We like to tell people to try foods from other cultures, because it helps shake up the kidney diet -- which is true. It's also a great way to take your palate on a vacation to new and delicious cuisines. Zohreh, a DaVita renal dietitian from California, has been instrumental in treating the kidney community to a number of renal-friendly Persian dishes.
First she brought us the Tuna Koko Sandwich, a novel and affordable way to add fish protein to the renal diet. Next it was Borani Bademjan, a gently seasoned Eggplant dish with Meatballs. Then Zohreh introduced us to Kotlets, a savory, kidney-friendly way to satisfy a craving for meat and potatoes. Most recently, she’s shared her kidney-friendly recipe for Sabzi Koko Sandwich, a sort of Persian frittata eaten with pita bread as a sandwich.
Originally from Iran, Zohreh received her master's degree in public health at the University of Tehran. Then, after moving to the United States, she studied dietetics at Fresno State in California. Interning with a renal dietitian piqued her interest in that specialty.
Zohreh’s interest in dietetics goes back to her roots. "I was raised in a family that was always concerned about health and nutrition," she says. The key to her approach with patients lies in gaining trust. “I try to listen effectively," Zohreh notes. "I also enjoy being a health educator and spending time with patients and getting to know them better."
Once a rapport has been established, Zohreh will focus on what she believes is the single most important thing patients can do to improve their health: "Follow their diet."
Helping people to manage their kidney disease can be challenging, particularly when it comes to "keeping patients' phosphorus and albumin levels under control," but Zohreh says her efforts are worth it. "The most rewarding aspect of my job is when my patients do so well on their diets that they get lab reports within target range."
It's one thing to love your job; it's something else altogether when the job you love actually makes a difference in people's lives. Zohreh does this by helping her patients "improve their physical and nutritional status through medical nutrition therapy." Often, she works together with the team's social worker to access additional financial resources when patients need assistance meeting their dietary requirements.
It's this spirit of collaboration and commitment to helping people that originally drew Zohreh to DaVita and dietetics over ten years ago. "Teamwork is an important part of DaVita," she observes.
Zohreh especially likes the fact that "every clinic has its own name within the village" that is the entire company. Her clinic fosters that sense of community by inviting patients to "round table" discussions of their healthcare strategy with the entire team of doctors, nurses, dietitians and social workers. "This gives the patient the opportunity to ask any of us questions about his or her care and health," notes Zohreh.
Another part of what makes her clinic special is that patients can always count on receiving the care they deserve when they need it most, Zohreh adds. And the caring doesn't just come from the staff members. “I have so many great stories, but one of the most touching ones is about a patient of mine who was a pianist," she says. "He used to play Christmas songs during the holiday season for the rest of the patients."
When it comes to gift giving, Zohreh is in a category all her own. If you’re new to Persian cuisine, you’ll surely find something to love from among Zohreh’s quartet of mouth-watering and kidney-friendly recipes.