Samantha M. Coogan, MS, RDN, CSSD, LD, FAND, is our member spotlight for January. In 2019, she was awarded the Emerging Dietetic Leader award from AND and was then made a fellow of AND. She is described as nurturing, driven, and having a strong desire to see people grow and better themselves.
Sam is the DPD director at UNLV and is a sports dietitian by trade. Sam has been a member of NvAND/its predecessor since 2010. She jumped right into the top of the leadership chain and served as President Elect, President, and Past President without serving any other board positions. Sam does recommend that members do try to serve some other position first before the president positions just to get your feet wet. Sam did enjoy her time as President because she grew so much as a leader and communicator. As President, she learned she had to delegate in order to get everything done. She feels it did make her a better leader not only for NvAND but also in her job as program director. Sam also liked being able to see what she had accomplished the following year as Past President and see things she had started be built upon.
Samantha reports she owes a lot of here career to UNLV. She stepped on campus in 2007 where she earned her Bachelor and Master’s degree and completed her dietetic internship. In 2011 she became a grad assistant, and eventually transitioned into the role of DPD director in 2016. She really enjoys being DPD director because she can bring the perspective of a former student who saw what worked or what did not work so well and has been able to make changes to the program based on this. It is a unique perspective because now as a faculty member, she can see the same stresses that her students are going through. She can connect with them really well because she had the same wins and losses. Plus, she is now getting to work with people she was previously under as a student. She reports it was a nice transition from student to colleague. She feels many students can appreciate this journey since so many students from UNLV were born and raised here in Las Vegas. This shows you do not have to branch out and move away from the state to be successful. Sam also likes seeing the “lightbulb” go on when she explains a concept to students and they all of a sudden get the whole picture.
Samantha feels she makes a difference as an RD to her students by being very transparent which makes her approachable not only while they are students but once they become RDs as well.
Communicating better is the most important skill Sam says she has developed. Sticking to rules she had set is one of the biggest lessons Sam learned as an instructor. She discovered that when she would be flexible or cave on a deadline, the students were not appreciative because it does not reward the students who submitted their work on time.
Getting involved as much as you can is Sam’s advice for students. The more that you get involved, the more comfortable you will feel in your internship. Sam shared that she was afforded many opportunities like becoming a fellow of AND by getting involved. Becoming a fellow of the Academy has opened a lot of doors and elevated her position as an expert in the field which would not have been possible without leadership experience, though she does say that serving as a president role was not required for this.
In her spare time Sam likes to listen to metal music, work out, watch movies, and appreciate tattoo art.
Estefania Herrera became an RD this past March and has been a member of NvAND for five years. Estefania is from Mexico and moved to the US her sophomore year in high school. She said that this has shaped her interest in wanting to assist marginalized and under-served communities. Estefania was nominated for working tirelessly to help underserved populations, including forming her own non-profit organization, Lime Nutrition. She is described as compassionate, giving, and thoughtful.
In addition to working on completing her master’s degree at UNLV, she works as a Graduate Assistant, works for her parent’s family-owned, tire shop, and has developed her own non-profit. As a GA, Estefania is responsible for precepting community rotations and serving as the clinical liaison, and assisting with classes.
Lime Nutrition in the non-profit that Estefania created earlier this year and has already served 30-32 clients, serving primarily homeless clients and sex-workers. Estefania created this non-profit with the encouragement of her father when she realized as an intern, she would like to do more to help marginalized groups. Estefania has faced various barriers and has had to teach herself about the unknown. She said there are plenty of moments of frustration and doubt on whether she should have really tried to set up Lime Nutrition, but she also says there are other moments that make everything worth it. The most challenging part of running her non-profit is getting people motivated. Having affordable MNT counseling opportunities for people sounds great in theory but in reality, it is very difficult. Convincing people it is a real service is a big challenge. Some people are actually not underserved and just do not want to pay a dietitian and other people feel since it is a free service then it is because it is not a good or competent dietitian offering the service. Time and effort are of course challenges as well. Estefania would love for anyone to reach out who is interested in collaborating with her or have any tips or advice.
Resilience is the most important skill Estefania has developed. Resilience being patient with herself, the process, the non-profit, and patients. She says it takes a long time to learn how to sit back and gather yourself in moments where things are not going your way, are hard, or are difficult to understand. You have to be able to encourage yourself to pick yourself up even when things do not go as planned.
