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Care Team Spotlight: Victoria Andersen, Clinical Nutritionist & Diabetes Educator

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Victoria Andersen is a registered dietitian (RD), licensed nutritionist (LDN) and certified diabetes care and education specialist (CDCES) at the UMass Memorial Diabetes Center of Excellence (DCOE). She uses her diverse training to help people living with type 1, type 2 and gestational diabetes customize a healthy eating lifestyle to keep their blood sugars within target range.  

“Nutrition is a vital component of diabetes management,” according to Cheryl Barry, MS, RN, CDCES, manager of the UMass DCOE Education Program. “Our patients are fortunate to have access to three registered dietitians on our team of diabetes educators. Victoria has helped many people achieve and maintain success.”

Individualized Goals, Strategies and Success Plans

Personalized meal plans are developed to incorporate food preferences, eating schedules and nutritional goals as determined by a physician or nurse practitioner. Intended outcomes often include lowering cholesterol and blood pressure, in addition to losing weight.

“First, I listen, to understand what they’re hoping to achieve from our sessions,” said Andersen. “Once I know their health and nutrition goals, how active they are and what medications they take, together, we devise a realistic and attainable plan that won’t overwhelm them. I meet them where they’re at, and we start there.”

Each person’s plan will be different, and Victoria believes it’s important that they’re empowered throughout the process. “It’s not one size fits all,” she said. “It’s always a work in progress and sometimes we have to try various options and techniques until we find what works best for them.” 

Victoria prefers to educate and coach people, instead of simply giving them to-do lists. “It’s a collaboration. I never want to talk down to anyone and tell them what they already know.” However, there are some topics she initially shares with all patients to set a solid foundation. 

“Understanding how the foods you eat impact your daily activities, is important,” she said. “For example, there’s a lot of misunderstanding with food packaging. Items may be advertised as ‘low-sugar’ but could be high in carbohydrates and cause blood sugars to rise.”

Victoria emphasizes the importance of balanced meals and paying attention to serving sizes. She also points out the many creative marketing phrases used to make foods sound healthier than they are. "Low-fat" and "fat-free" items are often loaded with sugar and other additives to make them taste better.

“Food companies know how we think as consumers and they’re masters at marketing,” she said. “You must always read the nutritional facts and the list of ingredients.”

A Team Approach to Diabetes Care

The UMass Memorial Diabetes Center of Excellence is unique in its team-oriented approach. The care team is made up of endocrinologists, nurse practitioners, certified diabetes educators and other specialists who collaborate to accomplish the same goals.

“Our entire team always works together with the patient in mind,” Andersen said. “Whether the referral comes from a primary care physician, OB-GYN, one of our own DCOE providers or specialists such as a health psychologist or our weight management program, we communicate to ensure the person’s specific needs are met.”

Victoria Andersen, MS, RD, LDN, CDCES

Victoria began working at UMass Medical School in 2003 in the Center for Preventive and Behavioral Medicine doing public health education, outpatient preventive cardiology, cardiac rehab and clinical research. She joined the Diabetes Center of Excellence when Dr. Richard Haas arrived as a specialist to help women with gestational diabetes or managing type 1 diabetes during pregnancy.

Her road to Massachusetts was long and winding. Born in Minnesota as the oldest of three children, Victoria earned a BA in psychology from Gustavus Adolphus College. Her first job was for a non-profit called American Refugee Committee, which provided her first exposure to health care. Looking for a change and still trying to “find myself,” she moved to Seattle. That’s where Victoria discovered her love for hiking and the outdoors. It’s also where she discovered what she was meant to do with her life. The answer she received was “nutrition.” This required 4 years of science prerequisites “which I avoided during my undergrad.”

She earned her Master of Science in Nutrition from Bastyr University in Washington while working odd jobs. For her dietetic internship, Victoria was matched to her top choice, UMass Amherst. Her community nutrition rotation was proctored by Barbara Olendski, RD, MPH, who would eventually hire her at UMass Medical School’s Division of Preventive and Behavioral Medicine.

  • For the past 10+ years, Victoria lives with her significant other
  • She enjoys spending time outdoors with her three dogs, and having friends over for dinner (cooking healthy meals of course)
  • Favorite TV Series: The Watchmen, Queer Eye
  • Favorite Movie: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
  • Favorite Music: Icelandic, funky jazz, coffee house alternative, anything by Prince