Advocating for Your Professional and Personal Passion: Nutrition411: The Podcast, Ep. 1

​​​​​​This podcast series aims to highlight the science, psychology, and strategies behind the practice of dietetics. Moderator, Lisa Jones, RDN, LDN, interviews prominent dietitians and health professionals to help our community think differently about food and nutrition. 


Episode 1: Moderator Lisa Jones, RDN, LDN, interviews Saundra Rogers and Manju Karkare, MS, RDN, LDN, CLT, about advocating for your professional and personal passion in 2022 and beyond, including effective ways to start, and how to show up, speak up, and stand up.

Additional Resources:

 Manju Karkare, MS, RDN, LDN, CLT, FAND, is a registered dietitian, the president and CEO of Nutritionally Yours, a nationally recognized leader in dietetics, and an advocate of equity and social justice based in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Manju Karkare, MS, RDN, LDN, CLT, FAND, is a registered dietitian, the president and CEO of Nutritionally Yours, a nationally recognized leader in dietetics, and an advocate of equity and social justice based in Raleigh, North Carolina. 

Saundra Rogers, is a speaker, educator, storyteller, and a doctoral candidate at Nova Southeastern University. She’s based in Washington, DC.

Saundra Rogers, is a speaker, educator, storyteller, and a doctoral candidate at Nova Southeastern University. She’s based in Washington, DC. 

Lisa Jones, MA, RDN, LDN, FAND, is a registered dietitian nutritionist, speaker, and author based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Lisa Jones, MA, RDN, LDN, FAND, is a registered dietitian nutritionist, speaker, and author based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 



Moderator: Hello, and welcome to Nutrition411: The Podcast, a special series led by registered dietician and nutritionist, Lisa Jones. The views of the speakers are their own and do not reflect the views of their perspective institutions.

Lisa Jones: Hello, and welcome to Nutrition411: The Podcast, this is Lisa Jones, your host and moderator for our episode today, 2022 and beyond, advocating for your professional and personal passion. 411 is a podcast where we communicate the information you need to know now about the science, psychology, and strategies behind healthy eating, nutrition, and the profession. Today is my pleasure to have our guests, Manju Karkare and Sandra Rogers with us today. Welcome Manju and Sandra. It's very exciting. First, I want to introduce Manju. Manju is a nationally recognized leader, speaker, and activist. In short, she's a known disruptor or rebel. She has an adventurous and curious yet altruistic spirit that has shaped her career and public service. Being compassionate healthcare provider, she has gained a vast experience in the field of dietetics, has successfully built her private practice, and loves to share her culinary skills through demos for corporate wellness. I am so excited to hear what you have to bring to us today. Welcome Manju.

Manju: Thank you, Lisa. Excited to be here for the first episode.

Lisa Jones: Yes, it's our goal episode. And then Sandra. Sandra is an avid reader, she enjoys discussing the novel she reads with her friends. She's eating the new dishes her husband now cooks. So we're excited to hear more about that as we talk a little bit more and, of course, the full professional bios you can find on our website. So with that, I want to begin. Welcome, Sandra.

SandraThank you, Lisa. Thank you for inviting me.

Lisa Jones: So, what I'll do since it's called The 411 Podcast, the first time you're hearing this, we will do a series of four questions about the topic area that we're talking about today. And today, our topic area is, 2022 and beyond, advocating for your professional and personal passions. So that's what this entire episode will be discussing. I am so excited about this. My first question is going to go to Sandra. When did you first realize your passion for advocating and why is it so important?

Sandra: My father was a surgeon, and my mother ran his medical practice, and they taught me at a very young age that patients who have involved family members have better outcomes. They also taught me to meet with doctors to ask questions, to take notes, and to keep an eye on everything that was happening with a patient. So I grew up with those ideas in mind, watching my parents do it and having them teach me how to do it, to advocate for myself and for my younger brother.

Lisa Jones: Oh, that's great. So you were starting from tiny, tiny, little, little, advocating.

Sandra: Right.

