2014 Featured RDN/DTR
Katie Ferraro, MPH, RD, CDE
Self-employed Dietitian Specializing in Nutrition Consulting, Teaching, Publishing and Being a Media Spokesperson
Interviewed by Randi Drasin, MS, RDN, CAND Communications Council
CAND is proud to introduce Katie Ferraro, MPH, RD, CDE, self-employed dietitian specializing in nutrition consulting, teaching, publishing and being a media spokesperson! She loves being the “Go To Expert” at all the venues in which she partners with. She loves to be organized and productive, a task she acquired in the Peace Corp in Nepal, and is up at the crack of dawn daily as that is her favorite time to get a head start on the day’s work ahead! Read on for her inspiring and motivating story of how she continued the tradition of self-employment in her family’s lineage and just couldn’t imagine settling for a “traditional job!”
What inspired you to pursue these particular areas in nutrition? My mother is also an RD and has had a nutrition consulting business for years. From her I learned about the flexibility of the profession and the opportunity to run your own business. I love working in a female dominated field, and having had my first child this past summer, I really appreciate the flexibility that comes with being a self-employed RD!
What are your roles as a Nutrition Consultant with respect to Healthcare, education, publishing and being a spokesperson? How do they differ and is their any crossover? As a consultant dietitian I primarily am the only RD in the various institutions that I work at. I like being the “go to expert” in nutrition and I appreciate that my clients recognize the importance of partnering with an RD. Although I work across a number of areas of nutrition (in healthcare, education, in industry and media), I find that my overarching goal is the same: to help deliver clear and concise nutrition messaging to help improve overall health through diet and positive lifestyle changes.
How do you manage to work at 2 different universities at 2 different ends of California, do consulting, publish books and manage your blog? Like many of my fellow RD colleagues, I pride myself on being highly organized…ok, totally anal! For me, being organized is key to staying on top of my many contracts. In any given year I may work with about 50 different clients, including universities and healthcare companies throughout California, the US and now, even around the world. I have always been a firm believer in the saying, “The early bird catches the worm.” I am usually up and working by 4:00 am - a habit I picked up initially as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Nepal where the family I lived in the village with, rose long before the sun, to get a head start on the day’s work. Years later, in my work as a consultant with an Executive Health program, I was surprised how many of my CEO and executive clients shared a similar characteristic: almost all of them were up and working close to or before 5:00 am. I find that early time of the day to be very productive and I love getting tasks accomplished long before the emails start pouring in.
How did you get started in the field? what sparked your interested How many years of experience have you had? It is almost my 15 year anniversary of becoming an RD! Both of my parents are self-employed, as is almost everyone in my family. I knew from an early age that a traditional job was probably not going to work for me and that the job I ultimately wanted would never be posted on a job board on the internet. I am a firm believer that you have to make the career you want. So many companies and institutions NEED to be working with an RD…they just don’t know it yet, and need an RD to prove it to them! I like the challenge of doing many different things in any given day. The variety keeps me inspired about our profession and there is so much work that needs to be done! That is what keeps me going, and what gets me out of bed every morning!
What is the most rewarding part about your career? The most rewarding part of my career is the ability to work as both an educator and a practitioner. I find that working in education strengthens my nutrition practice, and that being an active practitioner makes me a stronger educator.
Have you received any professional recognitions and awards? As a relatively new RD, I was at one time really turned off by a lot of things about the dietetics profession. I remember being disheartened by colleagues griping about low pay and little respect in their work. My parents always taught me though, “If you’re not a part of the solution, you’re a part of the problem”, and it was that advice that drove me to become very involved in nutrition professional organizations. I am a former president of the California Dietetic Association: Bay Area and San Diego districts, an Evidence Analyst for the AND’s Evidence Analysis Library. I have held executive committee board positions for the Nutrition Entrepreneurs and Dietitians in Business Communication Dietetic Practice Groups and am a proud recipient of the CAND Excellence in Education Award and the AND’s Recognized Young Dietitian of the Year award for California. This year I was honored to be featured in Food and Nutrition Magazine as a “Nutrition Hero” for my work in developing the first human nutrition Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) offered through Coursera, a free, 6-week online course that has been taken by over 100,000 students from 100+ countries. I serve as a preceptor for approximately 20 community and private practice dietetic interns each year and I firmly believe that we represent our profession: if we are not actively working towards solutions for problems in our profession, than we are definitely part of the problems!
What is the single most important piece of advice you can give to young RDs? I can’t stress the importance of professional leadership and professional involvement enough. A good majority of my earliest consulting contracts came through my affiliation with my local, state, and national dietetics associations. In fact, my very first teaching job at Santa Rosa Junior College arose out of a fortuitous seating arrangement at a CAND Fall Leadership meeting. Anne O’Donnell, a faculty member at SRJC and fellow UC Berkeley alum struck up a conversation with me about my interest in teaching and down the road, ended up offering me my first teaching job. If it weren’t for CAND, I might not have had the opportunity to explore my passion for teaching others about nutrition!back to top
Chuck Newcomb, MS, RD, CDE
Consulting Dietitian and Diabetes Educator
Creator of My Smart RD, Nutrition, Exercise and Health Awareness
Website: MySmartRD.com, ChuckRD.com
Interviewed by Randi Drasin, MS, RDN, CAND Communications Council
CAND is proud to introduce to you Chuck Newcomb, MS, RD, CDE, Consulting Dietitian, Diabetes Educator and entrepreneur. Chuck single-handedly created not only ChuckRD.com, a website for healthcare professionals and consultants with a wide range of tools, resources, networking and educational materials, but also created MySmartRD.com, a website designed for the public, full of information from nutrition, healthy kids, weight control, pregnancy, aging, food and SO MUCH More…. Read on to see where Chuck’s passion began and how he transitioned from one career to another and how he managed to incorporate them both to his advantage… and ours!
What inspired you to pursue these 2 particular areas in nutrition? For a long time I thought I would like to have a presence on the internet, but felt I didn’t really have a niche or anything in particular to offer. I have been fascinated with computers, technology and the internet since it became feasible to have at home. While a student at New York University in the mid-1980s I took every opportunity I could to use my little Atari 800XL computer connected to my TV for reports on the word processor or to create crude calculation spreadsheets.
I was introduced to the workings of Websites at a local California-Central Valley Dietetic Association meeting with dietitian Stacey Dunn- Emke (now with NutritionJobs.com). I began repairing computers just to learn more about them. I would often direct patients to one Website or another for some particular information I thought would be useful for them. It got pretty complicated and cumbersome, and the Websites constantly changed. So I figured I would create a site myself to link to wherever I wanted patients to go. That is how MySmartRD.com got started.
