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A Year Later: Lessons Learned

Published:April 24, 2017DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jand.2017.02.017
      Is it May already?
      This has been the fastest year of my life, filled with important endeavors for the Academy and our members, while working full time as a practicing registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN). Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your 2016-2017 President. I have many people to thank, especially the unsung heroes who work at the Academy’s headquarters and the staff at my business. They made it look easy—from planning my travels to assisting with communications, planning meetings, and many other responsibilities.
      I learned a lot this past year, from our members as well as outside groups and individuals. I learned the Academy has 75,000-plus members with 75,000-plus opinions and found many to be wonderfully insightful and will help shape our future.
      I would like to reflect on some other things I learned and what I believe our focus should be as we enter the Second Century.

      Do Homework, Get Involved

      If you have a strong opinion and really want to be an influencer, don’t just preach on social media—do your homework, get involved, and be an active part of the process of creating a bright future. Recently I received a letter from Academy member Kimberly R. Autore, MS, RD, LDN. She is a visionary who is making a difference in a nontraditional way:I earned my Master’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh in 2013 and since then I’ve been seeking a position where I feel challenged and able to reach my full professional potential. I feel very grateful to have been selected for the Medical Science Liaison role and am appreciative of the educational opportunities afforded to me by this position within industry.So far I’ve been mostly well received by fellow RDs in clinical practice who I reach out to, while others are a little hesitant to engage in conversation.I especially enjoyed your message about how RDs can be the influencers within industry. So far, the engineers and scientists at Alcresta have been open to all of our professional feedback when it comes to research & development, logistical planning and marketing, whether it is to a dietitian or consumer audience.I just wanted to thank you for lending a voice to RDs working within industry, who are equally trying to improve the nutritional benefits and programs available to consumers.

      The Meaning of Collaboration

      Another important lesson I have learned: Collaboration does not mean yielding to others and giving up your space; it means working together in the same space.
      I feel strongly that RDNs need to protect our area of practice and to educate others on the importance of nutrition. One way to demonstrate the value of the RDN is by collaborating with other health care professionals and promoting the benefits of Academy membership. We can encourage our colleagues to become Associate Members of the Academy—promoting the expertise of the RDN as well as creating a welcome outlet for collaboration and synergy with allied health professionals and experts. We can be the influencers for our practice and the beneficiaries of interprofessional collaboration. For example, apply for and accept employment and leadership positions at companies and other health organizations. Boards almost always have a position for an outside individual; the Academy’s Board of Directors, for example, includes two public members. Ask anyone you know who is involved in a board, committee, or professional organization about the process for getting involved with their organization. I have met this year with presidents and chief executive officers of numerous health care organizations, with whom the Academy will develop beneficial relationships.

      The Need for Research

      Nutrition and dietetics practitioners are influencers because of our keen understanding of the science of nutrition. That is a message we need to keep spreading, far and wide. Nutrition is a science, not a fad! And we block the fads by basing our advice and services on the results of scientific research.
      Research is the basis for the nutrition and dietetics profession. And while the idea of conducting research may seem intimidating, the actual process is something most RDNs do every day. After all, what are RDNs if not systematic? We collect information, group the information into something meaningful, and then make judgments on the information.
      This process is essential to our profession individually and at every level—local, state, and national. The output of research can support increased work force, demonstrate the value of nutrition and RDNs, and help to show what interventions are most effective in improving outcomes.

      May Is Research Month

      May has been designated by the Academy as Nutrition Research Month. It is a time when we create awareness of existing research efforts and resources and spotlight members who are conducting research.
      The Academy’s extensive resources for members to conduct research have been highlighted in several recent articles in the Journal.
      • Hand R.K.
      Research in nutrition and dietetics—What can the Academy do for you?.
      • Murphy W.J.
      • Steiber A.L.
      A new breed of evidence and the tools to generate it: Introducing ANDHII.
      • Stein K.
      Propelling the profession with outcomes and evidence: Building a robust research agenda at the Academy.
      I’d like to share with you some examples of how these resources have been used to help secure and position our profession for the future.
      • One RDN used the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Health Informatics Infrastructure (ANDHII) to demonstrate the value of her employee wellness program in creating sustainable weight loss. As a result of the data she gathered, she was able to successfully advocate to her employer for another RDN to provide the same services.
      • We have heard from clinical nutrition managers around the country who have used results of the RDN Staffing and Productivity Study from the Dietetics Practice Based Research Network and the Clinical Nutrition Management dietetic practice group to persuade administrators of their need for more inpatient RDNs.
        • Hand R.K.
        • Jordan B.
        • DeHoog S.
        • Pavlinac J.
        • Abram J.K.
        • Parrott J.S.
        Inpatient staffing needs for registered dietitian nutritionists in 21st century acute care facilities.
      • Barbara Gordon, RDN, LD, worked on two university research projects showcasing the use of the Academy’s Evidence Analysis Library (EAL). Presentations on these projects and how to utilize the EAL are available at: www.andjrnl.org/content/podcast.
      • When we generate data through research, we have the opportunity to present this knowledge at scientific and professional meetings. Besides presenting our work, attending these meetings positions RDNs within the research community, shows that we are a science-based profession, and demonstrates the RDN’s value to the health care team.
      • Academy member Rosa K. Hand, MS, RDN, LD, director of the Academy’s Dietetics Practice Based Research Network, had an interesting recent experience:
      At one meeting I attended, I met a physician who was working on a nutrition education program with a medical student. As a result of our conversation, I became involved in the project. Had I not attended this research meeting, this important project would have occurred without an RDN—and now, this physician frequently calls upon my expertise for projects.

