FNCE® 2018 Opening Session Remarks

10/22/2018 - Below are the prepared remarks by Academy President Mary Russell, MS, RDN, LDN, FAND, at the Opening Session of the 2018 Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo October 20 in Washington, D.C.

The following videos were featured at the FNCE® 2018 Opening Session:

  • Feeling the Food Connection: This video spotlights the accomplishments of Academy members throughout the country in a variety of practice settings.
  • MQii Transitions of Care: In collaboration with Avalere Health and with the support of Abbott Nutrition, the Academy is working to advance patient-centered malnutrition care and develop real-world solutions.
  • "Make Others Look Good": Introduction of Judith A. Gilbride, PhD, RDN, FAND, recipient of the 2018 Marjorie Hulsizer Copher Award, the Academy's highest honor. The award was presented by a representative of Barnes-Jewish Hospital, in St. Louis, Mo.

President Mary Russell, MS, RDN, LDN, FAND, Opening Session Remarks

I’m so happy to see you all. Thank you so much! And welcome to our nation's capital! I am so grateful to be with you today.

I have been a very proud Academy member since 1984, when I completed my internship and our annual meeting was last held right here.

You know, I remember that October, I was a first-time mother of a 5-month-old, and I debated long about making the trip to D.C. I pored over the brochure, marveling over the innovative sessions presented by accomplished speakers, and the creative abstracts developed by many people whose names I had heard and whose work I admired.

Ultimately, I decided to stay home, and never dreamed I'd be back 34 years later, and on this stage.

I'm happy to share that my little "distraction" over thirty years ago, my first-born son Aaron, is here with us today, as is his younger brother Ben. In our house they’re affectionately also known as "A" and "B."

My overarching vision is that we embrace the challenges and opportunities we face to merge health, agriculture and wellness, to best serve our communities, our country, and people around the world.

As I reflected how best to talk with you about my view of our organization and our members, I turned to the four "cultural levers" recently adopted by my employer, Baxter International. These cultural levers drive the actions and activities of all of Baxter's thousands of employees, and describe a culture defined by:

Speed. Simplicity. Courage. And Collaboration.

I love the ideas and aspirations that these four "levers" represent. They apply to our Academy – and to each of us.

Let me give you just a few examples of what I mean.

We see simplicity and collaboration in the continued work of Donna Martin with her national leadership in the crucial area of school nutrition. From her special dual platform as an Academy leader and an innovative school nutrition director – the first to ever serve as an Academy president – Donna continues to do pioneering work with clear messages, bringing together schools, farmers, educators and policy makers. She is a remarkable example for us all.

The Academy's revised Code of Ethics, effective June 1 of this year, has as its primary goal: "The protection of the individuals, groups, organizations, communities or populations with whom the practitioner works and interacts….Science-based decisions, derived from the best available research and evidence, are the underpinnings of ethical conduct and practice."

The revised Code represents the collaboration of a committed Task Force and a strong Ethics Committee who were determined to laser focus on the need for civility, respect and support for the values of our profession. The Code was revised well ahead of schedule thanks to a focus on appropriate speed, thoughtful collaboration, and the courage of our convictions as professionals: to give voice to the ethical aspects of evolving cultural drivers such as social media.

Looking at the scope and accomplishments of our focus on malnutrition, I note the levers speed and collaboration. These terms apply both to the work we have done on malnutrition to date, and to the partnerships, vision and commitment needed to address this devastating health crisis in the future.

Speed and collaboration describe how Academy member volunteers and our Headquarters Team drive our accomplishments in Washington, D.C., in the areas of public policy and advocacy.

Thanks to your generous donations, the Academy's Political Action Committee, ANDPAC, continues to help us create and cultivate meaningful relationships with decision makers. I am very happy to tell you that this year, the Academy has supported 112 candidates, giving us a valuable opportunity to educate Congress about important programs that benefit our country. We'll hear more about ANDPAC and its great work on Monday at the Member Showcase.

In July, shortly after Academy members participated in action alerts and met with congressional offices during the Diabetes Treatment and Prevention Advocacy Day, Senators Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire and Susan Collins of Maine introduced the Expanding Access to Diabetes Self-Management Training Act to improve access for Medicare beneficiaries.

Representatives Diana DeGette of Colorado and Tom Reed of New York had earlier introduced a companion bill in the House. We have been advocating many years for this and now we are seeing it move forward.

I am sure all of you have heard of the Foundation’s Second Century Initiative, which expands the Foundation’s existing programs, making them more global, and emphasizing on research, collaboration and sustainability.

A prime example of this is the Foundation's growing Fellowship Program, which has identified and nurtured some truly exceptional individuals.

These Academy members and fellows, shown on the screen, have been conducting research, educating and sharing outcomes that improve and sustain nutritional health, both locally and globally.

