VAND Honors 3 RDNs at the Annual Meeting in April 2016

Each year VAND honors 3 Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDNs) with Academy awards at the Annual Meeting:  Recognized Young Dietitian of the Year, Emerging Dietetic Leader, and Outstanding Dietitian of the Year.  Here you can read more about each award and this year’s honorees from the annual meeting in Fairfax, VA in April.IMG_0236

The purpose of the Recognized Young Dietitian of the Year program is to recognize the competence and activities of younger dietitians in the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and to encourage their continued participation in Academy affairs.  Recipients of this award must have demonstrated concern for the promotion of optimal health and nutrition status of the population, as well as demonstrated leadership in legislation, research, education, management, etc in either the Academy or employment.

IMG_0246Lisa Conway, MS, RD, CNSC, is VAND’s Recognized Young Dietitian of the Year for 2016!  Lisa has on the board for the Tidewater district (TAND) for 4.5 years in several different roles, including secretary, newsletter editor, membership chair, and other positions.  Her “day job” finds her working for Aramark at Chesapeake Regional Medical Center as a nutrition support clinician in the ICU and PCU.   Lisa shares her passion with others through mentoring students in TAND and with dietetic students from Norfolk State University shadowing her at work. She was instrumental in making the 2015 VAND annual meeting in Virginia Beach a success through her marketing and media efforts, including promoting the event and designing the cover art for the brochure.


The Emerging Dietetics Leader Award recognizes the competence and activities of members, regardless of their age, who are at the beginning of their dietetics careers. Members who receive this honor support the promotion of optimal health and nutritional status of the public through demonstrating leadership in legislation, research, education, management and other areas related to the profession.Kelly 2016

Kelly Leonard, RD is VAND’s Emerging Dietetics Leader for 2016! 

Kelly has been a Feeding Program Dietitian at Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU, Brook Road Campus for 5 years.  She also sees children for overweight, obesity, failure to thrive and food allergies.

Immediately following her internship, Kelly worked for Martin’s as a Supermarket Dietitian and practiced privately in adult weight management.  Even though she is working in pediatrics now she feels it’s the best of both worlds.  The children are her patients, but she works directly with parents to make changes that benefit the whole family.

Kelly graduated from Virginia State University with her BS in Nutrition and completed her internship at Virginia Commonwealth University Health Systems.  She’s been involved with the Greater Richmond Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics since before her internship and has been on the Board for 5 years as Sustainable Agriculture Rep, President-elect and President.  She loves to learn and appreciates the continuing education and networking opportunities that conferences offer.  She has attended several state and national Academy conferences as well as Pediatric conferences hosted by Johns Hopkins in Baltimore and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.  She is a member of the Pediatric Nutrition and the Hunger and Environmental Nutrition Dietetic Practice Groups.

Kelly has been married for 30 years and has 2 daughters.  During her husband’s military career she lived in 7 states within 10 years.  She feels this experience allowed her to meet many people and to value diversity which better equipped her to return to school and to work with patients today.

Wendy Phillips is pictured here with fellow UVAHS managers Angie Hasemann, Cynthia Moore, and Lesley McPhatter.


The Outstanding Dietitian of the Year award is the highest honor a state affiliate can award, and recognizes members who have made distinguished contributions to advancing the profession. The winner of this award is an individual who has demonstrated outstanding leadership and service.

Wendy Phillips, MS, RD, CNSC, CLE, FAND is VAND’s 2016 Outstanding Dietitian of the Year!

As a Division Director of Clinical Support at Morrison Healthcare, Wendy Phillips directs the development, implementation, and maintenance of clinical nutrition programs and services according to regulatory requirements, current trends, and market place demand. In her role, she provides regulatory oversight for the clinical nutrition services at ~160 hospitals from California to.  Wendy has worked with Morrison’s corporate operations and wellness/nutrition teams to lead a productivity analysis program for registered dietitians to ensure efficient and effective use of resources.

2016_04_11_4638Wendy is also the Immediate Past President of VAND.  Wendy has held various positions on their executive board’s public policy panel in addition to her presidency and enjoyed her time on the Blue Ridge district board as the Newsletter Editor and Constituent Liaison.  She recently championed the legislative update to Virginia regulations to allow greater flexibility for order writing privileges for dietitians in Virginia hospitals.  She continues her public policy and advocacy work on the Consumer Protection and Licensure Subcommittee for the Academy and leadership positions in several dietetic practice groups.

