Meet Caitlyn Sward, a registered dietitian with an “all foods fit” philosophy. Being a successful dietitian requires motivation and a desire to improve the lives of others. Caitlyn exhibits those qualities and more. A newly minted registered dietitian, Caitlyn is passionate about living a strong and healthy life, and is committed to helping her patients live the same way.
Caitlyn began her career as a registered dietitian nutritionist at Day Kimball Hospital in 2019 after graduating with a bachelor’s of science in dietetics from the University of Connecticut. She spends most days providing nutrition counseling to cancer patients, helping them determine their goals and creating a plan to help them achieve those goals.
Caitlyn’s passion for the role and positive outlook helps her tackle all kinds of cases, including challenging ones. The favorite aspect of her job, she says, is the tangible effect she can have on her patients. “A cancer diagnosis is overwhelming. Nutrition is one of the only things patients still have control over during their cancer journey. Not only does my role actively impact the course of treatment, but patients often want my expertise. I love when I see the ‘light bulb’ moment during an education session with a patient. Helping people understand the way their bodies function and empowering them to make informed decisions is so rewarding.”
Since her arrival at DKH, Caitlyn has made great strides in improving patient outcomes at the hospital by providing better nutrition care, increasing patient’s knowledge of nutrition, and access to healthy foods. Sward also oversees Caitlyn’s Cupboard, a hospital-based food pantry she established in March of 2020 to address malnutrition and food insecurity among patients treated in DKH’s Cancer Center through the provision of no-cost food and nutritional education.
“Approximately 42% of cancer patients spend their entire life savings within 2 years after their diagnosis,” said Caitlyn. “We believe that no one should have to choose between keeping their electricity on and buying groceries for the week. Caitlyn’s Cupboard is an opportunity for us to help eliminate some of those difficult choices for our patients.”
Day Kimball Healthcare’s Cancer Center patients who identify as food insecure can access the pantry. Caitlyn schedules pantry appointments with each patient to help them select foods tailored to their specific treatment plan, health needs and dietary requirements. Each person served receives a three-day supply of food for each member of the family, including staple items, fresh produce and often prohibitively expensive nutrition drinks. She also provides patients with nutritional information, budget-friendly recipes, and a comprehensive list of local food assistance programs and other community resources.
A Northeast Connecticut native, Sward was born at Day Kimball Hospital and currently resides in East Putnam. She is a member of the QVR Rotaract Club and is an American Council on Exercise (ACE) Certified Personal Trainer, ACE and CETI Certified Cancer Exercise Specialist, ACE Youth Exercise Specialist, and an NASM MMA Conditioning Specialist.
This year, Caitlyn was recognized by Day Kimball Healthcare as its employee of the month in July and she obtained her Cancer Exercise Specialist certification. She looks forward to providing exercise recommendations and personal training to patients receiving active treatment and those in remission.
Caitlyn is currently working towards becoming a Certified Nutrition Support Clinician and is pursuing board certification as a specialist in oncology nutrition. Outside of Day Kimball, Caitlyn also owns and operates Sward and Shield LLC, where affordable, inclusive nutrition counseling and physical activity services are provided to those living in Northeast Connecticut.
In her downtime, Caitlyn enjoys reading a good psychological thriller, cooking and baking, playing piano, and mixed martial arts workouts with her boyfriend, Chris.
Read on to learn more about Caitlyn in this edition of 13 Questions.
1. I grew up in: Putnam!
2. Who’s on your playlist? I have a very broad and slightly eclectic taste in music. I love a good Broadway soundtrack, throwback to early 90s and 2000s punk rock and new alternative/indie music.
3. What’s your favorite movie? I’m not sure if I have a favorite movie – I tend to watch TV shows more often. However, recently I’ve been watching all of the Marvel movies and I really enjoy how fantastical they are. Real life has been a bit… challenging lately, so it’s nice to forget about the normal world for a while.
4. What’s your favorite color? It’s hard for me to pick a favorite color – I really like all colors for different reasons… but if forced to choose I would probably say green (forest green, to be exact).
5. What was the last thing you read? I’m currently reading, “The Return of Sherlock Holmes” from 1905! I normally stick to new psychological thrillers, but I love the character of Sherlock so much that I thought I would go back to where it all started.
6. Who is your hero? I tend not to idealize specific people, because I believe that everyone is flawed in one way or another and I think that having an idol or a hero can get messy at times. Instead, I look up to different aspects of people in my life. For example, I have a deep admiration for my dad’s love of his career (and just life in general), for my mom’s attention to detail, how steadfast my grandmother is in her beliefs and my grandfather’s ingenuity.
7. Pets or no pets? (name them, if so.) My family and I have 2 dogs and 3 cats. All of our cats are black rescue cats (I like a good underdog) and their names are Sophie, Theo and Sushi. My dogs are golden retrievers and they are arguably two of my best friends (wish I was being ironic). Their names are Ellie and Marzipan and they’re the best therapy and companion dogs you could ever ask for. I have thousands of photos of them and can talk about them for hours.
8. Name something on your bucket list. In an ideal world I would like to travel to all 50 states and visit as many countries as I can.
9. What’s your “go-to” comfort food? Ice cream! Perhaps a surprising answer from a dietitian, but I have the biggest sweet tooth. I also love making breakfast for dinner (chocolate chip pancakes specifically).
10. Smartphone, tablet or desktop? Since I’m always on the move – smartphone.
11. People would be surprised to know that I: Am actually a classically trained pianist. I’ve been playing for over 20 years – so long that I don’t even remember learning how to read music. My family is quite musical so it’s always been an important part of life in my household. Throughout college I struggled to find time to play, but I’m so glad I kept it up, as it’s still one of my favorite hobbies (much to the chagrin of Marzipan – she HATES piano).
12. What’s your current health focus (for yourself, personally)? Right now I’m working on listening to my body more and slowing down. Historically I tend to spread myself too thin. I push through things I shouldn’t and end up burnt out, both physically and emotionally. Even though I can recognize this about myself, it’s challenging for me to relax and it’s something I’m working on improving.
13. What’s your favorite place in Northeast Connecticut? The Thompson Dam. It’s always been my favorite place to walk, picnic or hangout and watch the sunset. It’s been a staple in my life for over 2 decades now.
Scroll the photos below of Caitlyn Sward, RDN with DKH