“My father was worried about my choice in profession,” says Karmen Yuen, who defied all odds to become a registered dietitian. “He passed away when I was 17 years old and nutrition was an unknown territory for a family where everyone had a business background,” adds Karmen. Being the youngest, Karmen sees herself as a little bit of a rebel who didn’t want to give into the pressure. “It was my passion to help others that made me sure I wanted to go down this path,” she says and applies that same passion when working with clients to help improve quality of life.
Recently, when working with a Syrian refugee family, Karmen came to the realization of how important VHA services can be. “We were dealing with more than one challenge; their personal struggles of moving to a completely new country, financial perspective, lack of resources and of course the language barriers were all taken into account when we worked to provide services for their child who had a medical condition,” she explains. But it’s hard to put a price on the rewards. “They were so thankful and grateful for the services provided by VHA. It was an eye-opening experience for me personally,” smiles Karmen.
At VHA, Karmen has the opportunity to work with people from different walks of life, but the most moving experiences are usually with palliative clients. “It’s about providing support with dignity at their end of life and rather than implementing idealistic goals for a person who possibly can’t eat or drink… (and) it’s about matching their needs with the care.” Through her work at VHA for the past year, Karmen admits that the life lessons she’s learned are irreplaceable, “I don’t take anything for granted, not even my own health… healthy right now does not necessarily mean that you will always be healthy,” she says. “As a dietitian, I hope to identify needs earlier and potentially avoid complications sooner…that’s where education and awareness comes in,” she adds. VHA has a small team of dietitians on board but together “the impact made on each client’s life is huge,” she points out.
Karmen’s unaltered determination to help people doesn’t end at her VHA clients, she takes her volunteer work just as seriously. Last year, Karmen took a two-week humanitarian trip to Cambodia, “I was involved with a feeding program, where we organized nutritional meals for children living in the slums,” she says. Karmen’s phenomenal experiences (and she’s only 26!) reinforce that becoming a dietitian was her calling. She fortifies her occupational experiences with humanitarian causes, setting out to change the world one volunteer experience at a time. “I’m already thinking of where to head next,” she exclaims enthusiastically.