ChuckRD.com came along more as an afterthought – as a way for me to organize myself with the myriad of duties and responsibilities I have as an independent consultant. I used to keep a separate bag for each of my accounts – hospital, clinic, subacute, senior nutrition, nursing home, home health, dialysis, etc. After a while I started filing and storing things electronically and was able to send reports, schedules, or other information by email. Finally, I determined I could keep much those on a Website so I could access the materials myself or refer others to it for information they might need for themselves.
Can you explain what your roles are in My Smart RD vs ChuckRD? Do they work together or are they completely different entities? MySmartRD.com is meant for patients looking for reliable and easy-to understand information about nutrition, healthy lifestyle, chronic diseases, meal planning and a plethora of other information. I have a pretty solid background in so many different areas of nutrition and health management that I was confident I would be able to find useful materials for almost anyone visiting the site.
Through MySmartRD.com I am setting up a virtual clinic with Greenpie.net where patients can make appointments for counseling either in person, via teleconference or by phone. Since the site is not geographically specific a provider like myself can offer services in any location world-wide as long as they had the credentials to do so. I have made an attempt to minimize my personal association with the site so other health professionals could refer people to it in much the same way.
When I first started consulting I was fortunate to have a mentor, Dale Lumsden - consulting dietitian, who gave me tips and pointers, and helped me feel somewhat secure in my new venture. I had spent some time as a clinical dietitian at a large community hospital and went on to directing food and nutrition services at a couple different facilities so I had a good base to start from.
In much the same way I saw the opportunity to help dietitians, nutritionist, diabetes educators, and other health professionals branch out on their own with the confidence someone is there to help guide them and mentor them. With ChuckRD.com I try to anticipate many of the questions someone new to a field may have so they can navigate the maze of guidelines, regulations, procedures and tips that can make them a success.
Is there any cross over? While ChuckRD.com is meant specifically for professionals interested in consulting or working in a variety of fields of practice, MySmartRD.com is designed for both patients and the general public, as well as health professionals. I am a collaborator at heart so I hope to eventually have others work with me on the site, helping establish a variety of on-line support groups and promote their own services and expertise.
I am working on having MySmartRD.com set up to authorize eligible dietitians/nutritionists (or others) to register with the site so their patients and other visitors could connect with them directly. They could also have a personalized email@example.com address.
How did you get started in the field? How many years of experience have you had? Before I went into nutrition and dietetics I was an actor in New York doing mostly musical theatre. I became interested in nutrition when I started running. Like Forrest Gump, once I got started I couldn’t stop. I read everything I could on exercise and health. When I started going out on commercial auditions I realized I didn’t have the heart to promote fast food, soda and other unhealthy habits. I figured if my values got in the way of my career I needed to change careers.
I found a great program at New York University and went on to a combined internship-Master of Science degree with NYU and the Bronx VA. I finished in 1988 and moved to California to work with my brother-in-law, Endocrinologist James Snyder.
The decision to switch fields was pretty easy. Side-by-side I found there to be a lot of similarities: First - I wanted to be creative and not be stifled by convention and conformity. Second - I wanted the opportunity to go into any area of practice I chose and not be limited as to where I could go. Third - I wanted to be free to achieve anything without limits. Fourth - I wanted to have a positive influence on people’s lives. And, fifth - I wanted to enjoy what I did.
What is the most rewarding part about your career? I am able to manage my schedule the way I want and pretty much do what is needed without anyone trying to micromanage my day. Just tell me what you need me to accomplish and I will figure out how to help you get there. I also enjoy serving others - as a Christian my joy is to love God and to love others. I get satisfaction from knowing I made a difference in someone’s life, whether a client with uncontrolled diabetes, an elderly woman with unmanageable GI problems, a nurse with a difficult patient, or someone with a head injury relying on enteral nutrition for their survival.
Have you received any professional recognitions and awards? Maybe I should be feeling like a failure. Many years as a dietitian, diabetes educator and consultant I have not received any awards that I recall. I don’t seek recognition for what I do. The recognition I receive is sufficient when someone calls to ask me to work for them. Most of the time I am not able to add to my workload so I refer them to others.
I have been very active in the local California Central Valley Dietetic Association, and at one time was the president. More recently as a Certified Diabetes Educator I have spent time in leadership with the local association and am current on the California Coordinating Body for the American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE), manage their Website, and provide technical assistance.
What is the single most important piece of advice you can give to young RDs? I used to love to fail. Failure builds character and represents the end of a lesson learned. It is a time to move on with more wisdom and understanding. If you don’t fail sometimes it means you haven’t taken enough risks. Fortunately, over time I find I don’t fail as often.
One of the best things I did early on as a new dietitian was to get a job at a hospital, which provided opportunities to work in all areas of practice. I got practical experience that was invaluable once I was out on my own.back to top
Wendy Jo Peterson, MS, RD, CSSD
Culinary Nutritionist | International Speaker | Sports Dietitian
Co-Author, Mediterranean Diet Cookbook For Dummies
Co-Author, Adrenal Fatigue For Dummies
San Diego, California and Austin, Texas
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, justwendyjo@FuelinRoadie
Meet Wendy Jo, #wendyjopeterson #FuelinRoadie #EdibleNutrition. Sept Feature. Author, Culinary Nutritionist, Speaker, Sports Dietitian.
Interviewed by Randi Drasin, MS, RDN, CANDCAND Communications Council
CAND is proud to feature Wendy Jo Peterson the Fuelin’ Roadie. Her wide range of experience, expertise and creativity has made her a hot speaker in the field of dietetics! If she is not giving nutrition advice to a musician, or creating a culinary masterpiece, she is on the road speaking and traveling the country. Read on and be inspired by this “outside of the box” dietitian!
What inspired you to pursue this particular area in nutrition? What are your roles in Edible Nutrition vs Fuelin’ Roadie? I've always leaned more towards the foodie side of nutrition, and strongly considered a more traditional chef route; however, I despise working at night...so that was an easy no. Edible Nutrition & Fuelin' Roadie are very different....one is my more traditional culinary nutrition role & dietitian hat (EN), and Fuelin' Roadie is strictly working with and for musicians. For a long time I kept up with two different websites, but with the surging of social media it was easier to put it all under one house--Justwendyjo.com.
How did you get started in the field? How many years of experience have you had? This is a long story, because I am a military spouse; thus, lots of moves = changing hats often. I've taught high school culinary, worked in Long Term Care, consulted at a pilates studio, and for about 5 years had a great private practice in San Diego until my speaking career took off and I was traveling too often to keep legit hours for clients. Now I write with a smattering of consultant work, and predominantly stick to speaking gigs----preferably ones that request my knives (culinary speaking gigs). Oh, but what I've never done...worked in a hospital. Loved my time in clinical, but I despise traditional work hours and clocking in 9 to 5. If you know this about your personality, honor it.
