What does a Anthropometrist do?
What exactly do you do as an anthropometrist? Can you give some examples?
An anthropometrist is a scientist who is interested in human body composition. The measurements of segments (arm length, leg length and circumferences) as well as skin folds assist anthropometrists in estimating percentage body fat which can assist in many areas such as health evaluation, normal growth patterns, sport performance and sport talent identification. I measure different types of people. They can range from athletes (able or disabled), people who are chronically sick (diabetics, AIDS, TB, cancer) or children (to monitor normal growth).
How I got there…
During my postgraduate studies we were trained by a Level 3 anthropometrist to assist in a large study. I was very interested in the applications of this science and I then went to Sydney University in Australia to also train as a Level 3 instructor. There are four levels of training and I am currently a Level 3 instructor, which means that I in turn can train and certify Level 1 and 2 anthropometrists.
What subjects did you need to pursue your career?
I did a BSc with physiology and microbiology as majors. I then did honours in physiology, masters in nutrition and also a PhD. I also continued with a master’s degree in medical sciences with clinical epidemiology in which I can apply anthropometry in epidemiological research.
Things that still baffle my mind…
Insensitive human beings. Respect for one another and friendliness!
Things that drive me crazy…
I cannot stand it when people think they are not capable in doing something they want to do. If you have a dream, then live it!
The best part of my job is…
Working with people from different backgrounds always makes me realise what we have and that we have to be thankful for it. However, it is also our duty to try and stimulate the public with what we know, and to also try to make someone’s dream come true by sharing knowledge.
The thing that surprised me the most about my field or job once I had qualified…
One is never too old to learn! Anthropometry is a very demanding field and new research emerges each day. Learning never cease in this field and years of experience will eventually contribute to new knowledge being created.
Tell us about a challenge you overcame using your skills and knowledge.
In the beginning when you are still a growing scientist it is very difficult to work with people if you are not mature enough. This develops as you become more confident in your field and you get to learn new techniques and apply them. Once you create a bond with clients or patients it becomes easier to explain to them what is happening to their bodies and why it is happening. An example: Sometimes it is not easy to tell people how overweight they are but with time you learn how to deal with such cases. Also, working with critically ill patients you have to focus on your work and work professionally.
Your all-time top three favourite gadgets or inventions?
I have an ultrasonic scanning device that makes assessments sometimes easier. I also have a very cool software programme that calculates percentage body fat and muscle mass that I use every week. I am lost without my centurion kit which I use to assess athletes.
Any words of wisdom for aspiring anthropometrists?
The human body consists of different levels that interact with one another. If one level is compromised the other levels will be affected. This is important to view the human body as a unity when embarking on becoming an anthropometrist.
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