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Press Release

Excerpts from Opening Session Remarks at FNCE 2010

2010-11-10

Comments from American Dietetic Association President Judith C. Rodriguez, PhD, RD, FADA, LDN

Media Contacts: Ryan O'Malley, Allison MacMunn
800/877-1600, ext. 4769, 4802 media@eatright.org

ADA President Judith C. Rodriguez delivered these comments during the opening session of ADA's 2010 Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo on Saturday, November 6.

I am registered dietitian Judy Rodriguez, your President...and I am ADA. And we are all ADA. Come on, let me here you say it! We are ADA!

***

Our meeting is a gathering of global food and nutrition professionals. We are joined this year by nearly 300 international representatives from around the world. To everyone I say...Bienvenidos! Ahlan wa sahlan! Valkomna! Yokoso! Welcome!

This year for the first time during the Opening Session, we are including messages from ADA members in California, Texas and my home state Florida, who weren't able to join us in person. And for the first time ever, on Monday morning ADA members who can't be here in person can join us online for a live video feed of the Member Showcase, and can earn CPU credits for viewing the entire program.

***

Our role in disease management is expanding. And there will be greater recognition of our role as providers of preventive services. This means our ability to be appropriately reimbursed for services is going to dramatically increase.

It's a special honor to be this year's ADA president. The times we live in make this an exciting time to be a member of our Association. We can all be proud of the part ADA played in passing legislation that will position you to receive recognition for all the work ADA members do to promote health.

As I am sure you know, Tuesday we are officially launching the first joint campaign between the Association and the ADA Foundation, "Kids Eat Right." This exciting program connects ADA, the ADA Foundation and our members to raise your visibility and impact on our children. "Kids Eat Right" is a call to action. Our members must educate key audiences about the need for a quality diet and the consequences of poor nutrition. We must advocate for support and programs to promote growth and development. And we must demonstrate the nutrition expertise of ADA's members through our initiatives and advocacy.

We are already publicizing this wonderful new initiative. If you weren't able to watch it this morning,  I was interviewed live on CNN from here in Boston. I talked about registered dietitians, ADA's approach to healthful eating, and "Kids Eat Right."

ADA helps you to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to translating and applying emerging science and public policies. And we are at the table, expanding your leadership role in the new health-care environment. The participation of five ADA members including three registered dietitians on the 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee is only one example.

***

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee identified the need for a coordinated strategic plan involving all stakeholders. In response to this call, ADA hosted a think tank-style meeting — the first of its kind — on October 5 at ADA's Headquarters in Chicago. The meeting, "Translating and Integrating the Evidence: A Call to Action," marked the beginning of a collaborative effort and involved leaders and representatives of ADA, the Institute of Food Technologists, the International Food Information Council and the International Life Sciences Institute — North America.

At the center of the discussions was how to effectively communicate the Dietary Guidelines for Americans to the public and the roles of different groups including ADA in helping individuals with behavioral change. Outcomes included agreement on the need for a coordinated strategic plan involving all sectors. A follow-up meeting was held in Washington, D.C., October 7, hosted by ILSI-NA and IFIC. Proceedings of the roundtable sessions will be published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association and the Journal of Food Science.

***

ADA members are representing us at leadership tables throughout the health-care and science community. Recently, two ADA members were elected to the Institute of Medicine: Suzanne Murphy and Mary Story. Election to the Institute of Medicine is one of the highest honors in health and medicine. It recognizes individuals who have demonstrated outstanding professional achievement and commitment to service. There are only about 1,600 Active IOM members.

***

For all members wherever we live, ADA remains our top resource on how to become a more effective advocate and influence policy. To that end, you can learn more at the Public Policy Workshop in early 2011. In addition, ADA provides resources — online, in print and in person — to help us improve our advocacy skills. Advocacy and working to shape public policy are relevant for us because the very nature of our profession positions us to fight for children's nutrition, healthy aging, and so many other vital issues.

As health care changes, so do the discipline of dietetics and the shape of the dietetics profession. How we respond to these changes will define us as a profession and determine our future relevance to the people of our country. We must do more to address the growing diversity of the American population and enhance our ability to serve all cultural communities.

