Her co-workers admire her sincere and gentle manner, the calming effect she has on immigrants with newly diagnosed diabetes, her understanding of children with type 1 diabetes. Meet Ericka Arrecis, who has been a Registered Dietitian and a diabetes educator at the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center for the last 7 years.
Said her supervisor, Patricia Kringas, RN, CDE, who directs the patient education program at the Berrie Center and also coordinates the type 2 diabetes clinical research program: “Many families need a lot of trial and error to learn the concepts involved in the care of someone with diabetes. Ericka is able to break down diabetes self-management into small, manageable steps and she provides persistent follow-up. Ericka personifies patience.”
Born and raised in Guatemala during that country’s protracted civil war, Erica came to the United States towards the end of the war in 1991, when she was 16. Although, she knew very little English, she picked up the language quickly and received a BA in Nutrition and General Dietetics from Queens College. “I think I was always motivated. Even when I was in Guatemala, the expectation was there” said Ericka, “but with the opportunity to come to America, I was even more motivated to do well. I wanted to give back by making myself useful.”
Today, Ericka plays a key role at the Berrie Center by providing diabetes education and nutritional counseling to a largely adult patient population, some of whom only speak Spanish. She leads bi-weekly classes in managing all aspects of type 2 diabetes, and she works one-on-one with patients and their families to merge their cultural needs with their medical needs to improve their diabetes self-care and glucose control. “Ericka is particularly successful at teaching older adults about the importance of nutrition,” added Patricia Kringas, describing Ericka’s long list of diverse talents.
“I am a patient person. It is especially necessary to practice patience when working with people with diabetes,” said Ericka. “I know that change does not come quickly, but when it does, it is extremely gratifying."
Ericka became a Registered Dietitian after developing an interest in science in college and deciding to apply it to an everyday practice such as nutrition. She came to the Berrie Center after an internship at the New York Institute of Technology.
“I love the Berrie Center and the challenge and the stimulation of what I do,” said Ericka, adding, that she is “amazed sometimes that I have trained my brain to speak in Spanish, document in English and read logs that are upside down because I am facing the patient.”
Ericka lives in Queens and enjoys most recreational activities that are outdoors and physical, like cycling 11 miles to work on a nice New York day. Ericka also enjoys cooking and trying new, healthy recipes.
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