At Western New York BloodCare, we take a wholistic approach to our patients’ health, and while we understand how much their treatment affects their daily lives, we know that complete health goes beyond medicine. Mental health, nutrition, activity – the aspects of daily life that affect a person can affect their health.
Erin Burch, MS, RDN, CDN, is our resident certified dietician. Her education began with a bachelor’s degree in biology, which she then expanded upon to focus on nutrition. “With biology, there’s not really anything you can do,” she explains, “so I went on to get my second degree in nutrition and dietetics, because I really loved the way that nutrition is such a significant part of health, that I felt that I could really change people’s lives with this root cause of [health] issues.”
Her interest in nutrition gave her a renewed direction. “I developed into this second degree, and from there, I’ve worked several different settings – I’ve worked in hospital settings, I’ve done community nutrition, cooking demonstrations, blog content for cooking blogs and those types of things, recipe development, and then I finally started my own business about six years ago, seeing my own private patients…just like anyone would go see their doctor.” Her private practice, located in Orchard Park, NY, offers a variety of services. More information can be found at her website.
“In 2017, Linda, who is a nurse that has been here over 40 years, reached out and said that they were looking for a dietician for their comprehensive clinics for both adult and pediatric patients.” Since that invitation, Erin has been providing helpful direction for the patients at Western New York BloodCare, working with them to establish goals that will improve their health and well-being.
Her time with patients is limited, so Erin takes advantage of each opportunity to speak with a patient. “I usually come in twice a month, and the idea is that patients with hemophilia and bleeding disorders have some limitations with exercise and physical activity, and because of their bleeding issues, they are already at such a high risk, that we try to keep chronic disease under control – nutrition is such an important part of overall health, so one can see why it’s important for these patients.
“The biggest limitation is that the patient is here for such a long day, that it is hard to speak to them about a long-term plan,” she says. “I usually get 15 or 20 minutes for each patient, so we’re kind of skimming the surface of most things, so I usually get an idea of a patient’s weigh versus their history – if they’ve been gaining or losing, if there have been any changes to their medical history, or new diagnosis, and we go from there. My goal is to try to get an idea of what their day looks like…what they’re eating, what physical activity they’re involved in. We then make some small goals to work on. Many of the patients could also be seen in my practice, so I offer that – if they would like a little more one-on-one support and accountability, we can see if their insurance would cover it, and I can give the additional support.”
Erin wants patients to understand the difference between health and weight. “I’m so passionate about nutrition – the way I view nutrition is probably different than other people see it, but on a day-to-day basis, I see what poor nutritional habits can lead to, and what good nutritional habits can lead to, so I just want these patients to feel that same successful feeling…that sense of accomplishment and pride. To gain that confidence and improve the longevity of their life. They are more energetic and feeling better. Society continues to look at the scale and judge by the number, but I would much rather my patients feel better and have an overall improvement of life, than what that scale number actually says.”
Because Western New York BloodCare offers comprehensive care for people of all ages, providing nutritional assistance has its challenges. “The tricky part of dealing with pediatric patients is that you’re not necessarily counseling the patient, but you’re counseling the parent. They make the decision; they do the grocery shopping…it can be a little trickier. It’s also a fine line – as a parent myself, I know how hard it is. I don’t want to say, ‘Well, you’re doing this wrong,’ so it’s about education. Sometimes being a dietician can be difficult for this reason. There are so many people giving out advice, but if you go to a dentist, they’ll have a degree, or a lawyer – they have a degree. Why would you get your nutrition advice from anyone who doesn’t? I recently had a patient who told me their sister told them to stop eating ‘this many’ carbs, and I just…her sister doesn’t know! It’s hard to battle trends and the mountain of misinformation.”
Working with patients at Western New York BloodCare is a different experience, in general. “I don’t usually see a patient once a year in my private practice. If someone is at a maintenance stage, and they are pretty healthy, then I might cut visits to once a year, but for someone that has a specific chronic health condition, or wants to lose weight, or gain weight, or has to follow a specific diet for any reason, it takes a little bit of education and some hand-holding, so ideally, I would see those types of patients more frequently. It would be beneficial.”
As she begins her third year, she’s starting to see some of the changes she suggests find their way into the patient’s everyday lifestyle. As the second and third time she sees a patient come through to see her, she can see the impact she’s having. “A lot of times, we’re working on smaller goals – something like, ‘Hey, instead of skipping breakfast, let’s see what we can get you to eat for breakfast so you’re not missing a really important meal,’ or ‘If you’re snacking at night, let’s switch out the ice cream for something a little bit better to eat.’ It’s not huge amounts of weight loss (sometimes we have those successes,) but I see more of the non-scale victories of success. A patient will feel better, or sleep better, or have more energy, or have a consistent workout schedule. Sometimes it’s not eating out four meals a week, but once or twice a week. Some of those types of goals, which are more attainable goals, anyway.
“I think a lot of what I recommend for a patient with hemophilia or a bleeding disorder is what I would recommend for most people. That’s what I tell most of my patients – I’m not suggesting a specific diet that YOU have to follow; this is really just generally good nutrition for anybody. It’s good for a 50-year old or an 80 year-old, but it’s also good for my child. There are across-the-board nutrition tips that would benefit anyone.”
Erin Burch, MS, RDN, CDN is a registered dietitian nutritionist and certified dietitian nutritionist who maintains a private practice in Orchard Park. She has a BS-Biology from Fredonia State University, BS-Dietetics from State University of New York at Buffalo and MS-Exercise Science and Health Promotion from California University of Pennsylvania.
When Erin is not working, she is spending time with her husband and two kids Mackenzie and Camden, loving on her dog, indulging in good food, including dessert, breaking a sweat, and using up all the produce in her CSA before it goes bad.