Executive Board

President 2019 -2020

Nancy Banda, MHA, RD 


What excites you most about being a volunteer leader?
NANCY: For me, volunteering has been about helping those in need by giving of myself.  When I was younger, I volunteered; now I coach and mentor, which allows me to give back to others because of my life’s experiences.  I have gained much knowledge and learned and perfected new skills through volunteering that has made an important difference in my life. Volunteerings has provided me:

  • a chance to learn and practice new skills as I move along life’s journey, which helps me overcome fear and build self-confidence;
  • an opportunity to meet new people from completely different walks of life, which has allowed me to develop life-long relationships;
  • a chance to do something that important, which brings me happiness when doing the work so I want to spend more time volunteering; and
  • an opportunity for continued activity that helps keep me mentally and physically fit.

 In closing, I want to share a quote that remains an important part of my life.

If you want to touch the past, touch a rock.
If you want to touch the present, touch a flower.
If you want to touch the future, touch a life.
- Author Unknown

President Elect 2019-2020

Dorothy Chen-Maynard, PhD, RDN, FAND

Immediate Past President

Golnaz Friedman, RD 

What's the best advice you've received from a mentor?
GOLNAZ: The best advice I ever received from a mentor was “Say yes to the things that scare you most!” As an early career dietitian, I have been inclined to say yes to many opportunities that have come my way as I view these opportunities as the key to my professional growth. However, I have been quick to want to turn down the more challenging opportunities—the ones that I did not think I had enough experience, knowledge, or skills to pursue. Over the years I have found that saying yes to these opportunities, even when I did not believe in myself, is what led to not only my professional growth but also overall growth. I have found the secret to making it through is to have a support system—a professional mentor, a trusted colleague, a best friend who is always a phone call away and a loving family who is always there. Even then, it’s okay to not always get it right the first time around. But don’t stop trying!


Secretary & Treasurer

Carrie Der Garabedian, MBA, RD, CFPM


What excites you the most about being a volunteer leader?
CARRIE: There are so many opportunities that excite me!

V=Variety of ways to volunteer 
O=Opportunities to learn new skills 
L=Leadership development, lifelong friendships 
U=Using my talents in ways I never imagined 
N=Networking is priceless 
T=Tremendous personal gratification 
E=Energizes my creativity 
E=Empowering myself to stretch my boundaries 
R=Realistic opportunities for collaboration

Working with dynamic, earth-moving, heart-warning people, the latitude to help shape the organization’s direction, and mentoring less experienced colleagues are a few of reasons I LOVE to work with California Academy members. My personal growth is impossible to quantify.  It is my honor and privilege to work with my esteemed colleagues!


VP Communications

Erin Lehman


Co-Chair of Delegates

Rory Caswell Pace, MPH, RD, CSR


What professional traits do you believe are most valuable in our profession, and why?
RORY: I believe that dietitians can do anything and have the skills to achieve success in numerous roles. Critical thinking, seeing the big picture, and commitment to lifelong learning are three key traits. Healthcare systems and the health of our patients are complex. The ability to think critically through scenarios and prioritize needs is key. A related skill is big-picture thinking. In dietetics we evaluate the whole patient, considering the interactions of medical, social, and psychosocial factors. RDs can apply this big-picture thinking to achieve success in a wide variety of roles. Lastly, successful RDs never stop learning. We can always increase both the depth and breadth of our knowledge and experience. 


Co-Chair Delegates

Teresa Bush-Zurn MA, RDN, FAND 

Who is a hero of yours? Why? 

 Professionally my hero was and still is Jacqui Saracino, RD.  Jacqui was my dietetic internship director and professional mentor until her death 3 years ago.  I was most fortunate to have had Jacqui Saracino as my professional mentor and friend.  Jacqui was an amazing RD and tenacious supporter of dietetic education.  She brought me to my first LAD district meeting where she introduced me to the wonderful world of volunteering for my profession.  She inspired me to become a dietetic educator which I thoroughly enjoyed for over 30 years as a dietetic preceptor, internship director and community college instructor.  Jacqui was a progressive leader in the ADA (now Academy) as a two-term California HOD delegate and past chair of the ADA Diversity Committee.  She was a past-president of the CDA, LAD and CDA Foundation.  She was a natural leader and mentor who was a most deserving recipient of the CDA Dolores Nyhus Award in 1999 and LAD established a student scholarship in her honor.  Below is something I wrote about Jacqui upon her death Feb. 12, 2016.


Joyful and sincere friend who saw the good in everyone

Affectionate and loving mother, grandmother and great-grandmother

Creative writer of prose

Quintessential Registered Dietitian and Mentor

Inspiring leader and colleague, loved by all who had the good fortune to know her.

VP Education

Karmen Ovsepyan, MS, RDN


VP Public Policy 

Brenda O'Day, MS, RDN, CNSC 

What excites you most about being a volunteer leader?

BRENDA: Following a career path in nutrition is such a diverse, challenging, and rewarding journey. Even better is becoming involved in the California Academy with amazing people who give so much time and talent; it’s an honor to serve with them. We welcome the opportunity to have a say in the direction we are headed. I believe in a bright future for our profession. It’s exhilarating to be out in front with a full view of what’s ahead!


VP Membership Benefits

Martha L. Lawder, MS RDN


What excited you about being a volunteer leader:                                                                                                                                                Martha: A colleague once told me that our field gets better when we support each other.  When I was first starting out as a dietetic student I looked around to find organizations so I could learn more about what dietitians do as professionals.  I found the Academy and through them, my local district.  I met so many amazing women and men who who were working together to create opportunities of enrichment and growth.  They were truly the embodiment of what my colleague had told me.  Being a volunteer leader provides me so many outlets to help support our profession and I hope make things better for both the now and the future.  Thank you for this chance to serve our profession.

Ex-Officio Chair, CA Academy Foundation

Lisa Herzig 


Executive Director, CA Academy 

Gigi Tsontos, LCSW MPA