What is the most rewarding part about your career? Time. Creative brains work best with less confinement, and recipe development requires a lot of creativity. I don't keep traditional hours, my best brain time is 6am until 11am, so that's when I work...the afternoons I get in garden time, walks, and come dinner it's time to test out recipes. I love my lack of a schedule, although sometimes I have to crack my own whip & get focused to hit deadlines.
Have you received any professional recognitions and awards? For me, my greatest achievement is getting published, I have co-written the Mediterranean Diet Cookbook For Dummies & Adrenal Fatigue For Dummies...this was part of my 10 year plan post college & I did it!
What is the single most important piece of advice you can give to young RDs? If you don't like boxes, do everything in your power to stay out of them...strive hard to make your own way & embrace your creativity for it pays off. Do what you need to do to make ends meet, but give yourself time for the creative juices to flow. You don't have to be restricted to traditional paths! Our field has so much opportunity for diversity--step out of the box and let your wings soar! Oh, and join Nutrition Entrepreneurs DPG (Dietetic Practice Group)--hands down this group was the encouragement I needed to fly! If you like speaking hone your skills in Toastmasters or NSA (National Speakers Association)--this has been my most lucrative job and for me where I feel I inspire more than I could ever have done in a traditional office setting. Lastly, learn to say no. Practice it. This is a lifelong skill that will save many hours of grief and stress.back to top
Sandy Curwood, MS, RDN
Director, Child Nutrition Services, Conejo Valley Unified Student
Iowa State University - Doctoral Student
Twitter: CAND’s Sept Feature Sandy Curwood, RDN, MS phenom #childnutrition Director #Farm2school expert
Interviewed by Randi Drasin, MS, RDN, CAND Communications Council
CAND is excited to feature Sandy Curwood, RDN, MS, Child Nutrition Director and implementer of a Farm-To-School program back in 2001, which was one of the 1st in the country. Her passion for connecting healthy, seasonal fruits and vegetables from local growers by providing nutrition education, classroom cooking lessons, taste samplings and collaborative programs to other districts, students and staff as well as implementing healthy school lunches and fresh salad bars in 25 schools is only 1 of the reasons she has won numerous awards one of which was “Innovator of the Year”! Additionally she is an expert at receiving grants for her amazing agricultural education ideas!
What inspired you to pursue this particular area in nutrition? I became interested in Child Nutrition when my children started school. I was really surprised at the poor food choices and the amount of unhealthy, processed foods and even candy, sodas and donuts sold at school. This seemed like a contradiction to me and not one that I wanted my children exposed to. School is a center for learning and gaining life skills that reinforce the positive skills and practices that parents model at home. It seemed very inconsistent to model unhealthy behaviors when we entrust our children to receive a good education. I became the PTA President at my child’s school and starting working towards improving fundraisers and other events that supported good health. Professionally, I had been a Registered Dietitian for many years already and have worked as a clinical dietitian, consulting dietitian in private practice owing my own firm and as corporate dietitian for a nursing home chain. In my capacity there I oversaw foodservice, clinical dietetics care, housekeeping, laundry and facilities.
I saw the position for School Foodservice Director open up in Ventura, applied and was hired. I shared my vision of healthy school meals with administration and the school board and we were off and running. We developed a Farm-to-School program in 2001, one of the first few in the country at that time as a way to connect healthy, local, seasonal crops with school meals- it was interesting and exciting for students and enjoyed as part of the meals. We added farm fresh salad bars to all 25 schools in the district. We found that students didn’t have much experience with fresh fruits and vegetables or nutrition education in general and we started writing grants to support school gardens with garden based nutrition and agricultural literacy education, taste samplings, classroom cooking and nutrition lessons and connecting environmental stewardship concepts. The school meal and cafeteria became the experiential lab for practicing their knowledge. Fortunately, as we were rolling out these programs and receiving grants to support the work, legislation and school wellness policy requirements were coming about and demonstrated that we were on the right track.
Over the twelve years I was in Ventura, I was able to receive over 2 million dollars in grant funds to support education as well as operate the school meal program that provided scratch-cooked meals and was fiscally solvent. In 2012, I was granted the USDA Farm to School grant that provided for 5 districts to collaborate on a county-wide farm-to-school project and started a purchasing collaborative to pool resources and share menus, recipes, bids and cooperative staff training- this provided for five districts to network more effectively. I thought that in 12 years I could see an entire cohort of students through their educational path from kindergarten through 12th grade of better options in school meals.
I started my doctoral program at Iowa State University, in Hospitality Management last summer with a goal to conduct Farm-to-School research.
What are your roles as Child Nutrition Director for Conejo Valley Unified School District? I started in Conejo Valley last September- there were many issues to address. My role is to ensure that all students have access to healthy, quality, appealing meals that students (and staff) will enjoy. The department needs to operate in a fiscally sound manner, according to all standards and guidelines set by USDA National School Meal Program, the California Department of Education nutrition Services Division and the County environmental health department. In order to do this we had to quickly engage in cost controls, quality standards, staff training and student, parent and community engagement. We started by adding fresher and better quality ingredients, testing recipes and samplings with our students, offering culinary, food safety and customer service staff development and writing and implementing policies and procedures. We ended the year fiscal year in the black, the first time this had been done in 5 years and successfully passed our CDE administrative review process. We were able to implement through grant funds, new salad bars which the students really appreciate. We also received a grant to develop recipes for other school foodservice professionals to use, using seasonal California crops and cultural flavor profiles to use as we move into scratch-cooking. We also have received grant funds to conduct a infrastructure and stakeholder assessment for Conejo Valley and two other school districts for Farm-to-school program development. Starting this fall we have a Food Corps member joining our efforts and will work on school gardens and a student farm.
A school foodservice director position has much opportunity to utilize all the skills dietitians learn – management of resources (staff, equipment, food and supplies, and money), staff development, community outreach, menu and recipe development, marketing, education….the possibilities are endless.
How did you get started in this field? How many years of experience have you had? I became interested in nutrition in my first year of college at UC San Diego- I wanted to be a pharmacist. I loved science. I read the book “Diet for a Small Planet” and decided to become a dietitian instead. I have worked in many foodservice and healthcare settings since I became a dietitian in 1983 and taught as adjunct faculty at CSUN for a few years. For many years I have served as a preceptor for dietetic interns and really enjoy shared learning with them and always like to see them become colleagues in the field.
What is the most rewarding part about your career? I feel that I can make a difference in people’s health, the environment and support the economic viability of farmers- through school foodservice- it’s a chance to create a nexus between these three important issues.
Have you received any professional recognitions and awards? Last year, I received “Innovator of the Year”, from the Center for Ecoliteracy, for my work on developing a school foodservice collaborative. I was also named as a Foodservice and Culinary Ambassador and professional expert to the California Department of Education for the past four years as part of their FreshMeals@schools program. Previously I was recognized for achieving the U.S. Healthier School Challenge as was one of 16 districts in the country selected by USDA to be featured in their Farm-to-School profiles.
