2021 Awardees



Vandana Sheth, RDN, CDCES, FAND



Vandana Sheth is a nationally recognized and award winning registered dietitian nutritionist, certified diabetes care and education specialist, and owner of a successful private practice in the Los Angeles area. She has over two decades experience and specializes in intuitive eating, vegetarian nutrition, diabetes and family nutrition. She is passionate about having a positive impact in the world. Through speaking engagements, media segments, and one on one connections at her private practice, she communicates positive food and nutrition messages in the midst of all the noise. She has actively
participated and volunteered her time and energy towards this cause at the state and national level organizations. As a strong proponent of diversity, she has served on the advisory board of diversify dietetics since the beginning, is the diversity liaison for the Indians in Dietetics member interest group and has presented on this important topic through panel discussions at the national level.

Vandana graduated summa cum laude from California State University, Los Angeles, completed a certificate program in gerontology, certificate program in Food Allergy Management, is a certified intuitive eating counselor, and is board certified as a diabetes educator.

As a National Media Spokesperson for the Association of Diabetes Care & Education Specialists and Former National Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics representing one of the largest media markets, she is a valuable resource for expert commentary, story ideas and background on a full range of food and nutrition topics. She has done over a thousand media interviews and is frequently quoted in print publications as well as TV and online media. In addition to her work with the news media, she has also written articles for various news outlets and is the published author of a cookbook. Vandana shares her food and nutrition philosophy through dynamic speaking engagements and is frequently invited to present at local and national events reaching a wide audience.

In her free time, she loves to dance, go on long hikes with their dog shadow, make quick and tast ymeals, enjoy fine wine and dining experiences, as well as spend quality time with her husband and two young adult sons.




Throughout my career I have been actively involved in the California Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. As a student at San Diego State University, I was the student liaison to the board. My internship at Massachusetts General Hospital involved interns in many activities of the Academy, including the annual statewide meeting! Early on my  reasons for participating in our professional organization were to promote better practice, expand the role of RD’s in the community and meet great people! In the past 5 years, I have served as San Diego District President, and currently serving as Vice President of Public Policy for the California Academy of Nutrition Executive Board in my second term. Although this is an extremely challenging role, it is very rewarding to be part of legislation efforts across all aspects of nutrition. Serving on the executive board has been a great time in professional growth and enhancing my leadership skills. I am very honored to have been recognized by my fellow board members in San Diego for this Distinguished Service Award.

An important facet of my career is teaching the next generation of nutrition professionals. My education experience started early in my clinical career, with an award from San Diego State University for Outstanding Preceptor. I continue to mentor interns at Sharp Healthcare and lecture for several dietetic internship programs, including WIC in San Diego. In the past 5 years, education of undergraduate, graduate students and dietetic interns has become my primary focus. Currently, I instruct practical aspects of nutrition therapy and community nutrition to students in the undergraduate program at San Diego State University. As an instructor in introduction nutrition courses at Palomar College has broadened my teaching skills. It is truly an honor to have been recognized for this by the California Academy with an Excellence in Education Award in 2018.

My education background includes both undergraduate and graduate degrees from San Diego State University, and Dietetic Internship at Massachusetts General Hospital. I have been a Registered Dietitian since 1990, currently working in clinical nutrition for Sharp Healthcare. My past clinical experience working as an advanced practitioner for critical care. I have been fortunate to have authored and co-authored several evidence-based practice projects and posters, including an Abstract of Distinction during ASPEN’s 2007 Nutrition Week. Our ICU Feeding Tube Team has also been recognized for excellence by Sharp Healthcare for safety and efficacy in placement of feeding tubes and early feeding of critical care patients. A defining moment in my career was being recognized by the Academy with an Excellence in Clinical Nutrition Practice Award in 2008. I truly enjoy bringing my clinical experience to the classroom.

I am very grateful for a full schedule and inspiring career. I highly value balance and make time to enjoy the great outdoors. My hobbies include hiking, biking, surfing, and yoga.



Nelida Duran, PhD, MS, RD

Nelida Duran, is an Associate Professor in the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences,  a registered dietitian and a Co-Director of the Health Equity Research and Education (HERE) Center at CSUN.  Her research interests include arctic indigenous food systems, global environment change and its impact on food and nutrition security, the role of nutrition in eliminating health disparities, and the translation of nutrigenetics, nutrigenomics, and epigenetics in clinical and public health nutrition. 