Estefania encourages others considering starting their own business or non-profit to “go for it!” You can Google, investigate, and teach yourself a lot about opening a non-profit but the process itself is something that is unteachable and something that only you will be able to learn through the process. Just throw yourself to it and do it with intention.
When asked how she balances her GA, with her studies and working on her non-profit, Estefania laughed. She replied “I will be honest, there are times when it is not balanced”. She says you just have to prioritize what is most urgent. Sometimes it is school, other times it is the non-profit. You have to be okay with spreading yourself thin and somethings you have to compromise on and deem more important. I have learned how to let go of things and accept the outcome when I prioritize other things. I have to be compassionate and understanding with myself when I am not able to give every task my 100%.
In her spare time Estefania likes to cook. She is going back to her roots working with her grandma’s recipes and learning about new ingredients. She also likes to work on puzzles.
Dr. Jamie Benedict was nominated for a Member Spotlight for her contributions to Nevada’s SNAP-Ed program, demonstrating care for the community, and serving as a mentor to students. She is described as researcher, educator, and compassionate. Dr. Benedict has been a member of the state organization since 1990 and at one point was the President of the Northern chapter.
Dr. Benedict has served various roles during her career at the University of Nevada Reno as she has been there since 1990. She is currently the Chair of the Department of Nutrition, she has also had roles as the director of the DPD program, the director of the nutrition graduate program, and the state nutrition extension specialist. Dr. Benedict reflects that she has liked each of the roles as they allowed her to develop different skills and focus on different areas.
During her tenure as Nevada’s state extension specialist, Dr. Benedict was awarded a contract from the USDA to create the foundation for Nevada’s first Food Stamp Nutrition Education Plan (SNAP-Ed). Dr. Benedict states that the growth of this program is the direct result of dietitians, nutrition educators, administrators, and others throughout Nevada’s communities. She states she is inspired by her colleague’s creativity, perseverance, and is honored she can continue to be a small part of this.
Dr. Benedict would like to think that she makes it easier for people to achieve a healthy diet and hopes she has accomplished this through education including the education of future health professionals but also through her advocacy work in regards to school wellness policies and the development of Nevada’s SNAP-Ed program.
Dr. Benedict states that there are so many wonderful aspects about working in an academic setting so she narrowed now her favorites to three things.
Dr. Benedict has never regretted changing her major in college from geology to nutrition. She says it was the best the best thing she ever did. She is so pleased with her environment, opportunities, and the people she has met. “You can’t beat it.”
In her spare time, Dr. Benedict likes to spend time outside with her children and avid outdoorsman husband such as skiing, hiking. In her alone time, she likes to create new recipes, listen to music, and enjoy the quiet.
Darlene Dougherty, MS, RD, FAND is a 50-year member of AND who has had a diverse and involved career and is still actively practicing in dietetics. She is a former AND President, was the dietetic internship at the University of California San Francisco where she enjoyed teaching and training students, has conducted mock Joint Commission surveys across the country where she was able to test if what is taught in school is effective in practice while also assisting facilities in preparing for actual surveys, and has worked in business and industry markets such as Campbells, Kellogg's, EcoLab, General Mills, and Jack in the Box. Darlene was hired for her current position 16 years ago at a critical access facility after she conducted a mock survey. She has now completed 2 complete Joint Commission surveys at that site. Darlene has served on NvANDs Political Action Committee and as Newsletter Editor. Darlene enjoyed her time volunteering and serving on various boards throughout her career and now likes to support other younger members taking on their own leadership positions.
She is described as interesting, engaging, and involved. Darlene was nominated for a member spotlight due to her efforts not only as a former Academy president but also because of her role in helping to create and market Campbells Special Request soup line. Darlene fondly reflects that she worked with 2 other RDs on this project to try and reduce sodium in Campbell's soups so they could market to hospitals and patients. Barriers that had to be overcome during this project were determining if people really believed the soup had less sodium, if there was less sodium, did the lower-sodium version have a flavor that was at all palatable, and would it work in healthcare as well as retail markets. To test and overcome these barriers and questions, Darlene helped set up tasting samples, many in hospitals to allow RDs, MD, and nurses to become familiar with the soups. They also participated in a lot of trade shows. Darlene herself was the West Coast Representative so her role was in leadership and administration where she staffed the sample projects and trade shows and reported back their findings to Campbells. The Special Request soup line remains on the market today. Darlene also helped create Healthy Choice from ConAgra where she did the introduction kick-off for this product into the market. Darlene says she had so much fun working in this setting for a third of her career. Darlene stated that with any retail introduction of products to the market there was always the need to educate the population and media as to what the product was trying to accomplish. Overcoming the dietetic community's opinions about foods, whether it was for a particular product or even in other roles she has had in management, is always a challenge since students and RDs all have their own opinions about foods.
