Carmen El-Khazen is a Registered Dietitian who works with Bridgepoint’s Family Health Team in the Diabetes Education Program, helping patients manage their health. The program provides individual and group education, counselling and support related to managing and preventing type 2 diabetes.
Carmen says her interest in nutrition sciences began at home —her parents have careers in medicine and science. She also enjoyed spending time with her family in the kitchen. “My mother got my sister and I involved in cooking from a young age and it’s something I really love. It’s another reason I think I gravitated towards nutrition science.”
Carmen chose to pursue undergraduate studies in Nutrition and Food Sciences. During her studies she had the opportunity to learn about the role of dietitians first-hand. “I was able to participate in job shadowing with clinical dietitians and was even personally mentored by two dietitians,” she says. “Having close friends with family members who are living with diabetes sparked my desire to work specifically in diabetes care.
In addition to her undergraduate degree, Carmen also completed a Professional Masters Diploma in Dietetics. Throughout her studies Carmen found opportunities to learn more about the specialized area of diabetes care through volunteer work, internship placements and co-chairing the Ryerson University Chapter of Diabetes Canada.
As part of the Diabetes Education Team, Carmen is putting the knowledge and experience she gained to work. Carmen works with a diabetes nurse educator, often seeing patients jointly. She also works collaboratively with an endocrinologist and a pharmacist to provide care to more complex patients.
“I provide patients with nutrition and lifestyle counselling and education on how food and physical activity impact blood sugar levels, how to read nutrition labels, tips for eating away from home, cholesterol management and much more,” she says. “I also work with them to develop goals that they can work towards.”
Carmen notes that when it comes to diabetes care, and health care in general, it’s always important to look at the big picture. “Social determinants of health play a significant role in diabetes development, prevention and self-management,” she says. “I’m always aiming to provide individualized and evidence-based recommendations while accounting for co-morbidities and various social determinants of health that can affect self-management.”
Carmen says she enjoys the challenge of continuously learning and keeping up with the latest research and evidence so that she can provide the best support to her patients. “The most rewarding part of the job is seeing the impact that our diabetes education program care has on patients’ diabetes self-management,” she says. “Also the feeling of support patients have, and in some cases, even the prevention of diabetes development.”
At home, Carmen puts her knowledge about nutrition and a healthy lifestyle to good use. She stays active with dance-fitness classes and she and her mother and sister still cook together. “We enjoy finding ways to incorporate lots of vegetables to make balanced, nutritious meals. It’s something I find really fun,” she says.