Tonce Jackson, Ed.D., MPH, RDN, CLE

Toncé Jackson, Ed.D., MPH, RDN, CLE is the Senior Health Equity Manager for the PHFE WIC Program in Los Angeles, CA. She has 13 years of progressive experience at the WIC Program in the field of community and public health nutrition. Starting her journey as a WIC Clerk, completing the PHFE WIC dietetic internship, and becoming a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) and Certified Lactation Educator (CLE), Toncé has demonstrated the ability to develop innovative, community and place-based solutions. In 2015, she co-created CinnaMoms, a modern breastfeeding and parenthood program for Black families at the PHFE WIC program. Dr. Jackson has local, state, and national experience in the field of community and public health nutrition. In 2020, the Los Angeles District (LAD) of the California Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (CAND) invited Dr. Jackson as a thought leader panelist for the Town Hall Listening Session. She shared her experience as a RDN by exploring recommendations to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion at LAD. Dr. Jackson is currently co-Chair of Heluna Health’s Workplace Inclusion task force. She is actively involved with the California WIC Association where she has presented at statewide conferences and has served on committees. Toncé served as Chair of the National WIC Association Maternal Mortality Taskforce (2018-2020) where she helped identify WIC’s role in improving maternal health outcomes. In 2020, she presented on the “State of Maternal Health” panel discussion alongside the U.S. Surgeon General.

Dr. Jackson is a recent graduate from Cal State University, Los Angeles, Doctorate in Educational Leadership program. She also holds a Master’s degree in Public Health Nutrition from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and a Bachelor’s degree in Nutritional Science from Cal State University, Los Angeles.

Dr. Toncé Jackson would like to thank the Los Angeles Dietetic Association for their nomination and to the Awards Committee for their consideration.


Sunny Yingling, MS, RD, CSSD



Sunny is the Director of Nutrition with Plan Health & Fitness in Fresno, California. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Biola University in physical education and earned her master’s degree in nutrition science at San Jose State University. Sunny then returned to her home town to complete her dietetic internship with CSU Fresno. Her graduate research focused on the effects of fish oil supplements on cardiovascular disease risk; this research was presented at the annual meetings of both the California Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in 2008.

Sunny has been providing outpatient nutrition counseling since becoming a dietitian, and specializes in eating disorders, sports nutrition, and weight management. In addition to nutrition counseling, Sunny has coordinated cooking classes for adolescents working toward recovery from eating disorders. She also taught nutrition at Clovis Community College Center for several years and was the dietitian for the former Summit Eating Disorder and Outreach Program’s intensive outpatient program. She is a Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics with the Commission on Dietetic Registration and enjoys serving the needs of high school, collegiate, and recreational athletes. Sunny has provided nutrition education through presentations to varying audiences across the Central Valley and has made many public appearances for local media. Sunny released her book, Recover: Finding Freedom with Food Again, in March 2020. She is also a published writer for various websites and you can find her blog posts at http://www.planhealthfitness.com/bulletin/.

Sunny lives with her awesome husband and 3 very active children in Clovis, California and appreciates being able to serve the community she grew up in. She is thankful to be in private practice where she gets to balance family and work life. She has helped lead Plan Health and Fitness’ run club for several years and you can often find her family out on the running trails. Sunny grew up with a passion for sports and recreation and loves that she gets to incorporate these interests into her professional pursuits. You can find her on social media including Instagram @sunnyyingling or #mysunnystylediet.



 Claire Ryan Saxton, MS, RD, CSNC

Claire is the Director of Food and Clinical Nutrition Services at Kaiser Santa Clara Medical Center. She received her undergraduate degree in Nutrition Sciences at Cornell University and then went on to the combined Master's degree and internship program at Tufts University and Frances Stern Nutrition Center. She started her career as a clinical dietitian, working at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, Johns Hopkins Children's Center in Baltimore, and Kaiser Santa Clara.

As director, Claire oversees a food service and clinical staff of 50 people. Claire has used her clinical background to work with the Northern California Food and Nutrition Services leaders on Nutrition Care Process charting and Nutrition Focused Physical Exams. She is the management co-lead for the Kaiser Northern California labor-management partnership group started in 2020, involving front line dietitians and managers. Leveraging experts from throughout the region, the group works on projects to improve clinical care. As a member of the Registered Dietitian III selection committee and a regional survey readiness team, Claire worked to promote the accomplishments of dietitians and share best practices.

Claire appreciates the support of the Kaiser Santa Clara leaders and the Kaiser National Nutrition Services team. She would like to thank the Silicon Valley District for the nomination and CAND for selecting her for this award.



Brittney Patterson, MS, RD, CNSC, CCTD

Brittney Patterson graduated with her bachelor’s degree from San Jose State University (SJSU) as the “Outstanding Bachelor of Science in Dietetics” in December 2013.  She completed her dietetic internship at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in August 2014, where during her internship she created a nutrition support team.  In May 2016, she graduated from SJSU with her master’s degree in Nutritional Science.