For more about the work the Foundation's fellows, please consider attending tomorrow’s session, "Expanding Horizons: RDN Fellows Advancing Strategies to Address Global Malnutrition" to hear from Stephen Alajajian and Alice Figueroa about their groundbreaking work in Guatemala.

Courage and collaboration are the hallmarks of any effective leader, so I am ecstatic to announce to you today that the Academy will bring back our popular Leadership Institute.

One of our most popular Leadership Institute speakers was Simon T. Bailey, a superb motivator who will join us at FNCE® on Tuesday as our Closing Session keynote speaker.

The Leadership Institute was a tremendous member benefit, and we are thrilled to be bringing it back. More information will be available soon!

Preparing for, and serving as, the Academy's 2018-2019 President has offered me the great pleasure of meeting and speaking with members and future members, students and retirees, hearing your stories, celebrating your successes, listening to your concerns, and sharing my goals for the Second Century of our Academy and our profession.

Each day brings the story of another astonishing experience — an inspirational life story … an approach to serving our patients and clients — that amazes me and makes me grateful that you and I are part of the same organization, the same profession.

For example, I recently talked with Lois Leslie, of Sun City, Arizona. She has been an Academy member since 1954. She attended 28 consecutive annual meetings, and was honored as a fifty-year member in 2004. Lois is truly delightful, and justifiably not shy about her many accomplishments. She has long retired and has remained loyal to our organization and passionate about our profession for over 64 years.

Lois is an inspiration and an exceptional role model! Lois is unable to be here but asked us to "bring me some things back from the D.C. FNCE®."

During and after the recent natural disasters that have affected many parts of our country, members have exemplified the lever of courage that I mentioned earlier. They embody the energy and commitment we admire, and model for us the opportunities to dive in to adversity and offer help.

Please join me in recognizing all Academy members, students, colleagues, friends and family who live in those areas – particularly the members and students who have been able to join us here in D.C. You have battled adversity with strength and positivity during the most trying of times, and we salute you.

The Foundation's Disaster Relief Fund supports the life-rebuilding efforts of members and other professionals and students who are affected by disasters. Last year, thanks in large part to a generous donation of 100,000 dollars from the Academy’s Board of Directors, and individual members who supported the fund, the Foundation provided over 105,000 dollars to 77 credentialed practitioners and students affected by natural disasters.

The Disaster Relief Fund is accepting applications now, through the Foundation's website, for those affected by recent disasters.

Finally: At the Board of Directors' annual planning retreat in July, we spent a great deal of time talking about the future. Our future.

Drawing on fascinating presentations by Academy expert leaders and stimulating group discussions, we explored proposed new education and credentialing models that can best prepare students for the changing environment that is impacting our profession.

As we take advantage of all opportunities to serve the needs of tomorrow, you, Academy members, are leading the way as you have done for more than a century.

Now it's time for thanks, and probably a few tears.

My husband Jim, and our sons Aaron and Ben, who are here with me today, have offered constant support and encouragement – and great ideas – and have made many sacrifices which allowed me to work with the Academy for over 30 years. Deepest thanks and much love to you all!

To my "home" DPG, Dietitians in Nutrition Support: you all rock! Your friendship and the opportunities you offered to me mean the world. Thanks for believing in me and encouraging me to assume the challenge of representing you all here.

And to the Academy's amazing Headquarters Team, thank you from the bottom of my heart. You all embody the "levers" of speed and collaboration, working long and creative hours, often far behind the scenes, to turn vision into reality.

This year we have special synchronicity, with PPW directly following FNCE®.

This is a perfect springboard to turn our commitment into action.

So whether you are continuing on here, in D.C., for our policy workshop, or taking action at the grassroots level back home, we can tackle malnutrition and all the issues so important to each one of us.

Our mission is to stay active, stay involved and stay engaged.

The Academy's 2016 Nutrition Impact Summit challenged us to collaborate, commit and innovate in agriculture, food security and the culture of health. We have developed a bold vision for the future and you, our members, will change everything.

I want to meet you, here at FNCE® and throughout the rest of this Academy year. If you see me, please stop and say hello!

It is an honor for me to lead this change with you. We are making nutrition history together!

Thank you!

Go forth and enjoy a terrific FNCE® 2018!!!


Thank you all for joining me for what I know will be a spectacular Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo. Please take advantage of all the educational sessions, networking opportunities and the Expo Hall.

If you see me in the hallways or session rooms, please stop and say hello – I would love to talk with you!

Finally – remember, we are just getting started! Even after our spectacular FNCE® wraps up on Tuesday, Washington, D.C., will experience the passion and the power of more than a thousand Academy members, advocating for our profession and for an end to malnutrition!

We have a great week in store. And whether you are joining us all week and staying for the Public Policy Workshop, or if you are bringing your voice back to your community after FNCE® – the goal is the same:

Let's keep advocating – for us, for our profession, and for the policies and programs that will create a healthier country and a healthier world.