Lorraine, a DaVita dietitian from Massachusetts, is an expert at taking forbidden foods and turning them into renal-friendly delights. Case in point: her delicious Seafood Dip.
“My mother-in-law prepared a similar appetizer, but she used real crabmeat instead of imitation and lobster meat,” says Lorraine, who substituted shrimp and imitation crabmeat in order to cut down on sodium, potassium and phosphorus. “I adapted it into a kidney-friendly dish, and I vary the type of cracker depending on the type of party I’m attending or hosting.” Since sodium is an important consideration for people on the kidney diet, Lorraine recommends low-sodium crackers and homemade low sodium cocktail sauce.
Lorraine has been fascinated with food and health for as long as she can remember. “One day I purchased a nutrition book and I could not put it down,” explains Lorraine. “All I wanted to do was read about nutrition and absorb the information.” Lorraine isn’t kidding when she says she couldn’t put the book down: “It hit me when I was standing up reading about nutrition while riding public transportation to work,” she laughs. “I thought to myself, wow, if all I want to do is learn about nutrition, maybe I can make a career out of this.” Her interest in good health intensified when it became personal. “I observed my father try to lower the cholesterol in his own diet,” she notes.
Born and raised in a suburb of New York City, Lorraine moved to Massachusetts for school and has been there ever since. After studying music at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY, Lorraine went on to get another Bachelor’s in science at Boston’s Simmons College. She then completed an internship at the Frances Stern Nutrition Center and an M.S. at Tufts University. A lifelong fascination with diet and nutrition led easily into the renal field. “While at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, I had the opportunity to work in the transplant unit and the dialysis unit, and I have been hooked ever since,” she notes. “Observing the respect for dietitians at a National Kidney Foundation conference in Washington, DC reinforced my interest in the field.”
Lorraine earns her fair share of respect by going out of her way to make a difference in patients’ lives. “I help patients to understand how the foods and beverages they consume can affect how they feel,” she notes. “I help them to draw connections between what they eat and how they feel.” And while it can be challenging to “convince the patients to use the many nutrition tools,” it’s always rewarding to hear “patients talk about how much better they feel as a result of improved nutrition and adequate dialysis.”
It helps that Lorraine just really likes her work, and understands that we’re all human. “I like learning about my patients and trying to find the best way to communicate my nutrition information in a way that they will understand,” she says. “I show them compassion and understanding for wanting to eat any food, but let them know when their results indicate that they may not have made the most ideal choice. My motive, of course, is good adherence to the nutritional recommendations.”
Recognizing the importance of making learning fun, Lorraine gets creative in patient education, often using flash cards and flip-charts to break down dense information. She also stays approachable and open to just chatting, treating patients like people and not just numbers on a chart. “I take a multi-sensory approach to educating patients,” she adds. “I use an icebreaker to make them feel comfortable, and I am genuinely interested in their well-being.”
It’s this personal touch that is the source of some of Lorraine’s favorite moments in the five years she’s been with DaVita. “I find it cute how most of our patients, who are well past elementary school age, look forward to the stickers on their nutrition report cards,” she laughs. “I feel really guilty when I forget to place one on their report!”
Ever modest, Lorraine deflects praise in favor of complimenting her team at DaVita. “My teammates are achievers who work to accomplish tasks even when faced with several challenges,” she says. “They provide excellent patient care and are appreciated by our patients, physicians and administrators.”
But Lorraine’s going to have to get used to applause, especially once her Seafood Dip starts making the rounds. Nothing says “excellent patient care” like a guilt-free snack that’s also suitable for the kidney diet. We’ll start: Bravo, Lorraine!