By 2050, experts say, the minority population in our country will become the majority. Hispanic, black and Asian-Americans will make up over half our population. Appropriately, this year's Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo is opening and closing with speakers who will provide global perspectives on food, and who will focus on diversity and multiculturalism, especially as they relate to the nutritional health of families.

ADA is making efforts to increase the numbers of underrepresented groups in dietetics. But, clearly the look of our profession today does not come close to reflecting the look of America. For ADA and dietetics to remain relevant we can change that — which is why, in addition to increasing minority representation in our profession, we must increase the cultural competency of all dietetics practitioners.

ADA is addressing this issue by providing members with resources to help all of us improve our cultural competency skills. We are looking forward, and preparing a road map for where we want our Association and profession to be in the coming years. Changing a longstanding system is not easy, but it can be done. Let's heed Roseanne Cash's words: "The key to change...is to let go of fear."

We can use improved understanding of different cultures and an increased diversity in ADA's membership to "let go of fear," facilitate and adapt to change and strengthen ourselves, our profession and association for decades to come.

One of the most important and visible ways we can strengthen our Association is by increasing ADA's membership. And I have great news to share with you on that subject.... Our year-end membership of more than 71,000 is the largest in ADA's history. And this is the fifth year in a row that ADA has increased our membership over the previous year.

Compare this to a recent report from the American Society of Association Executives, which shows most professional member associations in the United States are experiencing a decline in membership. Furthermore, ADA members now represent 75 percent of all practicing registered dietitians. This is a considerable number. Eighty percent of other associations have a market penetration below 70 percent. The American Medical Association has 15 percent of practicing physicians. The American Occupational Therapy Association has 39 percent, and the American Physical Therapy Association has 42 percent.

Our increases in membership and market share are excellent news for the dietetics profession, especially given the current economic climate. Our membership turnaround and growth in recent years are due to many factors, including an aggressive focus on programs and services that practitioners need and want, and outstanding member service. All these factors and more make ADA membership indispensable for RDs and DTRs alike.

Steady increases in student membership, especially over the past six years, represent a significant portion of ADA's membership increases, reflecting special recruitment and retention efforts aimed at this young and enthusiastic population. And for me personally, as an educator, I am so proud to be working with the future leaders of the dietetics profession. I know some of you in the audience are from my school, the University of North Florida. Are you out there, Ospreys?!

***

The value of ADA membership can be quantified. Our 2009 Compensation and Benefits Survey of the Dietetics Profession shows that registered dietitians who are ADA members earn on an annualized basis about $2,600 more per year than non-member RDs. Dietetic technicians, registered who are members earn about $2,000 more per year, annualized. Why is that?

We believe it is due to the benefits of membership — the ability to network with other RDs, DTRs and all ADA members the; Journal and ADA Times... and the ability to utilize ADA's career planning resources. These tools and benefits help us become and stay career-focused, and help each other advance in the profession and improve the health of Americans.

Let me talk about the Compensation and Benefits survey for a moment more, because it contains a huge amount of useful information about the state of our profession right now. We are headed in the right direction in terms of compensation. The average increase in salary since 2007 exceeds the 3.4 percent annual change in the Consumer Price Index. Our survey show the annualized full-time salary for a registered dietitian is $56,700 per year. If you would like more information about these results or the survey methodology, an executive summary appears in last January's Journal of the American Dietetic Association. And the full report is available for purchase on ADA's website.

ADA is innovating and responding to change in a rapidly evolving technological world. We regularly hold virtual meetings and professional development webinars. ADA members are innovating and adapting as well. Educators use distance learning and simulation to address the supervised practice shortage. RDs communicate with clients through e-mail. Electronic medical records combined with our standardized language are opening new doors in health care, research and informatics. These types of innovation help each of us keep up with the times — or better yet, lead them.

ADA's new website launched in January, bringing audience-specific information to the public, students, the media, health professionals and ADA members alike. ADA's Internet presence continues to grow by leaps and bounds. Our Facebook page is a regular stop for members and the public seeking nutrition news, announcements and healthful-eating advice. In October, the 16,000th person became a fan of the American Dietetic Association on Facebook. The number of people who follow ADA on Facebook has nearly quadrupled in a year, and it continues to rise at a rate of about 40 per day.

