Meet Sonia Ramirez-Rivera, a dietetic technician who began serving meals to patients at Cedars-Sinai in 2013.
After receiving her bachelor’s degree in nutrition and dietetics, Sonia began working directly with patients who are on complex diets because of heart or kidney disease. She’s currently on the path to become a registered dietitian in 2019.
We sat down with Sonia to find out what motivated her to go into this career, who inspires her every day, and how french fries fit into the picture.
What does a dietetic technician do?
Sonia Ramirez-Rivera: Diet technicians work on creating special diets for patients who are staying in the hospital. These patients can have complicated diets because they have certain diseases or health complications. We help document what they’re eating and count calories of their meals for the dietitian to see.
Q: What motivated you to pursue a career in nutrition?
SRR: As a young girl, I remember my father had some health issues. He would occasionally have to make changes to his diet, which also improved his lifestyle as a whole. When I saw how much nutrition therapy could help improve a person’s life by encouraging them to make healthy choices, I was immediately motivated to have a career in nutrition.
Q: What’s a typical workday like for you?
SRR: A typical day at work starts at 5 am. I begin by checking on my patients and updating our system with any new information, like different medications that will change what they’ll be eating that day. By 7 am, I’m taking patient lunch orders.
What’s really wild is while most people are either on their second cup of morning coffee or having breakfast, I’m eating lunch by 9:30. After that I double-check everyone’s lunch orders for dietary interactions or any last-minute changes by the doctors or dietitians. Before I head home at 1:30 pm, I get together with the crew for the evening shift and make sure they know what every patient needs.
Q: How is teaching part of your job?
SRR: When I’m taking food orders from patients, I’ll explain what their diet means and what foods they can and cannot eat. A lot of the time it’s because their potassium, protein, or sodium is being monitored.
Q: Do you have a guilty pleasure junk food?
SRR: I love french fries. They’re golden and fried—need I say more?
Q: Do you have a favorite place in Los Angeles?
SRR: My favorite place is Redondo Beach Pier. My parents would always take me there when I was a young girl. I have a lot of great memories of making sandcastles, splashing around in the ocean, and grilling hot dogs.
Q: Who is your biggest inspiration?
SRR: My biggest inspiration would have to be my parents. Throughout my childhood, I saw their constant hard work and perseverance. They never gave up and I admire that so much. They taught me those same values, and for that I thank them because they made me the person I am today.