What is the single most important piece of advice you can give to young RDs? My reminder to new RDN’s is to remember that there is no nutrition without food - I hope you love them both!back to top
Diane Machcinski, MEd, RDN
CAND is extremely honored to feature Diane Machcinski. She is a billing insurance expert and in addition to running her private practice, educates the RD community on how to become providers for the insurance companies in order to get reimbursed! She has accomplish so much and would like to continue; all aimed at improving client's health and promoting the RD as the nutrition expert and one who is able to get reimbursed adequately for their appropriate worth! Read on to learn all about her experiences and expertise.
What inspired you to pursue this particular area in nutrition? I found early in my private practice, a need to provide insurance coverage for clients. This was a barrier to receiving the Medical Nutrition Therapy they needed. In addition, another barrier was there were no codes to explain MNT by an RD to the insurance companies. We used physician CPT codes until we received our own in early 2000.I love a challenge and was determined to help my clients find a way to get their insurance to pay for MNT services and a way to help get insurance to recognize RD’s as providers. I wrote many a letter for physicians in the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’, writing campaigns to have physicians, who worked with RD’s petition their Association, the American Medical Society, to provide our own CPT Codes for billing. I became one of the first Medicare providers in San Diego.
How did you get started in this field? When I first began, in the 1990's, I started out part-time. I kept my full-time job at the County of San Diego for 7 years and learned the ins and outs of insurance as I ran the Comprehensive Services Program. As the County Coordinator, I recruited OB/GYN physicians to become providers for high-risk OB Medi-Cal women. I learned about how the physicians billed the program for payment, what and how each entity billed for payment such as Independent Provider Associations, Health Managed Care Program, Rural Health Clinic and Federally Qualified Health Clinics. I was responsible for recruiting ancillary staff professionals, RD’s, LCSW’s and Master's prepared Health Educators, to work with the physicians as a team to improve pregnancy outcomes. Learning about financial feasibility studies and doubling the provider pool in San Diego caught the attention of the Maternal and Child State Department of Health who recruited me to teach other County Coordinators how to "sell the program". This appealed to the "educator" and "business person" in me. When an opportunity came up to be the Child Health Disability Program Treatment Coordinator, I applied and was hired. My job responsibilities included administering an insurance program for eligible children. I was lucky, all the physicians and specialist were already in place. My job was to keep the physicians and ancillary providers happy as well as stay within the County budget to provide services for the children. I had a staff of accounting technicians trained to process claims. I learned about denials, appeals and pooled bonus payments for performance.
During this time, I grew my business by partnering with an Endocrinologist, and an Obstetrical Gynecologic Group. I also recruited clients through advertising in the yellow pages and through the San Diego Dietetic Association, advertising in the district's newsletter. I took Workers Compensation clients who needed to lose weight and became a Provider for HealthNet PPO, Medicare, Vantage Healthcare and Care 1st. I learned to be flexible and when to get out of the insurance agreements when things went bad. As a result I currently am a Medicare Provider and Care 1st.
I continued to be involved in the dietetic association on the local, state and national levels. At the State level, I was the Health Care Reimbursement Chair, Delegate for 4 years and Nominating Chair and was appointed by Marty Yadrick, President of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, to the Coverage and Coding Committee for 3 years, one as Chair. I have held various local elected and appointed offices from legislation, community health, education and president for 2 years. Recently, I was asked by the Academy to develop a webinar on the Medicare Physician Quality Reporting System for RD’s. This is a program that had been voluntary, and if successfully reported, involved a small incentive. This is the last year to report and get an incentive. It will be mandatory for all Medicare providers, including the RD beginning in 2015. The incentives will be gone, but monetary deductions in payment on each claim will occur if PQRS measures are not reported. We had >800 RD’s on the call.
What are your roles as a business owner/RD/Billing specialist? I am responsible for marketing and getting clients through physicians and insurance as well as "cash clients", recruiting RD’s to expand services. I have a Spanish Speaking RD who is a Medicare Provider and writes my newsletters and an RD who specializes in Nutritional Analysis. I still educate and love a challenge. This is my passion. I love to help people. I am involved in Medical Nutrition Therapy working with diabetic and chronic renal, weight loss, and Celiac clients. I also do work site talks since education is my passion. I do all my own billing in house. I use Office Ally as well as a MediSoft Just Claims program.
How many years of experience have you had? I have been in private practice for >20 years and billing insurance for 17 of those years.
What is the most rewarding part about your career? The most rewarding part is helping clients improve their health and help other RD’s negotiate the insurance maize and get reimbursed.
Have you received any professional recognitions and awards?
- “California Dietetic Association Dolores Nyhus Outstanding Achievement”, Oakland, CA, Spring, 2010
- “California Dietetic Association Practice Award for Distinguished Service”, Oakland, CA, Spring, 2004
- “California Dietetic Association Practice Award for Excellence in Private Practice, Business and Communications", Palm Springs, CA, Spring, 2000
- “Top Ten Foods”, NBC News Network Internet News, March 2000
- “RDs Make a Difference” CAND Bulletin, November/December 1999
- "Smart Eating for the Whole Family”, Real Woman Magazine, September/October 1999
What is the single most important piece of advice you can give to young RD’s? Get involved with the dietetic association. I have been involved for my entire career and never regretted sharing my reimbursement knowledge with other RD’s. The networking, friendships, and experiences will help build you as a person and contribute to our profession. Continue to learn, and push yourself to reach just beyond what you think you can do. Dreams are achievable if you have a goal.back to top
Pat Crawford, DrPH, RDN
Director, Atkins Center for Weight and Health
Adjunct Professor, School of Public Health
Nutrition Specialist, College of Natural Resources, University of California, Berkeley
Interviewed by Randi Drasin, MS, RDN, CAND Communications Council
We are very proud to honor Dr. Pat Crawford as our Featured RDN this month, a Nutrition Specialist who directs the Atkins Center for Weight and Health at UC Berkeley. Her passion for research in childhood obesity and eating patterns gave her the opportunity sit on a variety of committees with the Institute of Medicine (IOM) thus contributing to national policy. Her research has led to positive policy shifts and a gradual reduction in obesity rates.
What inspired you to pursue this particular area in nutrition? What are your roles at Berkeley? My specialty area within the profession is public health nutrition research. I became interested in this area as it so nicely linked my interest in social work and the welfare of the public with my love for mathematics. My father had read about the opportunities in dietetics and made an impassioned plea for me to take classes in that area. I soon learned that dietetics, math and social work could be integrated into the specialty area of public health nutrition! I tell students that if you do not follow your passion in the beginning, you will hopefully follow a career path that eventually winds back to pick up the topic that you love.