Lisa Jones: Which is amazing, because that's not always the case in families and the stories that we hear. Thank you for sharing. I want to ask you Manju the same question.

Manju: Well, similar to Sandra, my parents were healthcare providers as well, and I grew up in India and servant leadership was just hard of how I grew up and being in service of the community was something that all of us did. My grandparents were in healthcare field, so were my parents, and many of my cousins and even my sister right now is in healthcare field as well. But having moved here and not being a citizen for a while, I didn't really recognize the importance of really how we play a role in advocating for certain things, especially, in the civic world. And I was not a citizen of the United States for quite many years, and when I could not vote in a presidential election, I really, really felt it was very important for me to do so.

And I got really engaged in voter education and voter registration. It really lit a fire in me. And I said, not only do I have to become a citizen because my vote is important, but it was important for me to get engaged in making sure others were also learning why it was important that every person's work really does count. And we are recording this on such an awesome day today that, we're talking about how it really matters, everyone's voice matters.

Lisa Jones: It definitely does. And I like hearing the similarities between the two, like this is something that started since you were little and your passion just continues to grow, which is amazing. Thank you for sharing. So that brings me to a lot of our listeners who are probably wondering if they're not advocating, how could they start? So my next question is, what do you think is the most effective way to advocate not only for yourself, but for others?

Manju: Well, one of the things that I learned was partly, as I said, when I realized that I couldn't actually vote, and even though things that were important to me, and this was about national elections, so the community that I lived in and the things that were happening around me were actually going to impact my life because I was a resident of the community, but I couldn't take part in the decisions that were being made. So, that was part of my civil life, but then I recognized that there are other things that I can take part in that I can have my voice heard in, such as my professional organization, for example. And I could get involved and be part of that and be of service so that I can then raise my voice and then empower others to raise their voice so that it can actually get louder and louder and louder.

And people feel empowered that someone else is also willing to raise their voice. And sometimes it takes just that first step. And we, as dieticians, we know taking that first step is probably the hardest part in so many different ways. We are talking about advocating here, but we know this applies in so many other parts of our professional life as well. And so, yeah, it's going back to your question is like, someone has to start and we have to start somewhere. So I noticed that even though I couldn't vote necessarily in a local election or a national election, there were other places that I could raise my voice or make my voice heard, and I started there. So start where you can, it could be a homeowners association or wherever you are that you can make your voice heard. And by you raising your voice, you are really empowering someone else to say, yes, you can speak up too. And sometimes speaking up for someone else who may not be willing to raise their voice is also a way to get the courage to speak up.

Lisa Jones: Yes, that's so powerful and so true. And I think the biggest take home message listening to what you were just saying, Manju, was start where you are, because a lot of people don't. Where do I start? Well, start where you are and just continue to amplify the message. So I want to go over to Sandra now and ask you the same question, what is some advice that you could share?

Sandra: Well, most of my experience has been with medical advocacy and I would say that the most effective way to advocate for yourself and to others is to be familiar with the medical history and the family history so that you can give correct information, and the doctors, nurses, and techs feel like they can talk to you on a level that, that's not too hard, you don't have to have gone to medical school, but that you at least know what the issues are and what the possible treatments can be. And then to educate yourself about the illness and the possible treatments. It's really important that you don't just sit back and just hope for the best. You need to be part of the team so that you can make the best decisions and give permission for the correct procedures.

Lisa Jones: Yeah. Thank you so much. And what I heard in that is like a lot of times people will be afraid to say something because they think, oh, I'm not in the medical profession, I don't know about this. But I think as you continue to educate yourself in the situation that you were in Sandra, which I'm sure you'll explain more about, you educated yourself and that's how you became more familiar and you continued to open the lines of communication and just the continual advocacy, which was so important and powerful. So thank you.

Sandra: Exactly.

Lisa Jones: And my next question, when did you experience the moment when you realized that silence is not an option anymore and nothing will ever be the same again?

