?
I am a diabetes advocate and co-founded a group called Beta Change. We are a group of people living with diabetes from different parts of the world who are passionate about making the world a better place for people living with diabetes. We do this by raising awareness of life with diabetes, sharing stories of others who live with diabetes and are accomplishing their dreams and goals in spite of the diabetes from all corners of the globe.
We hope to build a collaborative network to provide diabetes advocates with knowledge, skills, mentorship and experiences to support each other with achieving their goals, whether they are small grassroots projects to raise awareness for diabetes or finding a cure.
How would someone describe you?
Ambitious, slightly crazy with an inability to say no to others.
Is there any advice you would give to a person who is starting out in your career?
Focus on each step before you, don’t get too caught up in the big picture otherwise it’s easy to get overwhelmed.
Don’t give up.
What’s your favourite website?
Humans of New York
What’s your least favourite word?
What is something that amazes you?
Humanity. Despite all the terrible things we see and hear in the news every day, there’s always someone out there trying their best to do something good for the world in their own way. That’s why I love HONY.
Is there anything else you’d like to add we haven’t covered?
November is National Diabetes Awareness Month in some parts of the world. We acknowledge World Diabetes Day on 14 November. If there’s one thing I’m able to leave you with, it would be that words matter.
How we talk about patients, how we talk about conditions all has an impact on a person’s life. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition, Type 2 diabetes is associated with genetic and lifestyle factors. No one asks to be diagnosed with diabetes. We need to stop blaming and shaming people for their health conditions and to reduce the stigma around it.
We often see this when people talk about desserts. #TagDessertsNotDiabetes. Health conditions are not a punchline. Everyone has a role to play.