How did you get started in this field? How many years of experience have you had? I got my start in public health nutrition working at UC Berkeley in a longitudinal nutrition and growth study under the direction of Ruth Huenemann, a pioneer in this area. I learned much about study design, cohort maintenance, data collection and statistical analysis, and found that conducting this kind of research was exciting. Over the course of 20 years, I watched children move from a varied menu with a meal-based eating pattern to a diet with considerably more free choice, but less variety and more snacking. Meals were more often limited to a few popular foods such as pizza, burgers, chicken, pasta, chips, sugared cereals, candies, sweetened beverages, etc. At the same time, child obesity was increasing at rates never before seen. When I looked for nutritional differences between those who were becoming obese early in life and those at normal weight, I found that nutrients in the children’s processed food diets made the diets appear better than they actually were. However, dietary determinants of obesity seemed to be telling only part of the story and further research was needed to understand dramatically shifting weight patterns. Disillusioned by the deterioration of children’s eating patterns and by the tsunami of child obesity, I went back to school at UC Berkeley to get my DrPH. Soon after graduation, I joined Cooperative Extension to help Joanne Ikeda and Sharon Fleming start a new Berkeley Center for Weight and Health, a center whose mission it was to help local, state and national groups to improve child nutrition and reduce hunger and obesity. I was able to synthesize the evidence for those working in the field, and provide technical assistance and evaluation support for community and public policy efforts to reduce obesity. Through collaborative efforts, we could begin to see positive policy shifts and a gradual reduction in the obesity rate. We developed resources which could easily be disseminated from the Center’s website. For more information please visit the Atkins Center for Weight and Health Website at http://cwh.berkeley.edu/
What is the most rewarding part about your career? My work at the UC Berkeley Atkins Center for Weight and Health has been rewarding in many ways. Partnerships with a variety of researchers, community groups and institutions, policy makers, and other concerned parties have proved to be an effective way to tackle a population-based issue such as child obesity. My work with public policy approaches to prevent obesity has taken me to a variety of Institute of Medicine Committees where I was able to contribute to national policy in this area.
Have you received any professional recognitions and awards? I was awarded the American Public Health Association’s Food and Nutrition Section Catherine Cowell Award for Excellence in Community Nutrition, the UC Berkeley Zak Sabry Excellence in Mentoring Award and the Center for Public Health Advocacy’s David Kessler Award for Extraordinary Contributions to the Public’s Health.
What is the single most important piece of advice you can give to young RDNs? While a shift from the traditional nutrient-based approach to a simpler food-based approach to wellness appears to be having a positive impact on efforts to improve population health, our profession must also find ways to help the public navigate confusing nutrition claims and food marketing efforts that can undermine evidence-based healthy eating messages. The challenges faced by nutrition counseling in countering massive advertising and providing science-based knowledge to prevent obesity have never been greater. My advice to young dietitians is to take the ethical high road from the beginning and to insist that the organizations to which they belong follow a similar path. Both our profession and the public deserve no less.back to top
Julieanna Hever, MS, RDN, CPT
Plant-Based Dietitian, Author, Host, Speaker, Health and Fitness Expert
Books: http://amzn.to/Tbo4B1 or http://store.plantbaseddietitian.com/category/books
Interviewed by Randi Drasin, MS, RDN, CAND Communications Council
Introducing Julieanna Hever, MS, RDN, CPT, Plant-Based Dietitian Extraordinaire! We are thrilled to share her inspiring story about her experiences leading her to the path of plant-based nutrition. She is a well-known writer, speaker and TV Nutrition Expert. With her well-rounded background in nutrition, fitness and media she is sure to be an inspiration to all.
What inspired you to pursue this particular area in nutrition? What are your roles as Author, Business Owner and Media RD? I became passionate about plant-based nutrition as a teenager, when I began reading about the environmental and animal rights implications of our diets and learning more about where our food comes from. Once I transitioned my own diet personally and then saw the extraordinary benefits with my nutrition and fitness client’s years later, I was convinced I had found my calling. My roles reach widely, as I dabble in several different worlds within dietetics. I am finishing up the manuscript for my third book, The Vegiterranean Diet, which publishes in January, and I am the nutrition columnist for VegNews Magazine. I also consult with clients privately and lecture about plant-based nutrition around the world. I have a wellness television talk show on Veria Living, called “What Would Julieanna Do?” and have been a guest on several television shows, like The Dr. Oz Show and The Steve Harvey Show. Recently, I am consulting for two new health companies--Habitera and Genesis.
How did you get started in this field? How many years of experience have you had? Initially, I began in the field as a personal trainer while I was acting and also studying nutrition in graduate school. So, I come from a fitness and acting background, which I incorporate into my practice. Once I completed the RD and grad school, I started testing out different avenues, including clinical dietetics, consulting, and writing. It all came together when I implemented the plant-based angle into my work and then opportunities seemed to come pouring in. That is when I was an instructor for the eCornell Plant-Based Nutrition Certification Program, and when I was asked to write my first book, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition, and when I was asked to give a TEDx talk, and when I co-produced and starred in an infotainment documentary, called “To Your Health”. It was as if everything began to flow and my passion just kept fueling itself. I can't believe it, but it has now been nearly 20 years since I began in the health and fitness universe!
What is the most rewarding part about your career? The moments that inspire me and bring me the most satisfaction are those when I get an email or message or when someone comes up to me and tells me that I have impacted their health and/or life. That they have healed from an illness, mastered control of their weight, or enhanced their energy, mood, and/or performance. Knowing I have touched someone's life in a positive, health-promoting way brings me the greatest joy.
Have you received any professional recognitions and awards? I received the The VegNews Veggie Award 2013 and they called it "Hever Fever"! And I am a Best-Selling Author!
What is the single most piece of advice you can give to young RDNs? My number one piece of advice is to follow your passion! The nutrition umbrella reaches far and wide and there are so many exciting opportunities available. I recommend choosing which ones you grab by following those that makes your heart sing!back to top
Vicky FlaigInterviewed by Claire Chiu, RDN
We are thrilled to introduce Vicky Flaig, our Featured RDN this month, who is a Camp Director at Camp Ronald McDonald. Vicky has had her fair share of unconventional roles in her career that eventually led to her current position with Camp Ronald McDonald. She is passionate about providing healthy and nutritious food to campers with special needs. We are excited to share her inspiring story with our dietetic community.
