She and other prospective students were put in the kitchen to prepare a meal for their parents while the parents went on the campus tour. Marissa was intimidated since her knowledge of cooking at that time came only from watching the Food Network.
“I was in a room full of students who had been in trade school and were very comfortable with the kitchen already,” Marissa says. “I knew I didn’t want to walk away from the food industry, and at that time, nutrition was a very up and coming field. I was able to find a college that had nutrition as a degree and the sport I was hoping to play—field hockey.”
Shifting her focus has allowed Marissa to help hundreds of people of all ages care for their health and wellness—rather than just their palates.
Marissa earned a bachelor’s in nutrition and dietetics and a minor in Spanish at SUNY Oneonta in New York. She has since enhanced her education and grown an impressive resume by becoming a Certified Diabetes Educator, Oncology Nutrition Specialist, and Certified Nutrition Support Clinician.
After graduating from college, she put her new skills to the test at Westchester Medical Center in New York, where she provided medical nutrition therapy for cancer patients for six years. She also worked with patients who experienced trauma, organ transplant, and critical illness, and she offered neonatal and pediatric care. Marissa continued her work with oncology patients at St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center in Hartford before finding her current position at Holyoke Medical Center three and a half years ago.
Though Marissa works full time in the community navigation, bariatric, and weight management clinics at Holyoke Medical Center, she also recently joined our team members team part time. She will support residents with their nutritional needs through educational presentations, individual counseling, and collaborative work with the food service team by reviewing and adjusting the menus to create optimally balanced meals.
In the individual counseling sessions she’s offered at Glenmeadow so far, Marissa has been struck by how conversational the meetings were, rather than clinical, which she believes will ultimately lead to better results for residents.
“When I can have a conversation and get to the root of the resident’s interest, while keeping them engaged and offering them the opportunity to follow up, it creates a more effective behavior change than if I’m giving them step-by-step medical advice,” she says. “It also allows for open, long-term communication. We can build a relationship that can evolve, and that’s something I’m really looking forward to doing with Glenmeadow residents.”
Marissa says she likes to first learn about people’s diets before dishing out recommended changes; standard information is not always useful to everyone. She encourages small behavior changes rather than total diet revamps, and her suggestions mostly fall within the four Bs:
Breakfast, Beverages, Balance, and Bed.
Marissa explains, “I prefer to encourage a balance of the three nutrients that give our bodies energy: carbohydrates, protein, and fat. I also recommend avoiding sugary beverages, never skipping breakfast and getting better sleep, which does affect weight, nutrition, and overall health.”
Marissa gained her extensive knowledge of nutrition and health both at SUNY Oneonta and at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where she earned a master’s in public health. Her passion is providing nutrition therapy for people living with a cancer diagnosis.
Marissa learned about the open position here through Amy Pierno, a former colleague of Marissa’s and one of Glenmeadow’s physical therapists. “I’m notorious for working multiple jobs at once, and I liked the idea of working with a different population. Community education has become a new love of mine,” Marissa says. “It was so appealing to me to support people through the aging process while doing some group work at the same time, offering presentations like the ‘Healthy Eating for Diabetes’ talk I have scheduled in August. It is nice for people to surround themselves with others going through the same things during an education session.”
Marissa is impressed with us so far. “I am impressed with how organized Glenmeadow is and how engaged the residents are,” she says. “The team members truly want to be working here. When that’s the case, the residents are happy, and they feel cared for. I’m looking forward to being part of such a nurturing environment and a great team.”