Since 2015, Brittney has worked at Stanford Health Care, where she provides compassionate and innovative care to all her patients.  While working with the liver transplant population, she integrated the use of a novel frailty assessment tool among the pre-liver transplant population that helped prioritize nutrition for improving post-transplant outcomes.  Over the past 2 years Brittney has focused her care on the medical, surgical, and neurology ICU patient population.  During the COVID-19 pandemic, she saw an opportunity to improve the long term care of her COVID ICU patients by creating a protocol for PEG tube placements for COVID-19 patients.  Brittney also aided with displaced dietetic interns during the pandemic by creating and implementing a four week online e-clinical rotation. 

Beyond her daily job and sharing her knowledge with her fellow RDs, nurses, and doctors, she is invested in the success of clinical dietetics by mentoring students and interns.  She also aspires to advance the global knowledge of clinical nutrition by publishing in journals and presenting at professional events. 



Mary Nicole Regina Lesser, PhD, RD

Originally a Northern California native, Mary is currently a Researcher at Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute and Pediatric Dietitian at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital, Oakland. As well, she is a Continuing Lecturer in the Nutritional Sciences and Toxicology Department at the University of California, Berkeley. Nutrition is and has been her major field of study for the past eighteen years! The field has allowed her to pursue a passion for research, education, as well as practicing in the clinical setting. Mary obtained a Bachelor of Science degree at UC Davis in Clinical Nutrition with a minor in Human Development and then went on to complete her Master of Science degree in Nutrition at Tufts University in Boston, MA. While working on her Masters, Mary completed her Dietetic Internship at Tufts Medical Center and is currently a Registered Dietitian. Mary then returned to UC Davis to complete her PhD in Nutritional Biology, with an emphasis in Developmental Nutrition. 

Mary chose Nutrition because she has always felt that following a healthy lifestyle and eating pattern are very important and have always incorporated (as well as encourage) this philosophy into her own life as well as the life of others. She is one who likes to have a little variety in her life so as of right now, her future plans include pursuing a career that involves research, clinical work, teaching, and translating science into community outreach efforts.



Stephen Degler

Stephen Degler is a Dietetic Intern from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona where he will finish his internship in June of 2021. A native of La Verne, California, that has spent many years in the food service industry before returning to advance his education. His contribution in the community involved both volunteering and outreach in Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties of California. He volunteered in multiple local community settings including food pantries, serving and sharing meals to the food insecure community, and urban sustainable farming practices. As a volunteer health coach for the Community Health Improvement Program of San Antonio Regional Hospital in Upland, CA he worked directly with community members afflicted by chronic diseases by supporting patient program compliance. He volunteered for both San Antonio Regional Hospital in their Nutrition Services Department and Redlands Unified School District in their Child Nutrition Services department. Amassing over 300 clinical volunteer hours and over 80 food service volunteer hours while being a student. He was named lead volunteer at San Antonio Regional Hospital and was in charge of recruiting and training new volunteers.

Prior to being accepted into the internship program, Stephen completed his undergrad at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. During his undergrad, he achieved two associate degrees in both Social & Behavioral Sciences and Mathematics & Science, a Physiology Minor, and a Bachelor of Science in Didactic Program in Dietetics. He received both Dean’s List and President’s Honor List recognition from 2018 to 2020. As a student, he was heavily involved in the student nutrition organization Foods & Nutrition Forum. He quickly became involved in the nutrition club on campus and was elected for positions including Ag Representative, Vice-President-elect, and President. As the Vice President-elect his junior year, he acted as a co-leader with the president while coordinating and scheduling all the club’s events and speakers throughout the year. As the club president his senior year, he led a group of over 20 student elected board members and acted as a liaison between the faculty and the club members. Stephen was also involved in multiple other clubs as a member including Phi Upsilon Omicron Honor Society.

He was the Nutrition and Food Science department selected student speaker for Farm to Table 2020 event which was canceled due to COVID-19, instead his speech was published on the University website. During his Senior year he also took on the position of research assistant to a Master’s student at the University to aid in her research on probiotics and gut-brain connection to determine supplementation effects on IBS, depression, and anxiety. Upon completing the internship, He plans to take the Commission on Dietetic Registration Examination and work in the clinical field. He also plans to start a Master’s program in Public Health in the next 2 years. Working in the healthcare system has always been a goal for Stephen, having the ability to combine nutrition and healthcare is a dream come true. Stephen resides in Upland, California with his wife and plans on continuing to give back to the community that inspired his interest in Dietetics.



