Dietetic Career Spotlight on Brittany D Lucchetto RD, CNSC, CDN, Transplant Dietitian
By STACEY DUNN-EMKE, MS, RD on JULY 17, 2014
Meet Brittany Lucchetto, Transplant Dietitian at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital (NYP), Columbia University Medical Center. Read about her transformation early on in life that helped cement a fascinating career in an acute care setting. – Stacey
Stacey – What attracted you to the field of nutrition and dietetics?
Brittany D Lucchetto RD, CNSC, CDN – As a teenager, I was ill and my mother sought out direction from a homeopathic nutritionist to manage medication side effects. After a few visits with her, I was markedly better. I had witnessed the power of food and the influence that a nutrition expert could have on others. I was drawn to this field so that I too could guide others to feel better.
Your Job Title and Company? Clinical Nutritionist with NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital (NYP), Columbia University Medical Center
Social Media links:
– Facebook: www.facebook.com/newyorkpresbyterian
– Twitter @nyphospital, #nypnutrition
– Instagram: http://instagram.com/nyphospital
Describe atypical (or not so typical) day-in-the-work-life for you?
Through the NYP, Department of Food and Nutrition, I have the unique opportunity to work with the most astute nutrition and transplant professionals in the world. My primary role is the Clinical Nutritionist for the Ex-Vivo and Intestinal Transplant, Heart Transplant and the Liver Living Donor Programs. I am responsible for managing the nutrition care for this very specialized population while they are in the hospital and also when they come back as outpatients. I routinely round with medical and surgical teams and get to know the patients very well. My patients follow somewhat restrictive diets, due to gut failure or recovery after surgery, so I need to work closely with each patient to monitor tolerance to the regimen and provide education as they graduate to more advanced foods and diets. In the hospital, this requires that I work closely with the food service team as I often develop personalized menus based on each patient’s food choices and cultural or religious preferences. Since we see patients from all over the world, often this work is done with the help of an interpreter. In addition to the face time I spend with each patient, I reach out to patients at home to check their tolerance to any changes in their diet or nutrition support regimens.
Transplantation is an exciting field and nutrition is integral to the outcomes of both recipients and living donors. I get to see a range of transplant recipients, transplant donors and ex-vivo surgery candidates and recipients. I really enjoy helping living donors optimize their diets to be in the best health prior to donation as well as recover from liver or kidney donation surgery. I have also developed a unique learning experience for my co-workers through a program called DIET Meetings (Developing, Improving, and Educating Together). We hold a monthly meeting on nutrition focused topics, presented by doctors, dietitians and home care companies to expand the dietitian’s knowledge from the point of view of other disciplines. I do have the occasional cancellation in clinic which allows for some time to catch up on research. Working at a teaching hospital permits for accessibility to excellent academic resources that I would not have when working at a smaller hospital.
How did you get your current job in dietetics?
I was a cardiac dietitian with NYP for about a year, when the opportunity in intestinal transplantation became available. I was fascinated by this area of medicine and intrigued with their genuine appreciation for nutrition. I am thrilled to be part of this dynamic team for the past 2 years.
What skills were you born with and what skills have you learned along the way?
Despite what my family may say, I am a great listener. Discussing what a person eats can be a very personal experience. I have a good sense of humor, which helps “break the ice”, facilitates open dialogue and helps build relationships. In my five years of practice I have learned the following: never assume something taught is always understood.
What advice do you have for others wanting to be just as successful and fulfilled as you?
Take risks. In the field of dietetics, many of us tend to have a general knowledge base with rare expertise. Exposing yourself to areas you wouldn’t naturally consider will challenge you and make you a more rounded clinician. When you’re forced into unknown territory you’d be surprised at what you can learn about yourself and others.
If you could be paid for your job with something other than a paycheck, what would it be?
Food of course. Living in NYC, I would think that could be easily arranged!