Ascension Via Christi dietitian receives state-level award | Ascension

Ascension Via Christi dietitian receives state-level award

On Saturday, Almaz Rufael was recognized by the Kansas Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, or KSAND, as its Distinguished Dietitian of the Year.

For Almaz, a clinical nutrition manager at Ascension Via Christi Hospital in Manhattan, it was the first of two career milestones as she also celebrates her 35th year of service to Ascension Via Christi this week.

Almaz became a dietitian in 1985, a decade after immigrating as a young adult from Eritrea, a small East African nation, to the United States. She spent those years earning her bachelor’s degree in Dietetics from the University of Nebraska and her Master’s of Science from Kansas State University.

Board-certified by the American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition, the focus of Almaz’s hospital role is preventing, identifying and treating malnutrition through treatment.

“I see patients of hypertension, heart and kidney diseases, cancer and many other life-altering diseases near death and after a crisis,” says Almaz. “I don’t take lightly families inviting me into their lives and helping them get healthier.”

Additionally, Almaz mentors and serves as a preceptor to dietetic students at Kansas State University, where she is an adjunct professor, and is an active member of KSAND as the board’s Diversity liaison, having previously served as its president of the State and Education chair.

She also is an active community member, serving once a month at the Flint Hills Community Clinic, which provides no-cost medical care to people living in Manhattan and neighboring communities who are uninsured.

“Having come from a country where food is meaningful to my culture, I work with Hispanic and other communities to find out what their comfort food is and work dietary education into their routine instead of asking them to change their whole diet,” says Almaz. “What I do, where I’m at, is a blessing so it is important to me to share that with others.”

Almaz says she feels both humbled and honored to be chosen for the KSAND award.

“I don’t feel I deserve it, as there are so many amazing dietitians in Manhattan and Kansas. I am lucky to even work and know them,” she says, especially fellow KSAND member Patti Dollarhide, who nominated her for the award.

In her nomination, Dollarhide wrote that Almaz is “a proactive leader who embraces change and knows how to apply skills where they can affect positive change.

“She has a calling that has resulted in working in advanced clinical nutrition support areas and winning the trust of the medical team to utilize her skills. Almaz models how nutrition can improve health and save money for the system. She is never satisfied with status-quo, is ‘all in’ and does not wait for someone else to act.”