What inspired you to pursue this particular area in nutrition? What are your roles as a Camp Director at Camp Ronald McDonald? I am not a conventional RDN, but a passionate mentor, teacher and advocate for the importance of health and nutrition for every ability and in all aspects of life! As I grow in years and experience, I realize it is not important to be right as it is to be kind. In order to fully understand my role at Camp Ronald McDonald at Eagle Lake, let me first give you a little background on the program itself. Located on the shores of Eagle Lake in Lassen National Forest, Camp Ronald McDonald® at Eagle Lake opened in 1992 under the umbrella of Eagle Lake Children’s Charities. In 1997, Eagle Lake Children’s Charities merged with a McDonald’s cooperative of owner/operators in Northern California to form Ronald McDonald House Charities® Northern California in order to build a Ronald McDonald House® in Sacramento, providing a “home-away-from-home” for families of critically ill and injured children. While the owners of local McDonald’s restaurants generously contributed the seed money to camp (and currently about 10% of the operating budget), the majority of support comes from community donations, corporate sponsorships and from hundreds of volunteers who donate thousands of hours of service each year. The national McDonalds’s Corporation does not contribute to Camp Ronald McDonald at Eagle Lake. Our totally accessible facility sits on 35 acres on the shores of beautiful Eagle Lake in the middle of Lassen National Forest. Our site boasts nine cabins (sleeping 13 each), two shower houses, dining hall, amphitheater, campfire pit, beach volleyball courts, fully accessible dock and water front, basketball courts and a grassy playing field. In addition to our beautiful layout and environment, we offer an array of programs adapted to meet the individual needs of each camper. We staff experienced and well trained specialists in the fields of drama, arts & crafts, outdoor education, sports and waterfront activities. Our program specialists are students studying in disciplines that promote individuals with special needs such as: therapeutic recreation, education, social work and nursing. All of our specialists take the extra time to create programs that accommodate all our camper’s abilities- regardless of mobility, cognitive or emotional issues. Camp Ronald McDonald at Eagle Lake also administers an undergraduate dietetic foodservice internship (supervised by a Registered Dietitian) for nutrition and food service students who have the opportunity to gain experience in commercial food service, special diets, menu planning and nutrition education. We are able offer an array of delicious and nutritious foods (often not associated with camp) to help fuel the campers through their week, as well as, offer nutrition unit times that include healthy messages about diet, food preparation and healthy food choices! All of our program activities help to further Camp Ronald McDonald's mission and allow campers with different types of abilities to experience the wonderful program of Summer Camp! So, as the Camp Director of Camp Ronald McDonald at Eagle Lake, I oversee all camp operations for the residential summer camp serving campers with special health care needs-including facility management, program development and delivery, health & wellness, operational management, human resources, food service, volunteer management, fiscal duties and rental services. Each summer I recruit and oversee 13 summer seasonal staff to deliver core program areas - arts & crafts, outdoor education, drama, waterfront, sports and nutrition education. In the summer of 2000, I piloted and developed an undergraduate food service internship that has grown to 5 positions. Through the past 15 summers I have been able to mentor 58 students and open the world of dietetics beyond the classroom and help them understand all the levels in which we as people can affect one another and how the role of a dietitian is and can be multi-faceted.
How did you get started in this field? How many years of experience have you had? I stumbled upon a nutrition class during my general education courses early in college. Nutrition seemed to bridge the gaps of my many career goals and interests (science, health and service to others). I was hooked. As I progressed through my studies at UC Davis, my interests broadened to community nutrition and international health and public policy. Oddly enough, Food Service was never on my radar. I graduated from college and went into the Peace Corps where I began my career in my new found passion of international nutrition. This is where the story takes a turn and fate took over. When I returned from Africa, I immediately started to apply for jobs in the nutrition field while I figured out my next steps. I knew I needed to apply to a post graduate internship and since I had about 6 months or so before the deadlines, I wanted to keep the resume full. One of the many jobs that I applied for (everything from a WIC health educator, diet aide and food chemist) was a position as the Food Service Director for Camp Ronald McDonald at Eagle Lake. I was offered the seasonal job and thought, “well, this will be a good filler for the summer”. There was so much for me to learn and so many things I was able to implement from my studies; however, what I hadn’t expected…..I was to find my true passion and calling– campers with special needs. With my new found passion, came the realization that food service management and recreation went hand in hand with promoting health and wellness here in the states. The official story is such that in 1994 I graduated from the University of California, Davis with a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics. For the next two years I volunteered as a Peace Corps volunteer in West Africa. Upon returning to the United States she spent three summers employed at Camp Ronald McDonald at Eagle Lake as the Food Service Manager. Since the job was a summer job, I began to substitute teach at Lassen High School throughout the rest of the year and received my own classroom in January of 1998. This last piece was the final step in my career evolvement. I realized not only did I have food service management in my wheel house, but I also loved to teach! So I left Camp and Lassen High School in September of 1998 to complete a post-graduate dietetic internship at the University Affiliated Cincinnati Center for Developmental Disorders (UACCDD) at the Children's Hospital Medical Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. During my 15 months in Cincinnati, I received extensive Interdisciplinary Leadership Training in the field of Developmental Disorders through the Maternal Child and Health Bureau and the Administration on Developmental Disabilities. I worked in UACCDD's nutritional diagnostic and clinical services specializing in Early Intervention, Cerebral Palsy, Myelomeningocele, PDD, Autism, and Down Syndrome. During this time period, she also earned her Master's in Nutritional Education with a thesis that specialized in Alternative Anthropometric Segmental Measurements.Upon completion of the post-graduate dietetic internship and subsequent Master’s in Nutritional Education, I returned to Camp Ronald McDonald at Eagle Lake and became the Camp Director in 2000. My first order of business was to develop the undergraduate food service internships. Creating this experience for students outside the classroom helped me continue with my nutrition passions and teaching.
What is the most rewarding part about your career? To be able to introduce a group of young professionals to my favorite people in the world!! I work year round in my position to gear up for 12 weeks of intensive residential camp programs and to watch the delight and friendships that grow – the best!!!
Have you received any professional recognitions and awards? Most of my recognitions have been through my work with American Camp Association. I am a tireless campaigner of bringing good health and nutrition to camp programs.
- Health and Wellness Chair, American Camp Association, Northern California, 2011-present
- Program Review Committee, American Camp Association, Inc., Present
- Camp Works! Program Chair, American Camp Association, Northern CA, 2013-present
- Accreditation Standards Visitor, American Camp Association, Northern CA, 2007-present
- Accreditation Standards Instructor, American Camp Association, Northern CA, 2013-present
What is the single most piece of advice you can give to young RDNs? Don’t be stuck to a plan! Be prepared to be surprised! It’s ok to forge your own path and to take advantage of every opportunity.
Vicky Flaig has truly demonstrated the value of a dietitian holding a nontraditional in the field! She is one of many exemplary RDNs in California who are actively advancing the dietetic profession through leadership, mentorship and innovation. Stay tuned for our next Featured RDN and more inspiring role models in California.back to top
Dr. Susan ShapiroInterviewed by Claire Chiu, RDN
We are extremely honored to present April’s Featured RDN – Dr. Susan Shapiro. She is both a dietitian and psychologist and is a well-respected expert in the area of eating disorders and emotional issues. Dr. Shapiro has over 30 years of experience in the field holding various positions in clinical, research, and academia. She also has her private practice where she provides therapy to people struggling with various psychological issues. During our recent phone interview, she explained her inspirations that got her started in the field and how the dietetic field evolved over the past decade.