Fatinah Darwish, MPH, RDN


Ms. Fatinah Darwish provides programmatic oversight to CalFresh Healthy Living funded partners in the healthcare sector as well as provides technical assistance and support to clinics in the Department of Public Health (DPH) and Department of Health Services (DHS) to implement food insecurity screening and refer patients to resources such as food pantries and CalFresh. As part of the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program (GusNIP), Produce Prescription Project (PPR), Ms. Darwish coordinates activities and provides program guidance to PPR partners. She also leads the coalition, Nutrition Access LA, a network of multi-sector partners across Los Angeles County working together to increase food security. Prior to DPH, Ms. Darwish worked four years as a clinical registered dietitian at PIH Health Hospital – Downey and Kindred Healthcare. She conducted individualized nutrition assessments and interventions to patients with cardiovascular disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and other diet-related chronic diseases. Ms. Darwish received a Bachelor of Science in Human Ecology from the Ohio State University and completed her dietetic internship at the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System. She obtained a Master of Public Health from University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).




James Childers, MS, RDN currently works as a full-time lecturer of nutrition at California State University, Long Beach. He served as the interim Dietetic Internship director this past Fall semester to a wonderful group of interns. James is also a proud alumnus of the DPD and MS/DI programs at CSULB.

As a lecturer, he takes a no-nonsense approach when it comes to nutrition and educating his students, aiming to help them rebuild their food relationships and correcting nutrition misinformation and misconceptions in the media. Dealing with mostly freshman students, they are more prone to falling for misinformation, so providing accurate and actionable nutrition information is a cornerstone aspect of his classes and education philosophy.

James started his dietetics career as an outpatient oncology RD with UCLA where he spent much of his free time learning about oncology nutrition and developing recipes and handouts for patients to help ensure they had a plethora of food options to keep them nourished during and after treatment.  He enjoys hiking, exploring what Southern California nature has to offer, trying new foods, and is an avid ice cream lover!

He is honored to have his work as Historian, Social Media, and Communications chair with the California Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics-Orange District recognized, earning him the Recognized Young Dietitian of the Year Award. He looks forward to further involvement within the profession.



 Jaclyn Gaylis Kirschen, MS, RD 


Jaclyn Gaylis Kirschen, MS, RD is the founder and Registered Dietitian behind the virtual private practice, Eat Right 4 Life, specializing in weight loss, bariatrics and childhood obesity. She works with adults, kids and families who are overwhelmed with how to lose weight and are tired of dieting, so they can finally feel confident in their bodies, enjoy food without feeling guilty, finally lose weight and keep it off for good. Having been through her own personal 65-pound weight loss journey, Jackie is passionate about helping individuals create a sustainable healthy lifestyle while enjoying the foods they love. She is also the Registered Dietitian for a bariatric private practice and prepares patients before and after their weight loss surgery. Jackie has a member of California Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics since 2014 and is currently the incoming President for California Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics San Diego chapter. She has served on the Public Policy committee, as Membership Chair and now President elect. Jackie graduated from San Diego State University with a Master’s degree in Nutritional Science and completed a rigorous clinical dietetic internship at the VA San Diego Healthcare System. Jackie is honored to receive the 2021 Recognized Young Dietitian Award and looks forward to continuing her service on the board on CAND-SD as President this upcoming year. When she is



Kevin Rogers, RDN

Kevin graduated from San Jose State University with a B.S. in Nutritional Science with a concentration in Dietetics in 2016.  Kevin completed his dietetic internship at the acute care hospital Regional Medical Center of San Jose in 2017.  Shortly thereafter, Kevin started working as a clinical dietitian at the same hospital, where he continues to work today.  Kevin is currently in his 3rd year as the VP of Membership for the Silicon Valley District of the California Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.  Through his role as the VP of membership, Kevin continues to advocate for the dietetics profession by promoting health and nutrition at the community level.  In 2019 Kevin partnered with a personal trainer, and longtime friend, to start the business Silicon Valley Nutrition and Performance (SVNP).  Through SVNP, Kevin provides custom nutrition programming, and medical nutrition therapy for clients looking to achieve their fitness and nutrition goals.  During his free time, Kevin competes in powerlifting and rock-climbing events.  He also likes to travel the world and ski. 




Brittany Stobbe, RDN










50year Members


Salma M. Alikhan

Peggy A. Blitz

Carla M. Bouchard

Elinor R. Crumedy

Gail C. Frank

Susan Be. Foerster

Janet C. Foos

Patricia A. Forrester

Elaine S. Groen

Clara A. Harris

Anne S. John

Lucy M. McProud

Marilyn Nepkie 

Susan A. Pierce

Janice H. Shigehara

Maria Thanopoulousau

Sara Jane Vinson

Fang-Ling Wang

Rosemary L. Wootton

Helen E. Yeo