While she has worked for Morrison Healthcare in Clinical and Patient Service Manager roles in California and recently accepted a corporate position with Morrison, her most recent position was the Clinical Nutrition Director at the University of Virginia Health System, where she managed 48 RDs in inpatient, ambulatory, and dialysis settings.

She received her B.A. degree in Dietetics from Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, CA and her Master’s Degree in Clinical Nutrition from Rosalind Franklin University School of Medicine and Science.  She is a Certified Nutrition Support Clinician, a Certified Lactation Educator, and a Fellow of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.



The Learning Connection by Dr. Robert Murray, The Ohio State University

Dr. Robert Murray, a professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the Ohio State University School of Medicine, kicked off the last day of the VAND annual meeting on April 12, 2016 in Fairfax, VA. He presented an engaging talk on epigenetics and the importance of nutrition in early childhood development. He opened his talk by discussing the Carolina Abecedarian Study, a study conducted in North Carolina in 1977 to study the benefits of early childhood education for impoverished children. Two groups of children were randomized to receive either quality preschool education, or the healthcare and education available to them by the government. The intervention, or quality preschool group, was provided with 8 hours of child care daily from birth to 5 years of age, health care, nutrition provisions including 2 meals and one snack, and cognitive and social stimulation. Children in the control group were set up with Medicaid, WIC, food stamps, and did not receive child care.

Their findings from this study were ground-breaking and have set the stage for public health interventions: as adolescents, children in the intervention group were less likely to fail or repeat a grade, 4x more likely to graduate from college, 4.4x more likely to hold a skilled job, had stronger social and emotional skills, were more physically active, drank less alcohol and had fewer run-ins with the law when compared to the control group. At age 40, these same children had much lower blood pressure, lower blood cholesterol, less obesity, lower type 2 diabetes risk and much lower heart disease risk than the children in the control group. Dr. Murray discussed this great impact from early childhood interventions focused on emotional, social and cognitive stimulation, as well as proper health care and nutrition, on neurological (brain) development and future health outcomes.

From there, Dr. Murray went on to discuss the role epigenetics have to play on future health and well-being. Epigenetics is the study of modified gene expression; in other words, the people we become is not entirely dictated by our DNA. Environmental factors humans are exposed to throughout their lives can change how their genes are expressed, despite not changing the genes themselves — changing how our body works and how we behave, ultimately altering who we become. A mother’s diet is a “powerful epigenetic force” during fetal growth and development. How a mother eats during pregnancy, independent of genetics, can impact how that infant’s genes are expressed, in addition to affecting overall adequacy of growth and proper development. He noted some of the common nutritional intake issues associated with many women of child-bearing age today, including high saturated fat and sodium intake, low fiber, vitamin E, calcium, magnesium and potassium intake with inadequate intake of other essential vitamins and minerals, and common deficiencies in iron and vitamin D. Mom’s nutrition status entering pregnancy influences her growing fetus, and maternal and child nutrition continue to play a vital role in the postnatal period, particularly regarding brain development in the first two years of a child’s life.

In the first year of life, a baby’s brain will double in size, and by the third year of life its size has tripled. During this time, the brain is forming 700 synaptic (communication) connections per second as the baby continues to explore and analyze every last detail of its seemingly simple life. If synapses are formed but not used regularly, they are forever lost, which is another reason cognitive and social stimulation is so important in a child’s first years. In addition, diet quality and stable health were two of four necessary things Dr. Murray highlighted to optimize brain development (social and emotional support as well as sensory-motor exploration were the remaining two contributors). Stress, a reaction controlled by the “middle brain”, is also a contributor to overall neurological development. Though brief stress can be a good thing, prolonged stress can be detrimental to a child’s overall development, potentially leading to disease, disability, social and emotional issues, and even early death. Since adequate nutrition and intake of vitamins and minerals fuel proper brain development and positively impact overall health, prolonged hunger and inadequate nutrient intake are both considered prolonged stressors on the body that can result in adverse outcomes.

BerriesAccording to Dr. Murray, research has confirmed that diet quality and regular activity make people healthier, regardless of size, age, or risk factors. This includes risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, obesity, hypertension, cancer, and other chronic diseases. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans can help adults establish a healthy eating plan that works for them. With the new recommendations for 2015-2020, Americans are especially encouraged to limit sodium, saturated fat and added sugar intake, while making sure to get enough calcium, vitamin D, iron and fiber in their diet by focusing on eating whole foods from the five food groups (whole grains, fruits, vegetables, protein and dairy). It is in part due to the most recent dietary guidelines that people started to analyze the impact of too much dietary sugar on the body, and how to reduce added sugar consumption.