Who has been Twittering during this session? Please: Tweet away! Let your friends and colleagues know what's happening in Boston — and what they're missing if they're not here. I'm "tweeting" during FNCE, sharing my thoughts and impressions of our meeting. You can follow me at twitter.com/adafnce.

***

ADA continues to spread the word about you and our profession through the news media: print, broadcast and electronic. We've set the pace to generate a truly remarkable seven billion media impressions for 2010. This a staggering amount of news coverage that any organization would be thrilled to have — and ADA is making it happen. To name just one example, ADA contributed to a 16-page special insert on "Hunger in America," published in the September 17 issue of USA Today. The section can be downloaded from Eatright.org under the Media section.

An extremely important part of every year for ADA is March — National Nutrition Month. This year's theme of "Nutrition from the Ground Up," was especially popular and successful with members, the public and the media alike. To commemorate National Nutrition Month, ADA was invited for the second year in a row to participate in the NASDAQ trading day. In 2009, members joined Marty Yadrick to open the day. And last March 22, Jessie Pavlinac joined members to close NASDAQ for the day. Broadcast on television, online and on video screens in Times Square, this was a great way to promote nutrition and health, and to kick off ADA's virtual 2010 Public Policy Workshop later that day.

Have you seen the theme for National Nutrition Month 2011? "Eat Right With Color!" And don't forget that the next Registered Dietitian Day is Wednesday, March 9.

National Nutrition Month is just one way ADA demonstrates your leadership and commitment to serving the public. We also accomplish this goal through collaborations with outside organizations — nonprofit, government and corporate organizations alike. I am very happy to announce to you today that ADA and ConAgra Foods have renewed the award-winning "Home Food Safety" public education campaign.

In its first seven years, from 1999 to 2006, this program focused public attention on the practical benefits of food safety, raising consumer awareness of home food safety to an all-time high. We were very successful, and there is still work to be done. Much more information can be found at the program's website, homefoodsafety.org.

***

I hope that these themes of leadership and service will resonate for all of us, throughout this year and beyond. Leadership and service must be a part of everything we do. Service and leadership go hand-in-hand for our profession. There is a term that perhaps you are familiar with: the "servant leader."

It may sound odd or old-fashioned, but it is a noble and worthwhile way to look at ourselves and our profession, in my opinion. The term was coined in 1970 by Robert K. Greenleaf, a management expert who wrote: "The best test, and difficult to administer, is: Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?"

Of course dietetics is a serving profession. We are committed to helping people become healthier through food. But implicit in that commitment is an underlying goal: Helping people to be wiser about their choices so they can be more active in their own care. These members are serving and leading at the same time.

Robert Greenleaf also wrote: "Caring for persons, the more able and the less able serving each other, is the rock upon which a good society is built. Whereas, until recently, caring was largely person to person, now most of it is mediated through institutions…" And by institutions he meant organizations. We need to look no further than our own ADA to see an organization committed to helping members become servant leaders. The proof is in our work with patients, clients and the public, and in our professional accomplishments.

ADA helps us develop servant leadership skills through initiatives like the Leadership Institute. Sessions on leadership are offered here at FNCE. And a new series of online learning programs on leadership is slated for next year on ADA's website.

This year, an ADA Times cover story showed how a lack of internship opportunities for bright, qualified students is threatening the future of our profession. Your response to the article has been encouraging, and in a follow-up article, preceptors said they gain more from their service than they give. When we serve as preceptors for students, it keeps our knowledge current. In teaching others, our own expertise is reinforced.

The more we act as servant leaders, the more we sharpen our skills and serve ourselves. Think of those who have mentored you: Can you now give back by mentoring today's students?

***

On a personal note, you know I have a very supportive family. And I have to take a moment to acknowledge my wonderful husband George, his sisters Janice and Cathy, my brothers Manny and Libby, my niece Nicole...and my work family, especially Pam. Thanks to all of you, plus the 500 other relatives and students I know I forgot to mention. They will all be texting me soon. Truly, I couldn't serve as your president without their support.

It is an honor and a privilege to serve as your president. Let me close by recalling the words of Leo Tolstoy: "Life is a place of service. Joy can be real only if people look upon their life as a service and have a definite object in life outside themselves and their personal happiness."

As individuals and as members of the American Dietetic Association, we can use food and nutrition to "grow and share." Servant leadership, like our work, is timeless and still relevant today.

Thank you very much.