Meet Our Director of Nutrition Services: Amy Pieczarka
March is National Nutrition Month and today, March 8th, is Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Day! To celebrate, we asked our nutrition director Amy Pieczarka, RD, LDN, CCN, CDE to chat with us about what led her to a career in dietetics, the favorite part of her job, and as always, food. We always talk about food.
If you ask anyone here what their favorite thing about coming to work is, you will probably hear how much we love the people we work with. Everyone is supportive, friendly, and dedicated to helping others. This is in no small part due to Amy and the working environment she has created. Read on and you’ll see what I mean:
First things first, how do you know so much?? Really though. Your knowledge of everything related to nutrition (and beyond) is impressive.
(That’s funny but thank you.)
I actually feel the more I learn, the more I realize how much more I need to learn! There is so much to understand about the complex interactions of nutrition and lifestyle, and their impact on health and chronic disease. And there is so much that is still not completely understood even by the research experts. Nutrition and the advice we give to individuals continues to evolve. When I entered the “real world” of counseling and applying what I had learned, I was quickly reminded that not only does one size NOT fit all, but so much of what I thought was “carved in stone”, well accepted principles in the nutrition world, weren’t so! Great example….fat. We learned fat was the enemy… recommend low fat this, no fat that. No more! Now we know many fats are our friends. Very early on, I knew that if I wanted to really make a difference in the lives of others in this career, I would have to be committed to be in a constant state of learning, not only from continuing education, certification programs, webinars, but also from everyone I interacted with to give guidance. So I did that. Beyond the book learning, certification maintenance, I vowed to learn at least one thing from every person I have contact with, both professionally and personally. Turning to others for mentoring has helped me tremendously to stay current all throughout my career. I’ve been very fortunate to be able to surround myself with brilliant people.
I love what you said about learning something from every person you are in contact with. What a great outlook to have when meeting new people. I think I will steal that from you (told you, you know everything!)
Can you tell us more about when you decided that nutrition would be your career? And did you consider any other career paths before that? I mean, you probably could’ve been a rocket scientist.
Haha, more hilarity.
My mom was a nurse so I considered nursing and I love animals so I also tossed around the idea of being a veterinarian. Getting squeamish at the sight of blood and emotional seeing any being in pain, made me rethink all that.
My interest in nutrition started in college. All I was sure about was that I wanted to be a counselor, I wanted to teach, I knew I wanted to be in the health field, and like most of us, I had high hopes and the desire to make a huge impact on the lives of others.
I took my first nutrition course and was hooked immediately- after learning that most of the chronic health issues we deal with in our country- diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke, and cancer are actually preventable with lifestyle. It seems obvious now, but it wasn’t something I had thought about before that … the fact that nutrition is biochemistry and we really ARE what we eat (and digest, absorb, assimilate) and just because we cannot see what is happening after eating donuts and drinking soda OR the Brussels sprouts and carrots, does not mean it is not having some sort of influence on health, negative or positive. Knowing that we could use food as therapy for those with chronic conditions and better yet, help to prevent those conditions in the first place, really inspired me. I figured my chances of seeing blood on a daily basis were pretty slim and with the exception of a disappointed patient agonizing over the truth about his meat lover’s pizza, I wouldn’t have to witness much pain.
The pain of someone hearing the hard truth about their favorite food is real! But a good nutritionist can spin that around and tell them all about the foods they can enjoy, right? 😉
Oh absolutely. The “pain” is certainly short lived…especially when they experience the good taste of the health promoting versions of those familiar favorites AND the almost immediate realization that they feel so much better overall. I think that’s the most rewarding part of being a nutritionist… that feeling when you find out that someone who took your suggestions is now hooked on leading a healthy lifestyle because of the noticeable benefit.
Moving on, when people think of a nutritionist or dietitian, they probably think of a person in a white lab coat counseling a patient at a doctor’s office or hospital (at least that’s what the stock photos show). But your job, and all of ours, are a little unconventional. Could you give us a brief glimpse into a typical day for you now? And what is your favorite part of the job?
Yes what we do is so unique and very exciting! It is so gratifying to be a founding member of one of the first organizations to provide lifestyle guidance through the use of technology.
That’s a good question and a hard one to answer, because I don’t know that I have a typical day actually. I know each day starts and ends the same way though. What happens in between varies so much.
Every day starts with looking forward to the day ahead and giving thanks for the opportunity to work with such an amazing group of talented, hard-working, passionate health professionals who are committed to supporting our top priority, the patient… to help the patient implement safe and effective strategies to promote optimal health and decrease the risk of chronic disease.
PreviMedica continues to evolve since our launch, so my focus changes often. Since I am ultimately responsible for every aspect of the department -the programs we develop and implement, the procedures we put in place, the tools made available to consumers and practitioners, coordinating efforts with our sister company, and most importantly, the direction given to each individual we advise, my brief answer would be that my days are spent overseeing the initiatives to grow our company and reach as many people in need as possible.
So that means I am:
- first and foremost, relying on the talent, innovativeness, hard work, and dedication of every member of my team
- planning, organizing, prioritizing, communicating, and coordinating the details of the many programs we have established and those we have in the works
- counseling and giving clinical guidance to patients and practitioners
- providing educational opportunities for my team to remain current and to continue to expand the expertise in functional nutrition
- mentoring team members with regard to individualization of advice for their patients
Every day ends with looking back at the days’ events, being mindful of the learning that occurred from what might not have gone so well, and feeling grateful for the many positive patient outcomes resulting from our efforts that day. That’s my absolute favorite part of the job…. hearing the success stories from the team I have been blessed with. Hearing their enthusiasm, seeing their happiness, knowing how rewarded they feel from playing a significant role in improving the health of others….there’s nothing like it and that’s what it’s all about.
I am always in awe of everything you do for PreviMedica, but what stands out most is how you make everyone around you feel important. You always stop and listen and take the time to answer our questions, even with that long list of responsibilities you mentioned above. Thank you for that!
Ok, now that we’ve learned more about what you do, let’s get to some fun questions.
Best food/meal you’ve had recently? A meal specially prepared for me by my family- Orange Glazed Salmon, Baja Black Beans and Rice, Steamed Broccoli, and Gluten Free Chocolate Cake. Delicious, and they cleaned up the mess too!
(Can we borrow your family?)
Second best meal -brunch prepared for me by you and the rest of the staff of Previ, including Hummus and Peppadews! Yum!
Favorite food as a kid? Peanut Butter and Jelly
(That makes me feel better about my kid’s future.)
One thing you are currently watching/reading? The BEST show ever- This is Us!!!
(Our office is basically a fan club for This is Us. Team Jack!)
Dogs or cats? Dogs! They DO make the world a better place. Everyone needs to have a dog. 🙂
Coffee or tea? Coffee every morning. One of the pleasures in life I look forward to!
Beach or mountains? I used to prefer vacationing at the beach. But now that I live at the beach, I still love it, but I miss the mountains of PA. So now I prefer vacationing in the mountains!
Wine or Tito’s Vodka? I’ll take either 🙂 but these days, it’s usually Tito’s.
(Trick question because the answer is always both!)
Thank you for taking the time to chat with us, Amy. To anyone reading this, do yourself a favor and find a jar of peppadews, some hummus, and some chips. Best snack idea ever, courtesy of Amy.
You can learn more about Amy and her professional path to PreviMedica here.
Happy Registered Dietitian Day to all of our health food loving colleagues!
Eunice Holmes, RDN, LDN is a regular contributor to this blog and assistant nutrition manager for PreviMedica. Her favorite things are pretty food, being a cat lady without actually having a cat, and of course, her family.