SandraWell, for me, silence is never an option when it comes to healthcare. But last September, my son, I mean, I'm African American and I know that even though I grew up... I'm well educated and have a lot out of advantages, people look at me and decide certain things about me that are probably not true. I've had to be very assertive when it comes to medical care for myself and especially for my family. But like I said, silence is never an option for me when it comes to health. Last September, my son was rushed to the hospital with COVID-19 in the middle of the night. Early the next morning, for example, I got a call telling me to come and pick my son up. I knew he had COVID-19 and I knew it was infectious and I knew he was having trouble breathing.

So I insisted on knowing his diagnosis, the nurse who called me didn't want to tell me his diagnosis, so I insisted. Then she told me that he had COVID pneumonia and was in respiratory failure. I told her that I refused to come and pick him up, Pete had not been in the hospital for 24 hours, they were sending him home to die alone. That put me a high alert. I knew I was going to have to fight for him every minute he was in the hospital, he was in the hospital for four months, so I fought every minute of every day for four months for him.

Lisa JonesAnd your story and your journey and your advocacy is very strong. Hopefully, everyone has somebody to advocate the way you advocated for your son, Sandra.

Sandra: Unfortunately, everyone doesn't. But I think we need to start making those connections and those relationships now, so that we can help each other through any situation that we have. If it wasn't me, there were a couple of other people that I was able to tap into. I had lots of friends and friends of friends who had people who had been hospitalized with COVID-19 and weren't minorities, and they were getting drastically different treatment than my son was getting. So knowing about those treatments, I was able to say, well, does he meet the protocol for this treatment and why isn't he on it? And then the response I would get is, we'll start it right away, because I knew what to ask for. I didn't know what I woke up that morning, but I was on the phone, I was reading articles, I was reaching out to people and I got the information that I needed.

Lisa Jones: And what's good now is being through that, you can advocate for others and teach them how to advocate for their selves. That right there, I think, is helpful to anybody else going through the same experience and not knowing what to do. It's just helpful.

Sandra: It's been very helpful, and people want to help. They want to share their experiences and they want to give you good advice and help you. I've found that people have been very kind and very generous connecting me with people that I didn't even know that had advice for me. And I wrote down everything and synthesized it and brought up as many things to physicians as I could. And they really started treating me very differently after that. They started to understand that I understood and that they could talk to me and that I was going to be part of the team not a bystander.

Lisa Jones: Thank you for sharing all that. And I want to ask you, Manju, when was the moment that you realized that silence was not an option?

Manju: It's such a profound story, Sandra, and thank you so much for sharing. I really cannot top that, and I'm so glad you were there to speak up for your son and be there. That is just impressive. And I have to say that I have not had such a personal, not someone in my immediate family, who has had that experience. But again, when you are, I'm just going to use the term foreigner, someone from another country. My cousin's mother-in-law was in the hospital, for example, not speaking the language as fluently, she spoke English, actually, she could answer the questions when the medical team walked into her room or anything like that. But again, not being familiar with the protocols or the food or something like that, and mind you, her daughter and son-in-law are also physicians in the hospital that she was admitted in.

So it's not like she was in a place that she came from years ago, but I was able to be there with her in the hospital and be there as an advocate for her to be a mediary. And similar to you, Sandra, I think, having that information about even the medications that were being given to her, so having some knowledge and trying to understand more about what is exactly happening, I think taking that active role into it and not just letting the care team make the decisions based on, oh, the person who happens to be in the bed is not either taking active role in it or just making decisions without their consent and not letting that happen, standing up for the person who's not necessarily able to say exactly in those words or in their language that they're used to.

That's where I realized that patient advocacy is such an important role to play. And I have not only seen that only in healthcare, but I remember speaking with Lisa, I had mentioned to her, I am actually part of a group of activist women where we act slogan was, show up, speak up, and stand up. So it's not just that you are there only to speak up for yourself, but we're going to educate ourselves on what the issues are. We're going to make sure that we show up when the need is, so what if there is a march we're going to show up there and we're going to speak up on behalf of those who may not be able to speak up if we see the injustice that is happening. And that is very crucial. And that's where I was speaking about the empowerment at the beginning, because sometimes we have to speak up on behalf of someone who may not be able to stand up and speak.

