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A Great Honor – Serving as President of the Florida Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

By Peggy O’Neill, Vice President, Nutrition and Wellness for Morrison Healthcare

On October 1, Peggy O’Neill became president of the Florida Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, a nonprofit association of more than 3,000 dietetics and nutrition professionals who promote optimal nutrition and health for all Floridians. Her blog discusses how the organization helped shape her career and her plans for the academy’s growth.

I joined Florida Academy’s Miami chapter when I was a freshman in college at Florida International University. This organization has meant a lot to me for more than two decades. I love science and food, so to be part of a group of people with a similar ideology is invigorating.

As a student, I received a lot of support from older members, so now I try to pay it forward whenever I can. During the past two decades, I’ve headed the organization’s public policy and district president groups and served as treasurer and president-elect. Like any organization, it offers the benefits of networking with other like-minded people, keeping me engaged with others who share my passion.

But it’s more than that. For one, I’ve received an incredible education about how government affects nutrition. In 2001, I chaired the organization’s Public Policy committee when President Bill Clinton signed the Medical Nutrition Therapy Act. For the first time, this piece of legislation allowed registered dietitians to charge Medicare patients with diabetes or kidney disease for our nutrition therapy services.

As part of our organization’s lobbying efforts, I met with legislators and their staff in Washington and Tallahassee, so I learned how legislation works. I was born in The Netherlands, where involvement in government is minimal, so this experience was inspiring. It served as a tremendous education on how things get done.

I learned that the best way to make changes in our careers, to be valued and get paid appropriately for our services, is to work with the people who make the rules and the laws. I realize many people view our government as often slow and ineffective. But I believe, if you have the patience and stamina to see an issue through, an important result can be achieved.

Going Forward, My Hopes for Our Organization

The Florida academy has faced a series of challenges during the past two years. We closed our headquarters and for the first time in 30 years, we had to function without a headquarters staff. But due to the hard work of two former presidents, Melissa Payne and Mandy Layman, our finances have improved significantly, allowing us to reinvest in the kind of services our members want – and need.

With this backdrop, my team and I developed a theme for the upcoming year called “Reset and Regrow.” Our organization needs to do everything in its power to ensure our members have access to the resources and support they need.

For example, when it comes to resources, we hold monthly seminars and webinars where members can learn about a variety of topics and obtain the credits needed for their license. And, I want to communicate more often about our grassroots efforts to support key state and federal legislation.

In addition, members can look forward to the following events:

  • Three live events, including a Florida Member’s reception at the Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo 2022 in Orlando – our first expo since 2019
  • Our Legislative Day Workshop is tied to the state legislative session
  • A revamped online and hard copy Diet Manual
  • A new Diversity and Inclusion site with new tools and training resources

Fortunately, many of the skills I’ve learned at Morrison can be used to help our organization get back on track. As president, the position requires managing projects to get a result that moves the organization forward. And my experience in budgeting and finance helps us stay on track financially, especially during a period when funds are tight.

Without a doubt, our future is bright. Our new leadership team is lean, strong, and dedicated to bringing Florida Academy members the resources they need to be able to meet the nutritional needs of all Floridians. Working with our board of directors and other leaders, I’m looking forward to helping shape our profession, finding ways to continue bringing innovative and functional resources to our members.

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