What inspired you to pursue a career in nutrition and counseling? During my undergraduate studies in hospital dietetics at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1973, I took a physiology class where I dissected a rat and became fascinated by the tiny, colorful internal organs and began to wonder how food gets digested from the minute it enters the mouth. This really got me started in understanding the science of nutrition, how the body responds to food. I also took cooking courses where we studied the science behind cooking and baking and how ingredients such as baking soda and baking powder affect the texture of food. I did research and worked in hospital foodservice as well. My program had a strong science-based curriculum and pre-med students were also enrolled in this program. This was the time when anorexia first started showing up on campuses and some of my friends were affected by it. With my graduate and doctorate degrees in Psychology, I have developed an integrated treatment method that helps people to understand food and its relationship with the mind and body.
How did you get started in this field? How many years of experience have you had? Oh gosh, it has been a long time since I started in this field. I’d say I began practicing as an RD back in 1983, then became a psychotherapist in 1987. So that’s a total of 31 years of working experience as both an RD and psychotherapist. After receiving my undergraduate degree from University of Illinois, I went on to pursue a master’s degree in Biological Sciences at University of Chicago in order to apply to internship and do clinical research. During that time, I worked for the City of Chicago and created a nutrition program there. Then I took the RD exam, became an RD and moved to California. I was offered a position at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center to work in the Optifast Weight Loss Program which is a behavioral program. My rich, complex and cohesive background in nutritional science, research and counseling allowed me to develop the nutritional guidelines for the re-feeding program there. I eventually obtained my MS and PhD in Counseling Psychology. I also started my private practice around the same time mainly working with eating disorder patients then expanded to more psychotherapy later on. I’m always interested in what’s going on chemically inside the body; how disease, addition and drug affect the body. With anorexia patients, I help them feel comfortable with food, figure out individual tracers and try to overcome them.
What is the most rewarding part about being a dietitian and a psychologist? I love working with people and spending time to truly understand their motivation and pitfalls. This allows me to create a highly individualized approach that delivers effective treatment to my clients. My private practice provides a safe environment for people to come in and learn new skills to cope with their emotional issues and improve their lives. I also love doing various public presentations and speaking engagements in the community. I guess this is all very natural to me and I never have my speech prepared! I’m in the process of creating a CE program for RDs who are interested in becoming a therapist. It’s such a different field than nutrition and people will need the right kind of training to become a therapist.
Have you received any professional recognitions and awards? I have published numerous articles on nutrition, addition and eating disorders in professional journals. Additionally, I have conducted research in these areas. I consider professional recognitions among my colleagues the most important and meaningful to me. It’s the icing on the cake! I’m always delighted to receive phone calls for interviews such as this one. I still remember the time when Peter Jennings from ABC called me one day and asking for dietary advice! I try to avoid being in the media spotlight as much as I can – I’m more of a behind the scene kind of person.
What is the single most important piece of advice you can offer to young RDs? For RDNs who are interested in starting a private practice, you need to build connections with the medical community since that’s the main source of your referrals. I made those connections while working at Cedars-Sinai’s weight control program. I also gave free lectures at schools, law firms, professional organizations and community groups to get my name out there. You have to be patient during the process of establishing your practice. It’s always good to find your specialty, your niche so you become the expert in what you do. In terms of becoming a psychologist, you need to go into a graduate program which takes three years to learn counseling skills.
Dr. Susan Shapiro is another one of many exemplary RDNs in California who are actively advancing the dietetic profession through leadership, mentorship and innovation. Stay tuned for our next Featured RDN and more inspiring role models in California.back to top
Charis RossInterviewed by Claire Chiu, RDN
Happy National Nutrition Month®! We are extremely honored to present the Featured RDN of the month, Charis Ross. She has over two decades of experience as a dietitian in the military as well as a professor at different universities. Charis has mentored numerous interns and dietitians in her career and we are excited to learn about her unique career path and what it takes to succeed as an Air Force dietitian.
What inspired you to pursue a career in pediatric nutrition? After high school, I attended Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo where I earned a degree in Dietetics-Food Administration from the department of Home Economics. I really enjoyed my maternal and pediatric nutrition class as well as the pediatric related topics in diet therapy. Both of these classes planted the seeds for my current career.
How did you get started in this field? As a new first lieutenant in the United States Air Force, I arrived at Keesler Air Force base. None of the other dietitians liked pediatrics, so as the newest arrival I got assigned the pediatric unit, as well as the ante- and post-partum nursing units and the cancer unit. At this time I also was assigned to be the RD in the CF clinic. I also covered adult wards which I feel is very important prior to specializing in pediatrics as it helped me develop a breadth and depth of knowledge as well as sharpened my critical thinking skills. These skills helped me when I narrowed my focus to pediatrics.
How many years of experience have you had? Almost 24 years
How has your experience been working as an Air Force Dietitian? I had always wanted to be a clinical dietitian, so I joined the Air Force to gain this experience. While on active duty, I lived in Biloxi, Mississippi; Riverside, California and Camp Springs, Maryland. At all of these assignments I was a clinical dietitian, clinical preceptor or clinical manager. I left active duty in 1998, moving home to California. As I had almost ten years of active duty it made sense to go into the reserves. My experiences on active duty were positive and I worked with an awesome group of men and women. In the Air Force Reserves, I was assigned to Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland for 1 year, Travis Air Force Base, California for 1 Year and served as a clinical preceptor in the Air Force dietetic internship at Wilford Hall Medical Center at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas for almost 10 years. I retired in November 2009 at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. I would encourage anyone looking for adventure, service above self and excellent experiences to consider a career in the Armed Services or Public Health Service.
What is the most rewarding part about your career? The thanks that a parent gives me when I have helped them with the nutrition needs of their child.
You also teach nutrition at universities, how do you stay current on the latest nutrition guidelines and research while holding multiple job titles? After receiving my masters in Food, Nutrition, Institution Administration, I moved to Kansas to teach at Emporia State University in the Home Economics department. As this was a non-tenured position, I had to look for another job. I moved to Lawrence, Kansas to become a residence hall dietitian at the University of Kansas feeding up to 700 girls. I learned a lot more about food service and managed 5 full time employees with about 70-80 student employees who were not always the most reliable. It was at KU, where my boss Mrs. Ekdahl encouraged me to become registered and was my sponsor/preceptor for the post-Master’s six month experience. I then moved back to Washington, where I taught briefly at Eastern Washington State University in a CUP program. To stay current, during this time I was a member of the American Dietetic Association (now the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics), read the journal from the association, read other nutrition journals. While teaching. I read professional books, participated in local dietetic associations as well the American Home Economics Association at the local and state levels. Since becoming clinical dietitian, I read the practice group newsletters, belong to practice groups that pertain to my current job assignments, read the journal from the Academy as well as other nutrition and medical journals; I belong to the Academy and the local association, listen to webinars, and attend conferences.
