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STEMJOBS.COM // EARLY FALL 2017 33 Diet is definitely a four-letter word for anyone who likes to eat whatever they want, whenever they want. Dieticians are challenged to change that word into a weapon to fight disease and improve health by working with their patients to make good food choices. Melanie Mullins, a registered dietician, focuses her skills on fighting chronic kidney disease in her job with DaVita, which is Italian for "giving life." She works in an outpatient dialysis treatment center in Bakersfield, Calif., helping patients to achieve an individual nutrition plan. Working with both the patient and other team members, Melanie creates a plan by first discovering each patient's nutritional status, then determining what changes in their diet can improve their health. She gets the advice of physicians to interpret lab test results to gain understanding of each patient's condition. "Each patient receives an individualized Medical Nutrition Therapy, including meal plans for them based on reported lab results and individualized goals," Melanie reports. "Ongoing patient education and counseling are done monthly based on patient needs, including nutrient requirements, knowledge and abilities, and medical, economic, and social situations." She continues to follow her patients by contacting and collaborating with other staff at DaVita and any other caregivers to ensure that adequate and appropriate nutritional care is received. "The most challenging part of my job is dealing with people and it is also the most rewarding part," explains Melanie. "Some patients and co-workers have proved challenging initially, but working together we somehow become bonded in a unified cause to help each other. Listening to others' needs helps break the barriers and leads to solving problems to accomplish the simplest tasks." Her 28 years of experience as a renal dietician has allowed her to get to know patients who have been in dialysis for years, as well as to share her knowledge in this specialty area with her colleagues and dietetic interns.

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