July 2014 Issue

TD’s Spring Symposium — A Spectacular Extravaganza
By Judith Riddle
Today’s Dietitian
Vol. 16 No. 7 P. 28

Attendees raved about the conference, calling it a huge success.

After several months of fastidious planning and attention to many logistical details, 275-plus enthusiastic nutrition professionals from across the country attended Today’s Dietitian’s first annual Spring Symposium at the Tropicana Las Vegas from May 18 to 20. According to many attendees, the symposium was an extraordinary event and a huge success. They said everything it offered them professionally and educationally was invaluable.

During the three days, the event provided dietetics professionals various opportunities to obtain one year’s worth of continuing education credits and network with fellow colleagues. “The location of the symposium was great, and I liked the small, intimate setting,” said Christy Wilson, RD, who specializes in employee wellness at the University of Arizona in Tucson. “You were able to get your questions answered, and I’m looking forward to the next symposium.”

Nabeelah Khan, senior food and nutrition manager at Edelman, a public relations firm in Chicago, agreed: “I really liked the intimate nature of the conference. The sheer numbers made it easier to connect with colleagues and presenters.”

Collaboration With the NDA
The Nevada Dietetic Association (NDA) and Today’s Dietitian worked in tandem during the symposium. The NDA held its annual meeting and awards ceremony plus its student poster session, which it made available to conference attendees. Nineteen poster presenters from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) discussed their research on topics such as COPD, burns, refeeding syndrome, HIV/AIDS, celiac disease, and dietary guidance for Roux-en-Y gastric bypass patients.

Moreover, an enthusiastic team of student volunteers from the dietetics programs at UNLV; the University of Nevada, Reno; and Truckee Meadows Community College in Reno, helped symposium attendees navigate their way through the conference center, oversaw the Q&A segments of the continuing education sessions, answered questions about the event, and packed tote bags with programs, product samples, and other important information.

Daniel Lingle, a dietetics student at Truckee Meadows Community College, said he especially liked the diversity of specialties among the attending nutrition professionals. “I enjoyed listening to the various presentations about public relations, social media, and geriatrics. They were highly informative and inspiring,” he said.

Today’s Dietitian had an incredible experience working with the university students and the NDA. The symposium afforded chapter members networking opportunities with peers from around the country and gave attendees a chance to learn about Las Vegas and its local dietetics chapter.

Poolside Party
To kick off the symposium in grand style, Today’s Dietitian hosted a two-hour poolside welcome reception, a preshow party and networking opportunity for attendees, in the Tropicana’s Beach Club, where everyone enjoyed soft drinks, cocktails, and tasty hot and cold hors d’oeuvres, crudité, and desserts.

There was so much food, laughter, and good conversation that one attendee cancelled her dinner reservations she’d made previously because she didn’t realize there was going to be so much food and great company. “It was well organized, a good turnout, and the food was good!” said Sanam Shahrokhinia, MS, RD, a clinical dietitian at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

Sidesplitting Keynote
The next morning, attendees were greeted with nutritious Kellogg’s breakfast cereals, fresh fruit, yogurt, coffee, tea, and juice along with hilarious keynote speaker Brad Nieder, MD, known as “The Healthy Humorist,” who blends health care humor with wellness advice. With many funny one-liners and amusing stories, Nieder, who gave up emergency medicine to become a comedian, explained how laughter really is good medicine for managing pain, boosting the immune system, and relieving stress.

“It was genius that you invited a comedian who had a health background,” Khan said. “He set the tone and the mood for the next few days. He put a smile on everyone’s face. You don’t get that at every conference.”

Cathy Armacost, MS, RD, a faculty member at Spokane Community College in Washington and a USA certified triathlon coach agreed: “Dr. Nieder was a wonderful way to start the day.”

Here are some of Nieder’s most memorable one-liners:

• “Laughing can keep us young and slow the aging process.”

• “Laughter can make you feel eight years younger and help you live eight years longer.”

• “According to one study, women undergoing in vitro fertilization had more success if they were entertained by a clown.”

• “Forget the gym, the treadmill, and the personal trainer. Laughing is jogging for the innards.”

• “Humor is a way to get a point across.”

• “The easiest thing you can do is smile. Smiles produce the same physiological effects as laughter. You may feel better and brighten the day of someone who receives your smile.”

So to all the nutrition professionals out there, remember to smile and laugh for a healthier, happier present and future.

Crème de la Crème Presenters
After Nieder’s entertaining performance, the true A-listers in the nutrition profession presented an incredible lineup of continuing education sessions on some of the hottest topics in dietetics. Today’s Dietitian’s all-stars were:

• Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, founder of Toby Amidor Nutrition;

• Jenna Bell, PhD, RD, senior vice president and director of food and wellness at Pollock Communications;

• Constance Brown-Riggs, MSEd, RD, CDE, CDN, nutrition advisor for the Dannon One Yogurt Every Day Initiative;

• Karen Collins, MS, RDN, CDN, FAND, nutrition advisor for the American Institute for Cancer Research;

• Becky Dorner, RDN, LD, FAND, founder and president of Becky Dorner & Associates;

• Sharon Palmer, RD, author, speaker, and contributing editor to Today’s Dietitian;

• Robin Plotkin, RD, LD, a Texas-based culinary and nutrition communications professional;

• Barbara Ruhs, MS, RD, LDN, a former supermarket dietitian who currently operates consulting business NeighborhoodNutrition.com;

• Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDE, FAND, a private practitioner in Newport News, Virginia; and

• Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, an assistant clinical faculty member and sports dietitian at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut.

