Allison: What do you know about nutrition now that you wish you knew when you were in college?
Yen Ling: Well, what do I know about nutrition now that I wish I knew when I was in college, that's a great question. And I guess when I look back, I, there were a lot of things that I wish I knew when I was younger. When it comes to nutrition, I think I wish I knew how important nutrition is during childhood, right, when I was younger. Because honestly, when I was a kid and when I was in school, I was a rather picky eater, right. I choose food just based on taste, right. I like the taste, I eat it. I don't like the taste, I don't eat it. But as I learned more and more about nutrition, I realized that nutrition during childhood and adolescence plays such an important role in long term health. Because it's during those critical time window that you are really building your health bank. And by that I mean, for example, things like your peak bone mass, right. So you build the maximum amount of bone that you can build during those times, during adolescence, during childhood. And then once you get into a certain age after adulthood, you start to lose them. So the more you build when you're young, the better off you would be as you get older. So, I wish I knew the importance of nutrition. If that's the case, I will eat a much more nutritious diet and be able to build much better peak bone mass, peak muscle mass, that will put me in a much stronger position to enjoy a healthier life when I'm older.
Allison: I know when I was a kid, my diet basically consisted of mac and cheese. And I know now that that's not the best pathway to go in terms of what to be eating and nutrition is like, like you said, a huge building block for a lot of the rest of your lives.
Yen Ling: I wish I drank more milk when I was young.
Yen Ling: The importance of calcium, for example, in building strong bones, and then really when you're young, you're building right. So you are building your health, you're building your maximal bone mass, muscle mass, that's supposed to last you a lifetime. And as we get older after adulthood, it's really about preventing the loss and kind of like preserving that. So that's, I wish I knew how important nutrition was when I was younger.
Allison: So we know you're a scientist for Abbott, a corporation, but you've also done academic research and been with government agencies. What have you learned from these different career routes?
Yen Ling: So I started my career working with government agencies, and then later on moved to academic research and finally ending up here in Abbott. So, and I've learned so many different things through these different experiences. So I started my career working at the Singapore Ministry of Health doing public health nutrition. And working in the government, you really learn to look at issues in a much more macro and holistic way, right. So, for example, if you are looking at implementing, for example, a public health campaign to get people to eat healthier, right, eat more fruits and vegetables. You don't just have to look at telling people that they need to eat more fruit and vegetables, but you also have to look at the whole ecosystem, right. So are these healthier options accessible? Are they affordable? How do you make healthier options, also easier options for them? So you learn a lot about looking at all the related aspects of implementing a policy. And on top of that, you learn about the importance of simplifying a science message so that the layperson can understand, right. So why do I have to eat more fruit and vegetables? What makes it so healthy? Why is it so important? And there's so many complicated sides that you can tell people. But in the end, you have to be able to simplify it right down to a level that they can understand and appreciate for your message to cut through. So I learned all that when I was working in the government agency. And then after that, I went to do my Ph.D. and when I came back, I was doing academic research. And in academic research, I learned to dive very deep into a topic, right. So that's different from working with the government agency where you were looking at things in a very broad way. But here in academic research, I learned to dive very deep into a particular topic to get to the bottom of an issue and find an answer, right. So you often have to peel the question many layers in order to find the answer. So I learned to break down a big question into multiple small questions and answer then systematically in order to get the answer to the big question. And I think that kind of analytical thinking skills have proven to be very useful in problem solving. And then finally, when I was in, when I came to Abbott, I was able to combine and apply all the knowledge and skills I gained to develop science-based products that would appeal to consumers. So I was able to combine the knowledge of, how do you do R&D, to dive into a question very deeply to get the solution. And then when developing the solution, how do you look at it in a very broad way to make sure that your solution takes care of all kinds of aspects? And then also, how do you simplify the science messages and science benefits in a way that will be understandable to the lay public? So I think having gone through all these different experiences, it has been really useful to integrate all these learnings as I look back in my career journey. So I think the bottom line is that I think all these different experiences have taught me very different and complementary skills. So for the young people out there, I really encourage you to always embrace opportunities to gain different experiences because that is the best way you can learn and grow.