Lisa Jones: I love that. I just wrote down, show up, speak up, stand up. And I think if everyone goes about their day and has those three things in mind, that right there, in my opinion, can help with advocacy and advocating for what you believe in. But that also leads into the next question, for individuals or groups that want to get more involved in advocacy, what recommendations do you have to get engaged? And that's where one of them could be the slogan show up, speak up, and stand up?

Manju: Right. Because, it's not enough just to show up. If you think about social media, for example, I hit a like, or I hit a share. That's not enough, what else are you actually doing? Because, it's the action that matters, it's not just the hundreds of likes or hundreds of whatever, it's actually doing something about it, is that action actually making some impact. And in terms of our professional realm, right now, we know that we are fighting for equitable healthcare access, and we have such a great example, Sandra, just shared. That we know that there is such disparity, not everyone has the same access even when it come to nutrition services. And right now what we are fighting for the last two years that has shown us is that COVID has really taken this to another level.

It's become even more profound that the disparities have really become way more than what they were before. Now, in just what? 10 days, I'm losing track of time here, maybe a week, not even 10 days, we have the advocacy summit coming up. And that is going to be a great opportunity for professionals from our field to be on the hill and advocating for equitable access to our services. That's what we're going to be fighting for. And it's not just making sure that they get to see the dietician, but making sure that those who actually deserve the nutrition services actually have access to it, that those that are available in their community have access to it. The lots and lots of nutrition programs that are in the community that actually get funded. The funding that happens through the congressional authorization and whatnot, that actually happens. As professionals, we have to fight for it, because eventually it is the public that benefits from it, and that's what we're fighting for. That's the upcoming opportunity right now.

Lisa Jones: I couldn't agree more and we can put that information for anybody that hasn't registered yet for that event.

Manju: Unfortunately, the registration has passed, but you can always take action online.

Lisa Jones: There you go. You bring up a good point, Manju, about social media and I saw what you posted this morning. So I think, really social media can help amplify the message. And I do see what you're saying, like a lot of people just like it, because they're busy going about their day, like what action are they taking after? So that's a really great point that you make to make sure you're taking an action besides a like or a share. How about you, Sandra, what do you think about individuals or groups that are looking to get more involved and specifically about the type of advocacy that you do? So if there's any recommendations from you?

Sandra: Well, I've always worked alone or with my family. So I would love to get more information about Manju's group and other groups who like that, because I think that could to only make it more powerful, maybe not easier, but make it feel like the road is a little less rocky. But I've always just done it on my own. So I wanted to mention my brother earlier, my brother was born deaf and we're less than a year apart watching the difference between the way people would treat me just when we go to get fast food or something, the way that some people would treat me, first the way that they would treat them. I grew up seeing that big disparity and having to speak up and say, no, you're not going to treat him like that.

So it's something that I grew up doing. And as my brother got older, he had health issues. I was always taking him to the doctor, he had a great interpreter towards the end of his life. It's not always just the language though, it's just the way that people assume that you should be treated and sometimes that needs to be corrected.

Lisa Jones: Well, I think what I'm hearing is it's just that there's continual work. Like, you can't just be like I advocate it today, I'm done.

Sandra: It's every day, all day thing.

Lisa Jones: Every day, all day. And it sounds like there's so much work that still needs to be done.

Sandra: Exactly. And it builds on itself though, even if you start and you feel nervous about it or shaky, every time you do it you get a little bit stronger, you get a little bit more powerful. I think that's a really important thing for people to hear that you grow into it.

Lisa Jones: Yes, grow into it. You've been doing it since you were little. Like the people that are just story now, like in adulthood, you feel like you're climbing a mountain and it zigzags, but eventually you keep going up.

Manju: Yeah. One of the things, Lisa, I will share is that the first time I was on the hill, for example, and I was with an experienced dietician with me who had been on the hill many times. One thing she said to me, I always use that when I'm mentoring other dieticians who I take with me on the hill now, even though it's all virtual now, is that, remember that the people we are going to speak with are also people, we are just sharing our stories with them. It's not that they are something completely... They may have a different title or they have something behind their name, but they're also people. They also have lives, they have families, and that's what matters that we are talking people to people.

