Tomoko Okada

The dedication that Tomoko Okada demonstrates places her among those at the top of the field, and her influential contributions to current research set a high standard for those to follow.

Details

Clinical Dietitian, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, NY
Age: 28
Education: B.S. in nutrition and food studies from New York University; master’s in nutrition and dietetics from New York University
Years at organization: 5

Why Selected?

Veronica McLymont, director of food and nutrition services, says: As a young dietitian, the dedication that Tomoko demonstrates places her among those at the top of the field, and her influential contributions to current research set a high standard for those to follow. As an emergent leader, Tomoko is a true servant. She volunteered with MSKCC’s pediatric department, where she escorted pediatric patients to view the NYC Marathon last year.

Get to know

Q. What has been your proudest accomplishment?

My colleague and I took the lead in an evidence-based practice committee that worked with medical staff, nursing and pharmacy in developing comprehensive guidelines on prevention of enteral nutrition support for our pediatric patients. It was a very long and demanding process. It’s also exciting to see it implemented and impacting the daily clinical nutrition practice and other departments as well.

Q. What's the best career advice you've been given?

Believe in yourself; trust your instincts; follow your dreams and don’t give up.

Q. What's been the biggest challenge you've had to overcome?

When I first moved to the U.S. from Japan in 1998, I barely spoke English and I started right away as a junior in an American high school. Taking English classes with all American students as a non-English speaker was very tough. When a challenge is thrown at you, you learn to keep going until you have mastered the issue at hand. I think it made me stronger emotionally and with that experience it helps me face new challenges.

Q. What's been your most rewarding moment?

I work in the intensive care unit where we deal with very sick patients who are often on nutritional support or unable to eat by mouth. I work with family members of those patients who are going through so much emotionally and it means so much to me when they give me compliments saying I’ve brightened up their day. What I do for them is such a tiny part of everything else that is going on, so for them to take time to tell me something nice means a lot.

Q. What can you look back at now and laugh at?

Soon after I completed my dietetic internship, Joint Commission came to the hospital for an accreditation survey. I only knew that it was a very stressful time, but I had never experienced it myself. On the way to the office, I ran into a manager who told me the Joint Commission officers were going to be at the hospital and I needed to alert the rest of the dietitians as soon as possible. My face apparently turned blue and I ran into the dietitians’ office panting and yelling, “Joint Commission is here.” Looking back I was so scared of what’s to come. It’s funny remembering how nervous I used to be.

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