      Research Drives Us

      Research is the backbone of the Academy’s position papers, which are critically important in our advocacy efforts with government agencies. I urge affiliates, when planning your state policy workshops and training sessions, to consider whether a position paper can support your conversations with legislators about legislation important for our clients or our profession.
      For example, the 2016 position paper “Interventions for the Treatment of Overweight and Obesity in Adults”
      • Raynor H.A.
      • Champagne C.M.
      Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Interventions for the treatment of overweight and obesity in adults.
      or the Evidence Analysis Library project on the same topic could be used to advocate for Medicaid coverage for medical nutrition therapy in your state or to promote city planning that could improve health through the socioecological model.
      Research also drives us as an organization. The Board of Directors consistently examines data to evaluate what members value, and this drives our decision making. If invited to participate in an evaluation process, please make your voice heard by participating. Similarly, Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo (FNCE) attendee evaluations help us decide whether speakers should be invited back.
      As nutrition care documentation becomes increasingly systematic, through use of the Nutrition Care Process Terminology embedded in electronic health records, the line between research and practice will be blurred. During our 100th anniversary year, I challenge all members: Think how your practice can contribute to “big data” that leads to generalizable knowledge in patient care, public health, or education.
      These are only some of the ways in research will help secure and position our profession for the future. During Research Month and year-round, please get involved!

      “Chief Motivating Officer”

      I have viewed myself during the past year as members’ “Chief Motivating Officer,” and I believe we have experienced success.
      At FNCE, I spoke about why we should take calculated risks. I shared some of my business expertise in the hope that understanding business and consumer attitudes can enable us to be competitive in the health care market.
      Besides being the influencers, we need to keep an eye on how our services in any venue can influence outcomes and profitability. These ensure more jobs for members and more supportive services to enhance our work. We must use our critical thinking skills and not allow others who are not part of our profession make the decisions that will shape our future.
      Also, helping consumers instead of dictating to them is how we will gain popularity as important and caring health professionals.

      Engage To Care

      Finally, my goal was to engage members to care about our professional association and to help shape the future during our Second Century. It was to challenge you as I challenged myself to develop the skills necessary for this position.
      It has been my honor to serve you and I will continue to do all I can for our Academy. As the immediate past president, I will wholeheartedly support our 2017-2018 President Donna S. Martin, EdS, RDN, LD, FAND, SNS. I know you will do the same. My warmest regards to you—and I assure you “this girl is still on fire!”

      References

        • Hand R.K.
        Research in nutrition and dietetics—What can the Academy do for you?.
        J Acad Nutr Diet. 2014; 114: 131-135
        • Murphy W.J.
        • Steiber A.L.
        A new breed of evidence and the tools to generate it: Introducing ANDHII.
        J Acad Nutr Diet. 2015; 115: 19-22
        • Stein K.
        Propelling the profession with outcomes and evidence: Building a robust research agenda at the Academy.
        J Acad Nutr Diet. 2016; 116: 1014-1030
        • Hand R.K.
        • Jordan B.
        • DeHoog S.
        • Pavlinac J.
        • Abram J.K.
        • Parrott J.S.
        Inpatient staffing needs for registered dietitian nutritionists in 21st century acute care facilities.
        J Acad Nutr Diet. 2015; 115: 985-1000
        • Raynor H.A.
        • Champagne C.M.
        Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Interventions for the treatment of overweight and obesity in adults.
        J Acad Nutr Diet. 2016; 116: 129-147