Educator, Strategist, Empath: The Many Roles of a Nephrology Dietitian
In the United States, 37 million people, or 15% of adults, are estimated to have chronic kidney disease (CKD), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
With CKD, the kidneys do not function properly and cannot clean the blood of toxic wastes, and often cannot remove excess fluid as well as they should, so a kidney-friendly diet is critical for patients with CKD.
Nephrology, or renal, dietitians are experts in diet and nutrition, specifically for CKD patients, and understand how diet affects kidney function, bones and the heart.
Since 2011, Constance “Connie” Kilgore, RD, LD, has worked as a nephrology dietitian at the Hattiesburg Clinic Dialysis units located in Columbia and Picayune. She works with patients who have acute kidney injury and patients who have reached End-Stage Renal Disease and require hemodialysis.
“My main responsibility is to educate our patients and their families on how to make the best nutritional choices possible,” Kilgore said. “Based on their lab work, I educate patients on the amount of specific nutrients, protein, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins and minerals they need to help prevent any further damage to their bodies and to feel their best and to live their best life.”
Kilgore meets with the dialysis team of professionals to discuss patients’ medical concerns and needs to improve patient care.
“I work closely with our physicians, nurse practitioners, nursing staff and social workers to develop a comprehensive care plan for each patient,” Kilgore said. “We have a fantastic team, and I have never had a job in which I have felt more valued and appreciated as I do here with Hattiesburg Clinic Dialysis.”
In addition to medical concerns, dietitians work closely with the team to ensure that they are aware of any social or financial struggles. Creating an affordable nutritional plan is an obstacle renal dietitians must consider. The medical, social and economic aspects all play a part in the dietitian’s strategic clinical assessment.
Born in Miami and raised in Gainesville, Fla., Kilgore moved to Mississippi when she was 17 years old and attended The University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, Miss. In her spare time, she enjoys working on projects around the house and spending time with her family.
The Miami-native said she especially loves going to the beach with her family of five, soon to be six.
“My husband and best friend, Bert, and I have been married for 34 years, and together, we have three great kids who are the best things in our lives,” Kilgore said. “Our firstborn, Chelsea, is 30, then we have Lori Lee, 21, and James Robert, who is 18. Next year, we will be adding Kyle to our family as he and Chelsea plan to get married in St. Lucia in March.
Whether she is enjoying the sunset on the beach or dealing with a crisis, Kilgore said her go-to verse can be found in the book of Psalm.
“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” – Psalm 46:10
If you had to eat one meal every day for the rest of your life, what would it be?
CK: Fajitas with guacamole and jalapenos.
If you could learn to do anything, what would it be?
CK: I would love to learn to ride a horse.
List three words to describe yourself.
CK: Positive, kind and, most of all, blessed!