Lisa Jones: Yes. It's a good thing to keep in mind because you can get nervous because they're Senator, whoever, and that's intimidating to some people. So you're right, it's just the person on the other side of a table that's willing to listen to what you have to say.

Manju: Yeah.

Lisa Jones: All right, great. So the next thing we want to do is move into one story or analogy example, showcasing the work that you've done in advocacy. So if you can think of one story, an impactful story. I think for Sandra, I would love if you would share, I know you're a speaker and you talk about your son Nelson, and I know you have many amazing stories, did you want to share just one of them that you think would be a good showcase?

Sandra: Well, my son had to be transferred from one hospital to hospital with higher level of care when he was ventilated and he had to be put in a hospital that had an [inaudible 00:22:34] machine. When the second hospital wanted to discontinue my son's life support without my permission, I tried to get a lawyer on my own, but I wasn't successful in getting to take the case. So a friend of mine called a news station and the news called me for an interview. I did a few interviews on the news and that led to a feature in the Washington Post. And that led to an organization agreeing to getting a lawyer for me and paying for the lawyer.

At that point, the administration from his school that my son worked at, he was a teacher's assistant, and his college friend. And so family members protested at the hospital and between all of those things, I wanted the hospital to take the time to pursue other options, and between having a lawyer and the press, the media attention, and the protest, the hospital backed off of the disconnection of life support and tried to get him a lung transplant in another city. So putting that pressure on them was really effective.

Lisa Jones: Thank you for sharing that.

Manju: It's always hard to follow Sandra's story. So I hate to be the one following her stories, but I'm so pleased to hear your story, Sandra. And it's impressive that you were able to get all of those people to get behind you. It always takes a village, I'm glad you were able to get the army, as you said.

Lisa Jones: Thank you.

Sandra: They were getting behind my son, because he went out of his way to be as helpful and generous as he possibly could, I think that all of these people showing up for him and the energy that they put into it. They were strangers who didn't know, I think that had a big impact. They were showing it for him.

Manju: So my story has a little bit to do with not necessarily as a profession, or a healthcare, but somewhat related to healthcare. My mother was an obstetrician, and even though I grew up in a third world country, women's rights were always taken for granted. I never thought about women's rights until I came to this country. And I'm like, wait, in United States, it's up for grabs, really? Like, you got to be kidding me. I have been involved with women's rights issues for a long time. And actually, as I said, even before I was a citizen, and I couldn't even vote, but I'm like, that's okay, I can do other things. I can educate other people and make sure they can vote. Anyway, I served on an organization's board here locally and we recruit, train, and support women who run for legislative offices.

And here in my state, the state itself is actually very purple as a demographic, and women's rights have been up for grabs and things have been done to it, but we were able to break the supermajority in our legislature by electing nine women to the legislature in the House and in the Senate, and I was the chair of the organization at the time. So I was very proud to have been able to do that, and I had a chance to speak at the women's march in our town at the time.

Lisa Jones: Yay. Congratulations.

Sandra: Wow.

Lisa Jones: Amazing.

Manju: I thought my mom would be proud.

Lisa Jones: Thank you. Both really good stories. Now, how about for our audience, one takeaway message. If you could just say one takeaway message that can help them become better advocates, what would that one thing be? What should they be aware of? What should they do? Besides just start from where you are, anything else that you can think of?

Manju: I would say in terms of advocacy, even though we want to think about making an impact with statistics and numbers and things, because that's what we hear about in news and things. What really gets across is what pulls at your heart strengths. I mean, think about Sandra's story just now, so it's the story that really matters. So when we are trying to convince someone of something, it is the stories that matter the most.

Lisa Jones: Well said, I echo that. And Sandra has many more of those stories where they came from, they're amazing. Sandra, what would you say besides stories?