Darlene is getting ready to move out of state, but in her spare time she likes to travel, collect antiques, and bowl.
Darlene says she is a “butterfly lady” because “without change we would not have butterflies and so I enjoy change and the result of that change being butterflies”.
Jessica Enders RD, LDN, has been a member of NvAND since she moved to Nevada seven years ago. Jessica was nominated by multiple of her peers as a dietitian who makes a difference. She is reported as working on the frontline of counseling children with obesity and depression and being seen as a comfort for the parents of these children. She is described as engaged, passionate, and understanding.
Jessica is the director of the Healthy Hearts Program and the Children’s Heart Center in Las Vegas. Healthy Hearts is a risk reduction program for children with early obesity, pre-diabetes, high cholesterol, high triglycerides, etc. that helps not only the child but also the whole family make healthy changes to help prevent problems in the future. It is a multi-disciplinary program that addresses various aspects affecting the child’s life. Jessica says she is helping families learn how to eat and feel better. This makes her feel like she is making a difference because she is helping with the future. She says one of the best things about being a dietitian is that, ideally, you are helping people find ways to feel better on a day-to-day basis, through nutrition, exercise, and diet.
All the different possibilities that RDs have to work in different settings is what Jessica likes best about being a dietitian. For example, Jessica has worked in-patient, out-patient, in a doctors office, in a dialysis clinic. Sometimes dietitians do not realize the wide range of opportunities we have available to us which is one reason why Jessica likes the way dietetic internships are set up because you get to go to so many sites as an intern and discover opportunities you may have never even considered a RD being a part of. Being a part of organizations such as NvAND really helps identify and discover many opportunities that are out there in Jessica’s opinion.
In her spare time Jessica works with her husband at their new dog boarding business in Henderson. She also likes to travel, read, watch Netflix, and play with her animals.
Dr. Nancy Collins is a wound care certified Registered Dietitian (RD) with a varied and robust nutrition practice. Dr. Collins has been a member of NvAND since she moved to Las Vegas 10 years ago. Prior to relocating, Dr. Collins resided in Florida where she held volunteer positions for over 25 years including President of the Florida Dietetic Association, chair of the Nutrition Entrepreneurs dietetic practice group, delegate in the House of Delegates, and many more. Here in Nevada, Dr. Collins has assisted in planning the annual meeting, was the newsletter editor for three years, and participated with several committees. Dr. Collins was nominated for this spotlight for always offering to help others in addition to being very particular and doing things well. She is described as influential, entrepreneurial, and daring.
Dr. Collins built a large entrepreneurial practice over the past 30 years. Dr. Collins’ main priority is helping to heal patients, most of which have a chronic wound. Most commonly, these wounds are from a recent surgery, an accident or other trauma, diabetes, or a pressure injury. Dr. Collins’ practice also has a medical malpractice component. Dr. Collins has served as an expert witness in over 500 legal matters in which an RD has been implicated in negligence, medical malpractice, or wrongful death suits.
Dr. Collins also authors and publishes professional articles for peer-reviewed journals and textbooks and is a highly sought-after speaker for professional conferences. In addition, she is a current member of the Board of Directors of the American Professional Wound Care Association, a board member of Wound Care Gurus, an editorial board member for the journal Wound Management and Prevention, and the Academy representative to the Alliance of Wound Care Stakeholders. This involves many hours of volunteer work but Dr. Collins enjoys it and states that she likes to give back to the profession.
Dr. Collins was also the founder of the website Nutrition411, which was often referred to as the “google of dietetics and nutrition.” She reports her greatest accomplishment was starting a website from nothing, building it up, and later being able to sell it to a multi-national corporation. Creating something that others thought had that much value was certainly an accomplishment for her.
When asked what the most important skill Dr. Collins has developed, she stated she is not sure it is a skill but that she is often described as “intense.” She states that she is a little easier going now and has mellowed with age.