The topics that captivated the attendees’ attention included fad diets, plant-based eating, diabetes, social media, retail dietetics careers, dietary supplements, and sustainability, plus two professional development roundtables on business development and the value of writing and speaking. “The caliber of speakers was phenomenal,” Wilson said. “It was nice to see RDs present on current and relevant topics that are so timely for practitioners.”

According to Erika Rothacker, RDN, LD, of Wellness Coaches USA, a national provider of on-site wellness coaching delivered to workplace employees, “The lectures were amazing, and there were so many people from other states. I met so many women who were awesome.”

“The symposium was so well organized and well managed timewise [in addition to] the room arrangement, temperature, nutritious meals and, most of all, well-chosen and brilliant speakers,” added Rose Quirante, MS, RD, LD, a renal dietitian at the Renal Center of Port Arthur in Texas.

Book Signings, Tasty Treats, Delectable Lunches
During the morning and afternoon breaks, attendees enjoyed the book and product showcase where they could meet some of the session speakers who were authors to discuss and purchase their latest books. Brown-Riggs, author of the African American Guide to Living Well With Diabetes; Palmer, author of The Plant-Powered Diet; Weisenberger, author of Diabetes Weight Loss—Week by Week; and Dorner, author of the Diet and Nutrition Care Manual, Policy & Procedure Manual, and various other continuing education resources, autographed books and other materials for purchasers.

Today’s Dietitian’s sponsor companies—Almased, Daisy Brand Cottage Cheese, Diabetes Sentry, Go Veggie!, INBalance Health Corp, Kellogg Company, and Walden Farms—discussed their newest products and provided samples for attendees to taste and eventually tout to clients and patients. Daisy Brand Cottage Cheese provided mixed berry parfaits for the Tuesday morning break.

The lunch offerings also were a huge hit with attendees. “I was very happy that healthy food was served, especially the vegetarian lunch,” said Kristine Duncan, MS, RDN, CDE, an adjunct nutrition instructor at Skagit Valley College in Mount Vernon, Washington.

Salads, fresh fruit, and a burger bar featuring MorningStar Farms’ veggie burgers in spicy black bean, roasted garlic and quinoa, and buffalo chicken were served on the first day of the symposium, along with a variety of beverages. “I loved the great lunches provided,” said Carol Curtis, RD, CD, a dietitian at Memorial Hospital of South Bend in Indiana. “It was good to test the MorningStar products.”

On the second day of the symposium, a Tuscan buffet lunch was composed of sausage kale soup, Caesar salad, caprese salad, grilled vegetables, and a variety of pasta dishes. Fresh fruit, tiramisu, and cannolis graced the dessert table. “From day one, the foods and snacks conveyed the message that you can eat healthfully no matter where you’re at,” said Avelina San Juan-Roberto, MS, RDN, LD, who practices in Henderson, Nevada.

Morning Yoga
Of course, the symposium didn’t include all work and no time for meditation and relaxation. On the second day, attendees were invited to an invigorating yoga session led by Las Vegas yogini Angie Negrete-Markle in the hotel’s outdoor Wedding Chapel courtyard. Participants engaged in a tranquil workout amid the sweet scent of fresh flowers and soothing sounds of a waterfall. Afterward, they were encouraged to eat a quick grab-and-go, healthful breakfast that included Special K products, apples, and bananas.

Moving Full Speed Ahead
All in all, the Today’s Dietitian’s Spring Symposium was a great success. Feedback from attendees was nothing but positive, and many eagerly asked when and where are we planning to have it next year. “One of the things I liked the best about the symposium was that we got to hear our industry leaders validate and support the type of care we’re trying to provide our patients in our own facilities,” said Lisa Sherman, MEd, RDN, LD, who works in the division of mental health and developmental services at Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital in Las Vegas. “The presenters were so inspiring. They inspired us to do our best.”

“I appreciated the variety of session topics that were offered, which enabled me to carefully select those sessions that were of the most benefit to me personally and professionally,” said Jenny Favret, MS, RD, LDN, an eating disorder specialist for the Duke Healthy Lifestyles Program at Duke Children’s Hospital & Health Center in Durham, North Carolina.

Next year’s symposium currently is in the planning stages. Much like the first symposium, it will include a stellar lineup of top-tier presenters and even greater opportunities to network and participate in continuing education sessions. We look forward to seeing you next year!

— Judith Riddle is editor of Today’s Dietitian.