Vimala Patel, MSN, FNP

Family Nurse Practitioner Connects with Patients via Telemedicine

“Even minor illnesses or conditions can be a worry. I try to put my patients’ minds at ease by explaining exactly what is going on.”

As a member of Vanguard’s eCare team, Vimala Patel enjoys connecting with patients. This advanced practice registered nurse doesn’t mind the screen; it’s simply a portal into the lives of the people she meets. “I love the variety in family medicine and the opportunity to help my patients address acute and chronic conditions and enjoy an active, healthy lifestyle,” she said. “The virtual visit gives patients more flexibility and sometimes makes them more comfortable.”

Vimala began her career in an intensive care unit (ICU) in her home country of India. She came to the U.S. to complete her master’s in nursing, and then began work in the States in dialysis. As a nephrology nurse, she helped patients with renal failure as well as those with urinary issues, kidney stones, and other ailments.

She went on to work in asthma and allergy, motivated by an interest in that area. “I wanted to know as much as possible about allergies so that I could help people suffering from them,” she said. She continues to work per diem there, and in urgent care for continuing in-person clinical experience.

Vimala joined Vanguard to be on the cutting edge of telemedicine. As a member of the eCare Telemedicine team, she provides focused medical evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment for patients remotely via a phone call or videoconference. “I try to explain in detail what is happening with their health and guide them toward next steps,” she said. “Once they understand, my patients often seem relieved. They are so thankful.”

When she’s not working, Vimala enjoys gardening. She also loves to travel with her husband and children.

Michelle Tavares, RDN, CDCES

“The best part is helping patients realize they’re able to manage their health through the way they eat.”

Michelle Tavares has always had a passion for healthy living. Her interest in diet and exercise inspired her career as a registered dietitian nutritionist, which has brought her immense joy. In this role, she helps people meet their health and lifestyle goals. Her specialties are medical nutrition therapy and diabetes management.

“I spent several years working at a hospital, where I saw quite a bit of end-stage disease,” she said. “I saw how uncontrolled diabetes was one of the primary conditions that led to these end-stage diseases. Since diabetes can be managed with diet and exercise, I thought this was where my expertise as a dietitian would be best put to use.”

As a registered dietitian, Michelle works in VMG’s Nutrition Counseling and Diabetes Education Program, providing patients the tools and knowledge needed to manage diabetes and health-related diseases. Services include weight loss counseling, medical nutrition therapy, diabetes and prediabetes management counseling, and personalized counseling on maintaining a healthy lifestyle. She advises patients on the role that diet can play and creates a customized nutrition plan.

“I try to individualize sessions for each person based on his or her own unique needs and goals,” said Michelle. “I ask about the person’s schedule and cultural background so that I can truly customize a plan that will be a good fit.”

Michelle has created healthy versions of popular recipes. For example, she re-created a popular South American meal, modifying it for a heart-healthy meal plan. “I removed the salt, which can contribute to high blood pressure. I added different peppers and increased the oregano and garlic. I also included a touch of turmeric because it helps with inflammation. The patient loved it.”

Patients say that Michelle is easy to talk to and makes them feel comfortable. “I enjoy getting to know my patients and being able to individualize my sessions based on their own unique needs and goals,” she said.

When she is not working, Michelle enjoys running, skiing and exercising on her Peloton. She also likes trying new healthy recipes.

Pavan Sharma, RDN, CDCES

Pavan Sharma Helps Patients Harness Their Inner Strength to Make Lifestyle Changes Through Diet and Exercise

“The absolute best moment that I have in my job is when I connect with someone about his or her struggle with diabetes and my client will say, ‘Nobody ever told me that.’ It’s that moment that can be life changing – and lifesaving with diabetes.”

You might say that Pavan Sharma has a personal vendetta against diabetes. Her mother-in-law died from complications of the disease at an early age. At the time, Pavan wasn’t a full-fledged medical professional and was not aware of the profound effect that diet has on diabetes. Yet the early passing of a loved one inspired her to find out more about the disease. “I discovered that Indians are at a greater risk for diabetes,” she notes. “Most of my clients think that the U.S. has the highest population of people with diabetes and are surprised to find that India and China surpass the U.S. in the number of people living with diabetes per capita overall. And it definitely runs in families.”

Pavan is a registered dietitian and a certified diabetes educator, with a Master of Science in nutrition from the College of Saint Elizabeth. She also holds a certificate in adult weight management from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Her diabetes education program, “Simply Carb Counting,” has been approved by the American Association of Diabetes Educators.

Pavan counsels her patients about making smart food choices and adding physical activity to help them live longer and healthier lives. In addition to one-on-one visits, Pavan runs a diabetes self-management program in Vanguard’s Verona office. Patients tell her that they find her encouraging, helpful and well-informed, with realistic resolutions to issues that come up in diabetes management. “New patients may arrive nervous, thinking they may have to give up all their favorite foods, but they’ll give me a hug when they leave,” she says. “That’s when I know that I’ve connected with them.”

Importantly, Pavan provides patients with the information they need so they can make their own decisions about their health with confidence. “It’s the lifestyle changes that have to be made,” she notes. “How many minutes are there in a year? Of those, you see your doctor probably just a few minutes two, three, maybe four times during that year. But you live with diabetes every minute of every day. You’re the one who is really going to manage it. Your doctor and your team are there to support you.”

A sincere yoga follower since the age of 16, Pavan is up at 4:45 a.m. each day to do yoga. She eats a vegetarian diet and makes her own yogurt from organic milk. She also enjoys gardening and growing her own vegetables.