Dietetic Career Spotlight on Stephanie Jiaqi Yang, Aerotek, Alta Bates Summit Perinatal Center
By SARAH KOSZYK, MA RDN on SEPTEMBER 1, 2018
Meet Stephanie Jiaqi Yang, RD, CDE, who has a passion for motivating people to make change from within to reach their health and wellness goals. As a Certified Diabetes Educator, Stephanie is educating people on how to improve their health through nutrition and lifestyle. – Sarah
What attracted you to the field of nutrition and dietetics?
Growing up around incredible self-taught cooks in my family (my mom and my grandma) and professionally trained chef (my uncle) really sparks my interest in culinary art and love for food. While exploring various career options in the healthcare field in high school, I quickly fell in love with the idea of how RDs help others build a healthy relationship with food, as well as empower others with knowledge of lifestyle modifications that prevent and manage various chronic diseases. An experience as USDA Child Nutrition Program Intern at the West Contra Costa Unified School District further solidify my career path to become an RD as I learned how nutritional professionals create a food environment with readily accessible nutritious menu options without sacrificing taste and on-point nutrition messages that foster and influence eating behaviors early on for children and adolescents.
Your Job Title?
Clinical Dietitian and Diabetes Educator
Company you are with now?
I am currently working as a contractor for Aerotek (A recruiting and staffing agency). I have started my assignment with Alta Bates Summit Perinatal Center. I am currently the only RD serving patients and their families who are receiving care at this highly specialized and high-risk pregnancy clinic.
Describe a typical (or not so typical) day-in-the-work-life for you?
My typical days at work involve mostly meetings with patients with gestational diabetes, pre-existing type 1 or type 2 diabetes patients in pregnancy, through one-on-one settings or in a small group class initially to go over nutritional guidelines and meal planning strategies and physical activity plans (if appropriate) to achieve glycemic control and meet nutritional needs. I will coach newly diagnosed patients during initial visits on how to monitor fingerstick blood sugars with different types of glucometers (determined by insurance plan coverage) and review blood sugar targets in pregnancy and testing schedule/frequency. During initial meetings with my patients, I will also discuss maternal and fetal complications related to poor glycemic control. I also address educational needs for GDM patients regarding postpartum follow-up care with re-screening of oral glucose tolerance tests and discuss future plans with lifestyle modifications to lower risks of developing type 2 diabetes in the future. In addition to initial intake, I spend my days for on-going, follow-up, and maintenance support for return patients. During return visits, I spend time in assessing patient’s weight gain status based on their gestational age (both interval and overall weight gain target) and blood sugar pattern management. I will coordinate and consult with maternal-fetal specialists regarding medication and insulin initiation or dose adjustment based on patient’s blood sugar pattern.
I also spend my day providing education to patients who are new to insulin injections.
If I do not have a full schedule at work, I spend my time updating patient education materials to be consistent with the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Guidelines for Care.
How did you get your current job in dietetics?
A recruiter from Aerotek reached out to me and presented an opportunity to work at a high-risk pregnancy clinic (Alta Bates Summit Perinatal Center) as the RD, CDE, who oversees the California Diabetes and Pregnancy Program (CDAPP) Sweet Success program operation and provide direct nutrition care and education to patients diagnosed with gestational diabetes and high risk pregnant patients with pre-existing diabetes (type 1 or type 2). I love the impact that I make daily for women and families through education. I also love the challenge of being part of an interdisciplinary team with a common goal of improving maternal and fetal birth outcomes. I was thrilled to find that I was offered my current position soon after the in-person interview, as I felt this position allows me to combine some of early my career interests in prenatal, pediatric nutrition, and family nutrition, as well as the clinical expertise of a Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE). Prior to landing my current position at Alta Bates Summit Perinatal Center, I was working as an outpatient clinical dietitian at the Chinese Hospital in San Francisco where I gained experience working primarily with the geriatric population affected by diabetes and other health conditions associated with metabolic syndrome. I was also working on earning my practice hours towards my Certified Diabetes Educator credential with my position at the Chinese Hospital.
What skills were you born with and what skills have you learned along the way?
I believe I am naturally good at teaching. I started to work as a tutor for multiple subjects in college. I am also naturally very organized and very observant. Strong organizational skills help me tackle administrative tasks such as improving processes and workflow in my current and previous positions. This allows me to be more effective in communicating with patients during one-on-one counseling as I have a plan in mind what to focus on and how to prioritize my interventions to meet individual needs. The skill of building good rapport relatively easy with patients and families of diverse ethnic and economic backgrounds is something I learned along the way. I also learned different counseling skills including motivational interviewing techniques. I am still learning and improving these skills. Social media skills & Entrepreneurship, food photography, and creative recipe writing skills are something that I want to tackle and learn more in the near future.
What advice do you have for others wanting to be just as successful and fulfilled as you?
Never stop exposing yourself to the unfamiliar areas of practice in the field and never be afraid of reaching out to professionals for shadowing or volunteering opportunities to gain inspirations for the next step in your career. I would never imagine myself going into diabetes care when I started out, and yet, I feel grateful and fulfilled when I help patients gain self-care skills in managing their diabetes so they can “dance along” with diabetes.
Be open-mind about sharing knowledge with others in the field. I believe we always learn something new in return.
If you could be paid for your job with something other than a paycheck, what would it be?
Free Pilates classes and free culinary classes to learn about different techniques around the world.