Saturday, April 12, 2014

Moving Mountains, Creating Change: Dietitians Making A Difference

What would be a celebration without some cake!-- Picture by VAND

Earlier this week, I spent 3 days in Charlottesville, VA at the Virginia Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics (VAND) Annual Meeting. This is my 3rd year in a row in attendance and it was without a doubt the best conference yet. To me, the annual state conference is a reunion of RDs from across Virginia, an opportunity to receive the most up-to-date nutrition info on hot topics and a not to be missed opportunity to witness the incredible efforts of RD's that are making a difference across the state (and nation!) There was a pervasive theme that I heard over and over again from each speaker: put yourself out there, get involved, cultivate leadership and network. Collaboration and communication is key when it comes to making a greater impact, establishing yourself within the field and in ensuring job satisfaction too!

Southwest Virginia Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Members --Picture by VAND
I entered the field of dietetics partially because of my passion for nutrition, but also because of the wide array of opportunities the field presents. My experience at the meeting only solidified that notion as I listened to each speaker, met new people and was updated on the tremendous gains our state organization has made in the past year. Registered Dietitians (RDs) are without a doubt passionate, driven people bound and determined to have an impact on the health of the nation in a variety of ways... and we are succeeding! Dietetics is a pervasive field and is predicted to continue to grow. The sky's the limit when it comes to taking your degree, infusing it with your passion and creating a career out of helping others be their best.

Here's a sample of the many roles and impacts of dietitians from across Virginia, as I learned about during the meeting:

Dietitians are passionate about promoting the sustainability and local food movement, facilitating the utilization of produce from small business farmers with food service providers (schools, hospitals, restaurants, etc) to help citizens enjoy quality foods, gain a better appreciation for our food system and eat right. Many have worked to establish urban gardens to further emphasize the farm to table movement.

Dietitians are committed to establishing RDs as the go-to experts online and in the media through increased involvement in various social media outlets. Why? Because if WE don't speak up, then marketers and other famous individuals who are more so interested in making a profit will.

Jennifer Vargas of Sodexo talked of the importance of social media engagement to reach clients--Picture by VAND

Dietitians are advocates in helping others not only to make better daily food choices, but to help others develop a healthier relationship with ALL foods.

Dietitians are compassion individuals who aim to reach people on a deeper level. We strive to meet people "where they are" to understand their personal nutritional challenges to develop realistic and reliable strategies for behavior change.  We are more than just food experts, we are "coaches" facilitating long-term lifestyle changes in regards to food & nutrition.

Greg Hottinger, MPH, RD (ultrarunner too!) & Michael Scholtz, MA of Novo Wellness gave a stellar lecture on "coaching" strategies to facilitate lifestyle change -- Picture by VAND

Dietitians provide athletes with a competitive edge through optimal nutrition by translating science and evidence based practice into individualized nutrition strategies. We emphasize REAL food as the BEST fuel and the importance of nutrient quality, quantity and timing in the optimization of training, recovery and performance.

Dietitians are establishing a strong voice in public policy to advocate for the legislature necessary to support a healthier nation. This includes (but is not limited to!) supporting the availability of safe and healthy foods for all people, supporting programs for at risk individuals (WIC/SNAP/etc), school feeding programs to ensure kids have the fuel they need to optimizing learning and advocacy for increased health insurance coverage so that more people can have affordable access to a nutrition professional.

VAND leaders proudly display our state legislative proclamation of March 12th as RD Day!-- Picture by VAND

Dietitians are able to distinguish fact versus myth when it comes to popular and fad diets. We breakdown the latest nutritional product, supplement or advertising campaign and arm the everyday consumer with the knowledge they need to make educated decisions.

A VAND member introduces the next speaker, Tricia Psota, PhD, RDN to talk about the myths vs. facts of vegan diets
Picture by VAND

Dietitians are educating students across the nation. We serve as teachers, mentors and preceptors for RD2Be's so as to provide vital hands-on learning and pass on a strong sense of professionalism and passion, ensuring the vitality of our future profession by raising up the next generation of dietetics leaders.

Standing with my Virginia Tech Dietetic Internship directors, Susan Moore (L) and
Carol Papilon (R). Carol was awarded 2014 Distinguished Dietitian of the Year by the
Virginia Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics!

Virginia Tech (Blacksburg site) Dietetic Internship class of 2014, set to graduate here in about a month! The next wave of RD professionals-- Picture by VAND

Dietitians are working hard to elevate the role of the RD within healthcare. We are serving as vital members of interdisciplinary teams across the nation to improve patient outcomes and cut nationwide medical costs. As a profession, we are increasing educational standards to meet the ever-growing demands of the health and medical field.

That's me, working the Sodexo booth during our vendor expo!
I could go on and on. The dietetics field is an incredible one, and I am honored to be a member of this organization of amazingly passionate, innovative and dedicated dietitians who are committed to using their expertise to make a difference in their communities, in Virginia, and across the United States. And I am blessed to walk into work each day and feel like I am making a difference in the lives of others.

Why are you passionate about your chosen profession? How can you step up to make a great impact in your field?

Have a great weekend!


  1. A wonderful recap Kristen! There is so much good coming out of the RD field : )

  2. I'm going into the dental profession and I'm passionate about it because oral health is so important to overall health. Promoting good oral health leads to a healthier life!

    1. Jojo, that's awesome to learn about you! As a dietitian working with elderly individuals I have witnessed the effects of poor oral health can have on your overall well-being. Good oral health is definitely a key component in living a healthier life!


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