Dr. Collins states that her most rewarding experience came from serving as president of the Florida Dietetic Association. She was able to accomplish many of the things she aspired to during her term, felt she was a good leader, and was able to have a lot of fun while helping the Association have a successful fiscal year. She remembers she enjoyed being president so much that at the end-of-the-year banquet with several hundred Florida colleagues present, she closed her term by wishing she could be president for a full 4-year term just like the President of the US. It was that much fun!
In her spare time, Dr. Collins has various hobbies including sight-seeing and seeing shows in Las Vegas, playing video poker, and collecting Barbie and other fashion dolls.
NvAND strived to make a difference in the 2020-2021 year. During this time, we were able to spotlight 13 members who truly make a difference to their clients, co-workers, interns, community, and state.
Here is a recap of the 13 members spotlighted during the last year:
Wendy Corkrum was awarded the Outstanding Dietetic Student Award from NvAND for her academic achievement, dedication to learning, and professional potential. Wendy just graduated from UNR and is excited to start her dietetic internship in August at UNR. Wendy is described as intelligent, passionate, and driven.
Wendy was very active throughout her undergraduate career. She worked at Washoe County School District as a Nutrition Service Worker and Northern Nevada Medical Center as a Dietary Aid. She has volunteered with the Northern Nevada Food Bank, Harvest Nevada which is a local gleaning project, and Tack Provisions which is a campus program that addresses student food security issues and addresses other basic needs such as hygiene and school supply needs. This past year Wendy served as Vice-President to the UNR Student Nutrition Association.
Wendy believes you can make a difference in anyone’s life by listening to them and providing them positive encouraging support. Wendy hopes she was able to make a difference to fellow students by providing them with support and plans to continue doing this as a future RDN. Wendy plans on providing clients with sound scientifically proven advice and provide them with perspectives and tools to help them lead their healthiest lives possible. Wendy hopes she will be able to influence people’s lives at a more individual and personal level.
Wendy shared that her passion to become a RDN has evolved from her own personal struggles with her weight. During her pregnancy and the following months after the birth of her son, Wendy says she gained a significant amount of weight and found it a struggle to keep up with the demands of being a new mother. Wendy decided to focus on her health, modify her diet and the foods she had been consuming and by eventually making changes and incorporating exercise into her life she was able to lose the weight she had gained. Wendy wants to help other individuals who are overweight or struggling to manage chronic conditions by improving their habits which she feels in the long run will help improve their health and quality of life.
The most rewarding experience Wendy said she has is meeting and forming relationships with some truly amazing individuals, from faculty to other community members to students. She has been really impressed with the genuine and professional interactions that she has encountered throughout school. She says she respects these individuals and is really excited she will get to possibly interact with many of them in a career setting in the near future.
Wendy wanted to also share that she has a passion for supporting breastfeeding mothers and she has a desire to provide them and their infants with a successful and enjoyable breastfeeding experience so she does have future plans to become a certified lactation consultant which she will use alongside her RN credential.
In her spare time, Wendy likes to garden, preserving the harvest, and cooking the foods she has grown. Wendy said her hobbies have contributed to her enthusiasm for nutrition and given her additional relevant skills that she will be able to use as a future practicing RD.
Question of the Month: If you could go anywhere to dinner tonight, where would you go?
The French Laundry in Napa. Wendy’s husband is a huge foodie and that is somewhere he has always wanted to eat and I would live to be able to take him there and make his day,
Sally has been a preceptor for the past 14 years and has precepted and mentored almost 65 dietetic interns! Sally was recently awarded the Outstanding Preceptor Award from the Academy. Sally is 1 of only 7 preceptors selected nationwide for this honor. Click here to read more about this award. Sally is described as dedicated, loyal, and pragmatic.
Sally is a clinical nutrition manager at University Medical Center in Las Vegas. She has been contracted in foodservice management for over 39 years, primarily through Compass Group. Sally started working at UMC in 2014 when the dietitians were just beginning to use electronic health records. In Sally words she was sent to UMC to be a “cheerleader” to help guide the RDs into the transition from paper hard charts to electronic health records. She reports she was sent due to her previous experience with technology in a former role. She recounts that the temporary cheerleading job transitioned into a permanent position at UMC. Some previous experience in business and industry include directing food service in businesses industries such as Automaker Plant, schools and colleges, and summer camps.
