Lillian Tran, MS, RD

Working together in the kitchen at Memorial Hospital of Gardena, Gonzalo Andrade, cook (left), and Amy Rosales, diet technician (center), discuss presentation of patient meal trays with Lillian Tran, clinical nutrition manager.

During National Nutrition Month this March, Pulse interviewed Lillian Tran, MS, RD, who serves as clinical nutrition manager at Memorial Hospital of Gardena. Following is that conversation.

What is your role at Memorial Hospital of Gardena?

I’ve been the clinical nutrition manager here for one year. I oversee a team of 15 dietitians, diet technicians and diet aides to tend to our patients’ dietary needs. They may need special diets, additional supplements, or alternate means of nutrient delivery—we make sure our patients maintain good nutrition.

I work to provide ongoing education to the team, and we work together on process improvement where needed. We always strive to keep our patients safe and happy. We need to keep up with any changing needs, and we work to get them ready for discharge.

What kind of education do you have for this role?

I have a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and molecular biology as well as a bachelor’s degree in economics. My first career was in a corporate finance and operations role for a contract food service company. Then I pursued my master’s degree in nutritional science and became a registered dietitian in 2019—so this is my second career. 

How did you decide to make that career change?

I’ve worked around food for about 10 years. In my first career, I was providing food to people at various universities and corporations, but I wanted to make a bigger impact. I recognized that as a dietitian, I could help educate individual people to improve their lives through improved nutrition. 

What do you find most fulfilling in your current role?

The most fulfilling aspect of my job is being able to send patients home in a better state than when they arrived at the hospital. Nutrition is so important to patient care outcomes—we need proper assessment of their nutrition status, and we can identify problems such as digestion issues or medical conditions that may interfere. We explore ways to correct those problems with proper diet orders, maybe supplements. We try to provide foods they like, and we look for ways to ensure that the food we present is hot and appealing.

What do you find most challenging? 

The hardest part of being a clinician is teaching a patient how to manage their nutrition in a short period of time. Improving nutrition can involve difficult life changes. We often send our patients home with informational handouts and suggest they continue their education with outpatient dietitians.

What contribution(s) are you most proud of?

During the transition to the ClinicianHub system, I worked with the IT team to create standardized templates for our Pipeline hospitals to use in recording nutrition notes for our patients. It was important to ensure that the notes were presented clearly for other members of the healthcare team to review.

I’m also proud of creating a “journal club” among our dietitians to promote learning and professional growth. Our team members take turns selecting current articles from the literature, and we meet once a month to discuss new research that could help us improve how we care for our patients.

March is National Nutrition Month. What have you planned to promote good nutrition during this month?

We are sending all Pipeline employees a series of weekly emails with nutrition tips on different topics. Small changes can improve your health. We also plan to host an information table in the Gardena cafeteria on March 27 to share information and answer questions.

Why is good nutrition important for our Pipeline employees?

Improving our own nutrition can make us better caretakers for our patients. If we have experienced the difficulties and barriers to making dietary restrictions – like decreasing our intake of salt or fat — we may have more compassion for the patients who are trying to do the same. It’s also important for us to take care of ourselves –  we cannot take care of our patients and our loved ones if we are not well.

What is the most common misunderstanding about good nutrition and healthy eating?

The most common misconception is that healthy eating is black and white, food is either “good” or “bad,” and everything you eat has to be “good.” A balanced diet is what’s important – a variety of lean protein, whole grains, and fruits and vegetables, that will properly fuel your body’s day-to-day functions. If your average food intake is health promoting, there is always room for treats. I enjoy treats myself, but just try to have them in moderate amounts.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I would like to recognize our dietitians and diet techs across Pipeline. They are an important part of our healthcare team and we want to acknowledge their hard work, dedication,and compassion for our patients.