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Lara A Valerio, MS, RD, LDN, is a registered dietitian in the Division of Infectious Diseases. It’s on her bucket list to write a book on all the nutrition tips and tricks she has learned over the course of being a dietitian. Lara is an avid traveler and has visited 13 countries so far. 

What’s your role and how long have you been a part of our department?

I have served as the registered dietitian for the Infectious Disease clinic for the last four years. The primary function of my role is to provide nutritional counseling, and medical nutrition therapy, to mitigate chronic diseases and various nutrition-related issues.

Where are you from?

I was born in Kansas City, Missouri, but we moved to Chapel Hill when I was a toddler so my mother could attend her medical residency here at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. At the same time, my father completed his PhD at Duke University, so we were a house divided during basketball season!

What originally attracted you to work at UNC Department of Medicine?

I was drawn to the UNC Department of Medicine because it offered an opportunity to not only engage in clinical work, but it also provided multiple opportunities to serve the community through medical education, research advancements, and the potential to impact healthcare outcomes positively.

What is the most interesting project you’ve been a part of so far?

Our food insecurity project in the clinic. We have discovered that our HIV+ population served by our clinic has a higher prevalence of food insecurity compared to the US population. We have learned various interventions, such as our food distribution program, have helped amelioriate this ongoing crisis. We hope to continue to learn more about this population as this project grows.

What do you enjoy most about working here?

It is a conducive, welcoming environment for collaboration, growth and staying abreast with the most innovative medical knowledge.

How has your role evolved over time since you’ve been here?

When my role was created in 2018, it started as part-time position. Since then, it has grown into a full-time role, as nutrition has shown its impact in healthcare. We’ve seen that, in conjunction with pharmacological interventions, proper nutrition can truly alleviate disease states to benefit our patients.

What is one thing that you wish people knew about your job?

One crucial aspect of being a dietitian is that I can provide guidance outside of the weight management realm. I can counsel on a variety of topics including cardiovascular diseases, gastroenterological issues, nutrient deficiencies, special diets, sports nutrition, eating disorders, pregnancy nutrition, geriatrics, etc. I’m biased, but I think everyone can benefit from at least one nutritional consultation!

What are you most proud of, personal or professional?

I’m proud of the growth and significant steps this role has made in the infectious disease community.

What’s one thing on your bucket list?

I would love to write a book on all the nutrition tips and tricks I’ve learned over the course of being a dietitian.

Do you have hobbies outside of work that you enjoy?

I love to exercise (run), bake allergy-friendly desserts, and play with my daughter.

What piece of advice would you give to your younger self?

To embrace failure! Oftentimes, the things we view as setbacks in the moment are what ultimately open doors to opportunities that help lead us to what we truly want to do in life.

What’s something about you (a fun fact) that not many people know?

I have travelled to 13 different countries!