Before UMC, Sally worked at Eisenhower Medical Center in California which is where she began precepting in 2007. Sally shares she would never have been able to help these many interns without a very dedicated staff of RDs. The team of RDs that Sally leads each spends 1 week with clinical interns to introduce them and explore the specialty that dietitians focus on in his or her daily work.
Sally makes a difference as a dietitian through her professionalism and work ethic. These traits serve as a role model for anyone that has spent time with Sally. Sally makes a difference as a preceptor through her passion for the profession which inspires interns to “strive to make the best better”. She always has time for intern’s questions, concerns, fears, and accomplishments. Sally states she is known for setting the bar high and most interns strive to pass the bar.
The variety is what Sally likes best about being a preceptor. She says that each intern is unique and it is always a new experience with each day, you never know what is going to unfold.
Sally’s advice for RDs who want to precept is that you need to have a lot of energy, time, and patience. She goes on to say that you have to be a great motivator, because you are truly modeling the future of our profession. Preceptors need to build a relationship with each intern so you are able to understand them and bring out their assets and help them build upon things they need to grow on.
Sally advises future and current interns to find a mentor in the profession and be open to their guidance, helpful tips, and perhaps spend some time building a friendship with that person.
In her spare time Sally likes to travel around the world, enjoys fine foods, and during her travels Sally collects beads and stones which she ultimately designs into jewelry.
Question of the Month:
What is an unusual food pairing you love?
Avocado and beets, or hot tamale peeps and TAB soft drink
Debbie Klein is an RD who has worked at Renown Hospital in Reno for the last 22 years. Debbie has been a member of NvAND for 24 years. Debbie has served multiple positions on the NvAND board which she reflects was a most valuable experience. Debbie served as Public Policy Chair for 6 years, then served as President-Elect/President/Past-President for NvAND. Debbie was nominated for her nurturing nature to new RDs and assisting interns with entry into the field, her obvious love for her complex career in the ICU, and for being a great example of daily passion for her job. She is described as energetic, inspiring, and dedicated.
Working in the Trauma Unit at Renown as a critical care RD inspired Debbie to become specialized in her field and she became certified as a Clinical Nutrition Support RD and has also been a member of ASPEN. Debbie states that she is passionate about what she does and the way in which she does it.
Integrating into a team and bringing new ideas for the good of the team as well as the patients is one way Debbie makes a difference as an RD. Debbie explained that she is very forward thinking and serves as an agent for change and progress. Debbie reflects that she has had the opportunity to gather ideas through attending conferences and leadership conferences while serving the Academy that she was able to bring back and introduce at her hospital to bring forth new ideas and policy change.
The most important skill Debbie feels she has developed as a clinical RD and serving a role in public policy is the confidence that she is a nutrition expert. As a young RD Debbie felt she lacked the confidence to speak up. She explains that when she became Public Policy Chair of NvAND she knew nothing about public policy. This did not stop her from taking the position and going to Washington DC every year. This experience allowed her to build her confidence as a nutrition expert because she was promoting nutrition knowledge to people who did not know about nutrition. This served as a confidence booster for her. She says this also translates to her job in the hospital as she continues to be the nutrition expert for others who do not know about nutrition.
Reflecting on her career Debbie confesses she has had many memorable and rewarding experiences and could not narrow it down to just one. Debbie listed the following: gaining self confidence as a young RD, initiating policy change in the hospital she works, having a conversation with a MD that lead to a hospital policy change, introducing the concept of RD involvement in bedside feeding tube placement and resulting policy change, her experience serving on the NvAND board was a time of growth both personally and professionally as it allowed her to make many life-long friendships that continue today while being active in NvAND, learning during her time as Public Policy Chair, attending leadership classes which produced changes in both her personal and professional life, she is proud to have been involved introducing the idea for dietitian licensure in the state of Nevada while she was serving as President-Elect and working as part of a great team where she learned on mean different levels, and she is glad she came up with the idea to hire NvAND’s first professional website designer and first administrative aid.
Debbie loves to spend time with her family and friends which she has missed over the last year and also likes hike, bike, and travel.
Question of the Month: Sweet, Salty, or Sour?
I love the sweet and salty combination, it makes my taste buds go wild!
Supporting Nevada Nutrition Professionals