Sandra: I would say if you do have a loved one in the hospital and especially if they can't advocate for themselves or speak for themselves, to make sure that the medical team sees your loved one as an individual person, make it clear to them that you want them to do everything they can to save your loved one. Don't let them think that there's nobody out there that's going to miss them or that loves them. Right now, across the country, hospitals are slammed and they're doing the best that they can around the clock with so many COVID cases and other cases that have coming in. But whenever possible, let them know that information about your loved one, they're an individual, so that they actually see them and not just a person in a bed.

Lisa Jones: So they feel seen. I love that message. It's very powerful, making sure that somebody feels seen. Well, thank you. Both of you, your advocacy work I find to be very amazing. And you continue to honor Nelson in the work that you do, every minute of every day of your life, Sandra. That's commendable.

Sandra: Thank you.

Lisa Jones: And Manju, we see you in the dietetics profession, you're very visible. So she's seen, we see her, and continue to do your amazing work. So moving on from advocacy, I thought we would have a little fun and the audience wants to get to know you both a little bit more. So a couple quick questions, we call the lightning round and then we'll close this episode. Oh, I'll start with you, Manju, what foods are your all-time favorites?

Manju: Oh, there are so many, because I love food. Obviously, chocolate, especially, dark chocolate, any vegetables. If I had food in front of me, I am more likely to go for all the vegetables that are in front of me than anything else. And it's not really because I'm a dietician, this was always the case before I became a dietician. So people always say to me like, oh, you're a dietician, of course, you're going to go for the veges. I'm like, "Oh no, that has nothing." I genuinely love vegetables, and so does my dog,

Lisa Jones: Vegetables for the dog, but don't give the dog chocolate, from what I hear.

Manju: Yeah, I know. I try to keep that to myself.

Lisa Jones: Very good. How about you, Sandra, what's your favorite food?

Sandra: Salted caramel cheesecake.

Lisa Jones: That sounds good.

Sandra: It's guided me through many rough moments.

Lisa Jones: It's very specific that it's salted caramels, not just cheesecake, but salted caramel cheesecake. Now, I want some cheesecake. All right, if you had a garden, which plants would you want to grow in it?

Manju: I would have chili peppers and herbs.

Lisa Jones: How about you, Sandra?

Sandra: I would have apple trees and grapes and pear trees.

Lisa Jones: Oh, very nice. I want a garden. How about this one? Which one of the following do you prefer? Do you prefer vanilla chocolate or strawberry?

Sandra: Personally, chocolate. Chocolate, chocolate, chocolate.

Lisa Jones: Chocolate, all-day chocolate. How about you, Manju?

Manju: I was going to say that I think you should have guessed that one. Yes.

Lisa Jones: Yes. I would be shocked if you said anything else. And my last question, which foods remind you of your favorite holiday?

Sandra: Oh, apple pie reminds me of Christmas and Thanksgiving, because my grandmother used to make these homemade apple pies. And when I went away to college, I had a little moment, I was thinking, how am I going to my pies... My grandmother was Washington D.C and I went to a college in Boston, and my grandmother surprised me, she made apple turnovers. She would send these huge boxes of apple turnovers so that I could have my pie and I could share with my friends, and with the other people in the dorm, so everybody was happy.

Lisa Jones: Nice. You're probably advocating for pie too, right?

Sandra: Correct.

Lisa Jones: How about you, Manju?

Manju: For me, it is really, Indian sweets and specifically, ladoos; the typical ones that my mom made with something similar to cream wheat, it's not exactly cream of wheat, but it's like cream of wheat, and my mom made them the best way. And they were made at Diwali, which is our like Christmas festival of lights. And definitely, I make them every year around that time as well, so.

Lisa Jones:

Aw, nice. Now, you guys have me hungry, it's time to go eat, I guess, right?

Manju: I know it's almost. Yep.

Lisa Jones: Well, thank you so much Sandra and Manju for being on the show and sharing your insights with us. I hope you continue to show up, speak up, and stand up, and advocate for what you believe in professionally and personally. This is Lisa Jones, and I am the moderator of The 411 podcast. Thank you all for listening and you can continue to check out more episodes on our website.

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