In 1896, Oscar Tschirky, a simple restaurant manager, made history in the kitchen of New York City’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel by tossing chopped apples and celery with mayonnaise. He named his creation the “Waldorf Salad” and from the first taste, customers raved. Chicken got added somewhere along the way, and this fancy salad has been consumed with gusto everywhere in America and beyond, for the last 111 years. Not to be outdone, one of DaVita’s renal dietitians, Denise from Virginia, cleverly substituted turkey in place of chicken and sweetened the mayonnaise with a splash of apple juice. The result? A Turkey Waldorf Salad specially designed for dialysis patients.
After taking a foods class in high school, Denise became interested in dietetics. Originally from Erie, Pennsylvania, Denise attended Mercyhurst College where renal rotation was challenging, but proved to be her favorite. “When a job became available, I was immediately interested,” Denise says. She now has 11 years in the renal field and has spent the last year at DaVita.
“The most challenging part of my job is not just helping my patients with their phosphorus levels, but also keeping their bone and mineral scores in range.” Denise says the most rewarding part of her job is when patients are proud of their improvements. “I try to make a difference in their lives by offering positive feedback and nutritional education. I love being able to see patients on a regular basis and sharing in their dialysis accomplishments.”
Denise describes her approach as holistic. “I like to know about my patients, their hobbies and families, because all these elements affect nutrition.” According to Denise, the single most important thing patients can do to improve their health is be a part of the team involved with their own health care.
Coming up with ways to make learning fun for patients can be a challenge. Denise shares, “Contests with recognition and prizes seem to be great motivators. Patients enjoy playing a game called ‘Phosphorus Bingo’. One day my group asked to play, but since our phosphorus results weren’t as good as usual, I teased them a little by saying we were on ‘bingo probation’ until phosphorus levels improved.”
“What I enjoy most about working at DaVita is our team approach to patient care. We’re a smaller unit and all the teammates and patients are like a family. We’re located in the Shenandoah Valley and have beautiful views of mountain ranges all around us.”
Denise’s Turkey Waldorf Salad is a slight twist on a legendary American dish— the same creamy dressing and crunchy bits of apples and celery, with an added splash of juice, and turkey for the protein source. A little chopping, a little tossing, and it’s ready to eat!