Presented by Academy President Ethan A. Bergman, PhD, RD, CD, FADA
2012 Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo
October 6, 2012
It’s an honor to come before you today as the first person to serve an entire term as president of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. We’re hitting the ground “running” as you can see ... and we plan to keep up the pace!
It was such an honor for me to carry the Olympic torch and to represent Academy members this past summer. Doing so led me to think about what it takes to be an Olympic athlete.
I call myself “an old geezer athlete” ... because I still enjoy running, biking and swimming. And while I was never close to Olympic caliber, all of us who stay physically active, or who work with athletes, know what it takes to succeed. I see some parallels between Olympic athletes and performing well as RDs and DTRs. To be most effective, we – like Olympians – need a combination of talent, dedication, devotion, innovation, integrity ... and luck.
We’ll get back to the Olympics in a little while. You know, one of the things I like to do in every city I visit is get out and get some exercise with a running tour. I was able to see some of the beautiful and historic sites of Philadelphia this week. Thursday I went for a run and of course ran up the Rocky steps at the Art Museum.
Then I ran along the river and ran into a statue of John Kelly ... well, not actually ran into, came across. John was Olympic Rowing Champion in 1920 and 1924. He also was the father of Grace Kelly, famous actress in the 1950s, who became Princess Grace of Monaco. So right now, I’d like to thank our hosts, the Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania Dietetic Associations, for their hard work in putting our meeting together, and their hospitality in hosting FNCE for the third time in the past 11 years. We appreciate the effort it takes to make FNCE happen. So thank you! Great job!
It’s been a year since Sylvia Escott-Stump announced at FNCE 2011 that we would be changing our name in January. I’m very happy to report that members and the public alike have expressed overwhelmingly positive responses to our new name. This is an exciting time for our organization and profession.
We are positioned together to do great things. And what can be more inspiring than to optimize the nation’s health through food and nutrition?
These thoughts went through my mind last July 11, when I had the once-in-lifetime opportunity to represent you by participating in the Olympic Torch Relay. I ran through the charming town of Basingstoke, in southern England, as the torch traveled to London for the 2012 Games. Like my predecessor in 2010, Jessie Pavlinac, the Academy was invited to be a torchbearer by Olympic Partner the Coca-Cola Company.
My fellow torchbearers included Dr. Robert Block, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics; Dr. William Zoghbi, president of the American College of Cardiology; and Dr. Stephen Blair, past president of the American College of Sports Medicine.
We were joined by former Olympians, figure skater Michelle Kwan and swimmer Summer Sanders. And our group included more than a dozen teens and young people who were beyond amazing! How many here are from Wisconsin? Let’s hear it for Wisconsin! How about the village of Weston? One torchbearer, 14-year-old Peyton Medick, hails from that town. It’s in central Wisconsin, about an hour and a half west of Green Bay.
Peyton’s story is truly remarkable and inspiring. When Peyton was eight years old, she saw a news story on TV about children going to bed hungry at night. So she decided to create an organization called Peyton’s Promise. In six years, Peyton’s Promise has collected 70 tons of food for pantries in Wisconsin and across the United States. Sounds like she has what it takes to be a registered dietitian.
I am totally inspired by Peyton and many others around the world who work for positive change. So while I ran through Basingstoke, I thought about Peyton, and about us and where we are as an Academy at this point in history.
To paraphrase the late Neil Armstrong, It felt like ... “This is one small run for Ethan, but one huge step into the future for our Academy.” But, if the Olympics are about anything, don’t they represent the idea of people working together to do great things? As we improve the nation’s health through food and nutrition, we play a huge part in making the world a better place.
We need to look for every opportunity to positively interact with others within our own community, or our state, or internationally. Our deep involvement with the First Lady’s Let’s Move initiative is just one example of the positive effect we can have – and that we are having.
It’s going to take the whole world to make a difference in chronic disease issues, to prevent them from occurring, and to solve global problems like the obesity crisis.
Last week I was privileged to speak at the First International Pediatric Obesity Prevention Conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Participants from the United States, including Puerto Rico, and from Cuba, joined together to present statistics and possible strategies for preventing and treating obesity in Puerto Rico. So I thank the Puerto Rico dietitians for their foresight and vision, because prevention is the key.
The Academy has also joined a new nationwide initiative designed to identify game-changing innovations in the field of nutrition and food insecurity. The new collaboration brings together health professionals including registered dietitians, the agriculture and food production industry and hunger relief professionals.
The Academy is aligning with Feeding America and the National Dairy Council to share expertise and resources, identify new ways of approaching nutrition education and access, and affect the way food-insecure individuals can better nourish themselves and their families. The new program was announced in June at a conference in Washington, D.C., that the Academy co-hosted, titled “The Future of Food: Food Security in the 21st Century.” I was honored to make welcoming remarks at the conference on the Academy’s behalf.
