Meet Keri Ryniak, Oncology Dietitian
There is a lot of information, some true and some false, about what cancer patients should be eating during treatment. This can be incredibly overwhelming, so Keri tries to meet her patients as soon as possible after their diagnosis. “I like meeting with patients right from the beginning so that I can establish a rapport with them and help them with any questions they might have,” she expressed. While Keri is a member of the team at the Milton J. Dance, Jr. Head and Neck Cancer Center at GBMC, she provides services free of charge to any cancer patient at GBMC.
Each person experiences cancer differently, and Keri is committed to meeting patients where they are. “If a patient is receiving chemotherapy, I pull a chair right next to the chair they’re sitting in and we’ll have a conversation there,” she described. The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has caused her workflow to look a little different, but Keri makes sure to always be fully present with her patients. Like every GBMC provider, Keri now wears personal protective equipment (PPE) during every patient interaction (click here to learn more about the safety measures being taken at GBMC) and practices physical distancing with her patients. In addition to in-person care, she is also providing care over the phone and through telehealth video visits.
Oncology dietetics is unique in the field. “It’s difficult as a dietitian, but sometimes I have to suggest that patients to do the opposite of what is healthy just to get them through treatment,” Keri explained. Cancer treatment can cause significant fatigue and sometimes a frozen meal or takeout is the best option for a patient. For others, it may be hard to eat solid food at all, in which case, Keri often recommends supplemental shakes similar to those given to children who aren’t getting enough nutrition. “I spend a lot of time telling people that they don’t have to eat perfectly during treatment,” she said.
Keri decided that she wanted to be an oncology dietitian during her last semester of college. “My oncology rotation was my final rotation and I fell in love. I’ve been lucky enough to work in oncology ever since then.” She was drawn to oncology because of the ongoing relationships she is able to form with her patients. She is able to meet with them on a regular basis and has known some of her patients for more than ten years.
When asked why she chose GBMC, Keri responded: “I love that I can walk down the halls of GBMC and everyone says ‘Hi’ to everybody. That hasn’t happened at any other institution I’ve worked at and it’s one of the things that I think makes GBMC so remarkable.” She previously worked at a large academic institution and felt that she couldn’t provide the personal care that she wanted to for her patients – this isn’t the case at GBMC. “The team is incredibly supportive, and no one tries to hold me back if I have a new idea. It’s wonderful.”
To learn more about oncology dietetics and other cancer services at GBMC, visit www.gbmc.org/cancer. You can also ask your nurse or physician about Keri or call her directly at 443-849-8186.