We’re all trying to eat healthier nowadays, and that’s especially true for those with kidney problems. DaVita dietitian Tonya from Ohio knows that good eating and good health are priorities for her patients. That’s why she came up with her Yummy Yogurt Fruit Dip. By blending Greek yogurt with light cream cheese, she created an extremely creamy dip. The fruit and cinnamon flavors make it so delectable and just right for dipping your favorite fruit.
Today Tonya is an experienced renal dietitian on the DaVita team, but her path to renal dietetics was far from a straight course. Initially, she enrolled in nursing school. When she decided to make a change, she looked for a field where she could transfer many of her college courses and hit upon dietetics. As she began taking nutrition classes, Tonya developed diabetes, making the material she studied personally relevant. Looking back, Tonya says “I have always believed that things happen for a reason!”
After graduating from Ohio State University, this Ohio native began working in a community hospital. Part of her job included working in a dialysis facility, where Tonya was introduced to the renal field. “I came to enjoy it,” Tonya recalls. “But I married and moved away.” Ten years later, a DaVita facility opened up on the campus of the health center where Tonya was working. It turned out that the facility administrator (FA) was a nurse whom Tonya had worked with previously. “It’s definitely a small world!” says Tonya. It’s now been about 2-1/2 years since Tonya joined the DaVita team.
It’s always a challenge for renal dietitians to get patients to understand how important it is for them to follow the dietitian’s advice. “They know they should do it, but it is easier said than done,” Tonya explains. Tonya provides her patients with examples of healthy eating and the reasoning behind it, and this, she says, can make all the difference.
“The most rewarding aspect of my job is helping people accomplish goals that they may not otherwise achieve without support,” Tonya proclaims. “Interacting with patients and getting to know them is rewarding for me and, I believe, it’s rewarding for the patient also.”
Every day, this committed DaVita dietitian is working hard to make a difference in her patients’ lives. Her approach is one of friendly concern and honesty. “I listen to them, work on building a rapport with them and let them know and feel that I really do care about them,” says Tonya. “Everyone appreciates honesty.”
Tonya herself has had more than her share of health problems. “Being a diabetic and a double-lung transplant recipient, I understand quite well how important taking medications and healthy eating are in relation to feeling good and having energy to live life,” Tonya reveals. “I know I feel better when I take my medications and eat throughout the day.” The approach to good health she favors, Tonya tells us, is taking it one step at a time. “If a person needs to make lifestyle adjustments, taking small steps is the key to success,” she explains.
Many patients are resistant to what they perceive as being lectured. “I have found that explaining why adherence is important and helping the patient understand how the body works helps,” states Tonya. “I have also found that ‘putting the ball in their court,’ so to speak, is a benefit. Instead of me telling the patient what I think they should do to improve, I ask them what concerns them and what they are willing to do to make changes toward improvement. It gives them a sense of control, rather than being told what to do. We can come up with a plan together.”
Tonya has found that the benefits of working for DaVita are many. “My teammates are wonderful, and the company offers phenomenal programs for teammates and the community,” Tonya says. “Any teammate has the ability for promotion with hard work and effort.” Tonya likes working in a rural facility that’s close to her home.
Overall, Tonya has a very positive outlook on life and work. “Life never ceases to amaze me,” Tonya explains. “I enjoy what I do… and I believe God takes us down certain paths. I have been led here for a reason. With my experiences in dealing with diabetes and going through a lifesaving transplant myself, it enables me to connect with patients in a way that others may not have the opportunity to do. I can relate to them and in return, they can relate to me. I feel I am able to be much more effective in my education. As long as I am able and God will allow, I will continue to do what I love and share with others.”
Tonya truly understands some of the challenges that patients with kidney problems face. She knows they need healthy food that’s also good to eat. And it’s even better if a recipe can be enjoyed by friends and family. That’s why she created Yummy Yogurt Fruit Dip. Its flavor and creaminess are so satisfying, it makes fruit just plain fun to eat. Whip up a batch in just minutes, and see for yourself how delicious this dip really is!