Through the Academy Foundation grants, registered dietitians in local communities will provide resources, programs, and expertise to local families. I see our Academy’s values reflected in the hard work it takes to reach the top ... in sports, in dietetics, or in any walk of life. Just like elite athletes, world-class nutrition professionals are bound by rules and driven by results. We must stay in shape ... with training, lifelong learning, and professional development.
Innovation in training and performance set the champion apart from his or her competition. Of course, athletes and sports teams perform for their fans. They display the skill and knowledge to implement winning strategies and techniques. When we demonstrate those strategies in a winning combination for our clients, we show that they are the focus of all that we do ... our reason for being.
One of the most innovative and memorable Olympic athletes of my lifetime competed in the 1968 Mexico City games. Dick Fosbury won the high jump, setting American and Olympic records in the process. He used a revolutionary backward style that became known as the Fosbury Flop. It was a completely new way of approaching his craft, and while Fosbury had his critics, over time his method forever changed his sport. Today, the Fosbury Flop is the standard way virtually all high jumpers perform.
Literally and metaphorically, Dick Fosbury turned his back on traditional approaches to his work and forever set a higher bar for all who would follow. And that’s what I hope all of us will do as Academy members.
We all know members who have created innovative ways to approach practice. We will hear in a few minutes from one of our leading members in the field of long-term and elderly nutrition, Dr. Kathleen Niedert [recipient of the 2012 Marjorie Hulsizer Copher Award]. Dr. Niedert is truly an innovator in dietetics. Then, back in this room on Monday, we will honor the recipients of the 2012 Medallion Awards for their lifetime of service to our profession and our organization.
At the same time the Academy is making great progress in realizing our mission at home – setting American records, if you will – we are extending our expertise across borders, helping our international colleagues bring the profession of dietetics to their countries and influence health care across the globe.
In September over 80 Academy members attended and presented at the International Congress in Dietetics in Sydney, Australia. This meeting provided the opportunity for dietetics practitioners across the globe to share their issues, expertise and abilities. This meeting happens every four years. The next meeting is in 2016 in Grenada, Spain. I hope you start planning now to attend and present.
This summer, several Academy members and I were privileged to attend the first meeting of the Romanian Association of Nutrition and Dietetics. I accompanied Jessie Pavlinac, Dr. Bert Connell and Jeje Noval, who both are from Loma Linda University in California; and Karen Lechowich, the Academy’s executive administrator for diversity, alliances and international relations. For five days in Romania, we interacted with food and nutrition professionals, and especially with students interested in pursuing careers in dietetics.
We agreed it was an inspiring visit, playing a small part in helping literally to create the dietetics profession in Romania. It reminded me of the initial beginnings of our own profession when, in October 1917, about 100 dietitians and other health professionals gathered in Cleveland to create our organization and our profession.
Today, dietitians and other health professionals in Romania are displaying the courage and foresight demonstrated by the pioneers in 1917, who were instrumental in helping us become the Academy we are today – and will be in the years to come.
I challenge all of us to be the next Dick Fosbury, the next Peyton Medick, the next Kathleen Niedert, future Medallion award winners. Each of us, displaying our own innovation, customer service and integrity. How?
Collaborate with existing organizations in your area. Start new alliances. Look for innovative ways to provide excellent client service. Especially if it means turning your back on old methods, which takes courage and tenacity, be confident in your abilities.
Be open to new approaches. Set that bar high. And clear it.
In closing, I have many people to thank for making it possible for me to serve this year as your president. Colleagues at Central Washington University have picked up the slack when I would disappear for days at a time – Dr. David Gee, Dr. Virginia Bennett, Professor Linda Cashman, Dr. Tim Englund, and Dean Connie Lambert. I’m sure they’d often ask, “Where’s Bergman? Is he gone again?” And countless students.
My Washington colleagues who have supported mentored me are really too numerous to do justice, but I’d like to thank Terri Raymond and Barb Pyper. Also my professors at Washington State University, especially my advisor Dr. Linda Massey and Professor Gladys Jennings.
This year, I’ve been in planes and hotel rooms quite a bit so I have tried to provide my wife Carla with an itinerary of my travels so if I wake up in the middle of the night wondering where the heck I am, I can call her to set me straight. And our children Sara, Luke and Isak.
I am honored to serve as your president!
They didn’t have social media back in 1917. The invitations to our first-ever meeting went out by hand-written letter, and recipients were asked to pass the word to others.
But while our organization’s founders may have lacked today’s methods of instantaneous communication, they had the unprecedented concern for the nutritional health of their fellow citizens that has never changed, never slowed, never been disputed in our 95 years of existence.
And being 95 this year means our centennial is rapidly approaching. We will celebrate the 100th birthday of the Academy in 2017 with special events and commemorations – and members will be involved every step of the way in marking this fantastic milestone in our history. I hope to see every one of you, and more, in Chicago for FNCE 2017.
But meanwhile, I will see you back here on Monday for the Member Showcase. Now, for 2012, let’s go set some records and make some history! And as Kathleen Niedert put it so well, go out there and catch your dreams!