When we think about a child’s diet, certain foods such as flavored yogurt, flavored milks, sugar-sweetened cereals and fruit juice may come to mind as a few of the major contributors to a child’s added sugar intake. Dr. Murray pointed out that, though these foods and drinks certainly contribute to overall added sugar intake, the largest contributors by far are sugar-sweetened beverages (not milk or 100% fruit juice) and sugary snacks, thus the focus should be on limiting these. This applies to adults as well; Dr. Murray stated health will never be the number one reason people choose to eat certain foods – taste, value and convenience are the current reigning champions. He noted a French study discovered substituting better food choices within the same food category (i.e. white vs. brown rice, carrot cake vs. chocolate cake, etc.) improved long-term dietary patterns better than simply consuming lower fat versions of the same foods.

Dr. Murray concluded his presentation by restating the power of nutrition in epigenetics, how hunger can be a persistent and sometimes toxic stressor, the constant nutrient requirements of the brain, particularly during early life development, and how breakfast and snacks are our best bet at improving the dietary intake of children and adolescents.

Source: “The Learning Connection”, PowerPoint presentation by Dr. Murray



Monica Hershey is currently a dietetic intern at the University of Virginia Health System in Charlottesville, VA. A Pennsylvania native, Monica earned her undergraduate degree in nutritional sciences at Penn State University. Upon graduation, Monica would like to work as a clinical RD at a large medical facility on the East Coast, with hopes of working as a renal dietitian in the near future. Her personal interests include hiking with friends, recipe-less cooking and exploring all the fun that Charlottesville has to offer!

Poster Presentations as a Dietetic Intern: Monica Hershey shares her experience!

Monica PosterAt the 2016 VAND Annual Meeting held this year in Fairfax, VA, selected VAND members presented posters on research they had recently conducted. It was a pleasant surprise to see the number of dietetic interns chosen to participate in this year’s session, as well as a number of nutrition professionals. Dietetic interns and Registered Dietitians from across the state of Virginia were present at the session, with posters reporting on quality improvement projects, patient satisfaction studies, program research and development, development of nutrition-related screening tools, community resource development, clinical research studies and more. The poster session was heavily attended, giving poster presenters a chance to share something they are passionate about, or at least something they have put a great deal of work into, with many of their professional peers. The poster session provided networking opportunities for interns and established nutrition professionals alike, as well as the ability to gather new perspectives on poster topics.

As a dietetic intern and first-time poster presenter, I was not sure what to expect. However, the more people came by my poster, the more passionate I became about the work I had completed over the last 6 months. My research, completed as a “capstone project” through my internship program with the guidance and oversight of a preceptor, focused on whether the Braden Scale was a positive predictor of nutrition risk in acute care patients, and if it should be used as a nutrition screening trigger for RD services. Consisting of prospective medical chart data collection as well as a nurses’ survey, we obtained data from 121 patients and 50 members of the nursing staff. Our data indicated opportunities for improvement in how the Braden Scale is completed at our facility, as well as how RDs and patients alike would be impacted with the addition of a RD trigger based around Braden Scale scores. It was a privilege of mine to work with both Wendy Phillips and Kate Willcutts on this project, and it was an honor to stand before my professional role models and peers, discussing the importance of quality patient care in the acute care setting. I was able to meet and network with new people, gain new perspectives on my research, and hear how my research could impact nutrition practice in various settings. It was particularly valuable for me to hear from RDs currently employed in an acute care setting about how my findings are consistent with what they thought, but never had proof of being true. Other intern presenters I spoke with after the conference echoed these statements, some adding they didn’t expect so many people to be interested in their projects, that it helped them realize what they had accomplished, and that they felt as though they were making a difference as a result of their work!

To current and future dietetic interns…I highly recommend taking advantage of research opportunities with your dietetics program if possible, and participating in poster sessions like the one at VAND!  The personal and professional growth you experience as a result is absolutely worth the hard work. The number of young people interested in nutrition research was extremely encouraging to see, affirming the future of our field is in good hands. I cannot wait to see where the future of dietetics research is headed and look forward to participating in more poster sessions as my career blooms!

Monica Hershey is currently a dietetic intern at the University of Virginia Health System in Charlottesville, VA. Monica earned her undergraduate degree in nutritional sciences at Penn State University. Upon graduation, Monica would like to work as a clinical RD at a large medical facility on the East Coast, with hopes of working as a renal dietitian in the near future. Her personal interests include hiking with friends, recipe-less cooking and exploring all the fun that Charlottesville has to offer!