Growing up in California, DaVita dietitian Mary was very active in 4-H. But it was more than just a casual childhood activity, the group actually helped to shape her future. While attending a 4-H leadership conference at the University of California, Davis, Mary decided that was where she would continue her education. “UC Davis has a very strong nutrition department, as well as food science,” Mary says. “I loved the idea of combining my love for people and teaching, with the challenge of science, as well as the creativity of food science.”
After graduating from UC Davis with a degree in Foods and Human Nutrition, Mary completed a one-year internship at St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester, Minnesota. “I started in the renal field as a ‘relief dietitian’ in a large hospital and found that I always looked forward to covering for the renal dietitians on vacation.” She recalls, “So when the opportunity came to work in this growing field, I took it. Now I’ve worked with dialysis patients for 23 years.”
Today, Mary finds that the most challenging aspect of her job is “resurrecting” her high school Spanish, since one third of her patients speak Spanish only. “Bilingual teaching is both a challenge and an area of great satisfaction. However, my biggest reward during the last 10 years has been helping five mothers on dialysis who celebrated five wonderful, healthy babies. Talk about making a difference in patients’ lives!”
Mary sees her role with patients as an advocate, coach, “reality checker” and often cheerleader. She says patients who take responsibility for their own outcomes and use their dietitians as a resource, have the best chance for improving their health. “I like to offer positive options and choices, such as phosphorus comparisons of cereals, beverages, etc., by brand name at least two times per month and I usually have a contest with monthly prizes to keep it fun.”
Since joining her DaVita unit in Kansas six years ago, Mary has enjoyed helping the interesting ethnic mix of Caucasian, Thai, Mexican, Central and South American patients maintain a healthy diet or receive a life-changing transplant. “Being there when a patient gets that call for a transplant is an absolute thrill—and so is the joy of a grandparent choosing dialysis to share quality time with their kids. It’s all good. It’s all about honoring life.”
Mary also appreciates the unique DaVita approach at her center. “DaVita has been an excellent company with support for continuing education, valuing their professionals, encouraging excellent care of our patients and setting their standards very high. I have to say that this is the most supportive group of dietitians I have ever worked with. They are always ready to share information and lend support.”
Check out Mary’s recipes for Crock Pot BBQ Beef and It’s-Better-than-Potato Salad—perfect for any potluck or picnic!