Have you received any professional recognitions and awards? I received the 2012-2013 Excellence in Clinical Dietetics Award from the California Dietetic Association and serve as an adjunct professor for our pediatric residency program.
What is the single most importance piece of advice you can give to young RDs who are considering a career with the military? I would go for it. It will give you an excellent experience even if you do not make it a career. There are two routes to joining, the first being completing an ACEND accredited program in Dietetics/Nutrition apply to the U.S. Military Dietetic Internship Consortium which is a masters/internship. The second is to be registered and apply to one of the services.
What an incredible journey Charis Ross has had with the U.S. Military! Her experience will surely inspire many interns and dietitians to consider pursuing a career with the U.S. Military. Charis is among one of many exemplary RDNs in California who are actively advancing the dietetic profession through leadership, mentorship and innovation. Stay tuned for our next Featured RDN and more inspiring role models in California.back to top
Jacklyn CunninghamInterviewed by Claire Chiu, RDN
It is now officially 2014! The beginning of a new year always welcomes changes, exciting opportunities and new challenges. It is no exception in the dietetic field as dietitians embrace new career adventures and continue to reach new height. With that spirit, I would like to introduce our first Featured RDN of 2014, Jacklyn Cunningham! Jacklyn is an experienced nutrition support dietitian and manager who recently made a successful transition from clinical to medical nutrition sales. Her energy, enthusiasm and dedication to the profession are wonderfully motivating. Jacklyn is an excellent mentor to new dietitians as she tirelessly guides them on their unique career paths. Let’s learn more about Jacklyn and her experiences.
What inspired you to pursue this particular area of nutrition? What I loved about being a clinical nutrition manager was mentoring new RDNs. Watching them blossom into wonderful clinicians. Now that I work for Abbott I am able to be apart of advancing the RDN and nutrition in a bigger way by sharing information, practices, and providing education.
How did you get started in this field? My mom suggested that I study nutrition. My instructor for nutrition 101 was a NICU RDN. I loved hearing her "work" stories. She was a big part of feeding the tiniest people. Nutrition was an integral part of their survival, this was inspiring to me.
How many years of experience have you had? A total of 12 years! It certainly doesn’t feel this long since I enjoy my job very much. It’s been a wonderful journey to see how much our profession has advanced and that dietitians are becoming more recognized for our scientific expertise in all things nutrition.
What is the most rewarding part about your career? Watching people grow and increasing the awareness of nutrition. We as RDNs know how important nutrition is and seeing the light turn on for other health care professionals is pretty awesome!
Have you received any professional recognitions and awards? Lots of job related awards, no professional.
What is the single most helpful piece of advice you can give to young RDNs? Search out opportunities to expand and grow. We have a lot to offer. Never be satisfied with the status quo. And definitely don't let someone saying "no" deter you. Jacklyn Cunningham represents the driving force that our profession needs to gain more public recognition and acceptance as we move forward in 2014. She naturally demonstrates all the principles of advancing the dietetic profession with gusto. Here is to a brand new year filled with success, new adventures and above all, nutritious foods!back to top
Sharon PalmerInterviewed by Vandana Sheth RDN, CDE
It is our honor to introduce this month's featured RDN – Sharon Palmer. Sharon is a nationally recognized registered dietitian, freelance food and nutrition writer, and plant-based nutrition expert. She has created an award-winning career based on combining her two great loves: food and writing. As a registered dietitian with 16 years of healthcare experience, she channels her experience into writing features covering health, wellness, nutrition, cooking, wine, cuisine, and entertainment. Sharon is also a passionate writer about food and environmental issues, having published a number of features on plant-based diets, hunger, agriculture, local and organic foods, eco-friendly culinary practices, sustainability, food safety, humane animal practices, and food security.
Over 850 of Sharon's features have been published in a variety of publications, including Better Homes and Gardens, Prevention, Oxygen, LA Times, Cooking Smart, Delicious Living, Food Product Design, Today's Dietitian, and CULINOLOGY. She has contributed to several books, including Food & Cultural Issues for the Culinary, Hospitality and Nutrition Professions (Jones and Bartlett Publishers, Inc. 2009). Sharon is also the editor of the acclaimed health newsletter, Environmental Nutrition. Her book The Plant-Powered Diet: The Lifelong Eating Plan for Achieving Optimal Health, Beginning Today (The Experiment, July 2012) was a critical success, and will be followed with her second book publication in 2014.
Let us hear about what inspired Sharon to pursue her unique career path and how she successfully maintains a busy career and family life at the same time.
What inspired you to pursue a career in food and nutrition writing? I always loved writing, and when my children were little I took a long break from my work as a food and nutrition director at a hospital. So, I decided to take the plunge and try writing. It was like I was combining my two great loves: food and nutrition and writing. It took a while to break into writing, but eventually I found it to be a rewarding career.
How did you get started in this field? How many years of experience have you had? I took a community college course on writing to brush up my skills, and then I started querying editors to see if they were interested in publishing my articles. Before I started writing, I had worked as a dietitian in a variety of settings—private practice, consulting, and administration—for about 14 years. Now I’ve been writing for 13 years! I edit Environmental Nutrition, write articles for magazines, do communications consulting for companies, and write books--The Plant-Powered Diet, and I have a new book Plant-Powered for Life coming out June 2014.
What is the most rewarding part about your career? I love tapping into my creativity in order to craft nutrition messages for audiences. And in order to stay on top of the latest on nutrition, I travel to nutrition conferences and food events a great deal of the time. I enjoy working with so many brilliant, talented dietitians, as they are at the top of their game in building our knowledge on eating for optimal health.
It's not uncommon for dietitians to hold multiple positions but it requires a great deal of energy and effort to be as successful as you are. How do you juggle with professional responsibilities and family life? I was very fortunate; the quiet time of career occurred when my children were younger. Now that my career has taken up such a big part of my life, my children are older and need less of my time. I also think it’s important for children to learn that their mothers can do many important, satisfying things in their lives, that don’t all involve the family! Although I think that family is the most important thing in life. It is a balance. I have learned to place limits on myself, regarding how much travel I will do and how many projects I will accept.
What advice can you offer to young RDNs on finding their own voice in cyber community? Don’t be afraid to try new things. If you’re interested in communications, find a little project that you can take on while you work in your fulltime job. If you’re interesting in food policy, get involved in a DPG and volunteer. DPGs are one of the best things in our profession—they give you a chance to give back, get involved, and learn about the aspects of nutrition that you are most interested in. There are so many opportunities in our little field of nutrition. It’s up to you to open those doors to find them.back to top