Spring 2010

Working Life

Christian Abnet PhD’98, Environmental Toxicology

Abnet explores the nutritional causes of cancer as an investigator with the National Cancer Institute, where he’s investigating whether factors such as diet and poor oral health raise the risk of developing esophageal and gastric cancer. Much of his work focuses on high-risk populations, particularly people in developing countries. He has collaborated with epidemiologists, clinicians, statisticians and lab scientists in China, Iran, Kenya, Ireland, Brazil and the United States, among other places.

Sheila Cohn Weiss BS’99, Dietetics

A registered dietitian with extensive experience in nutrition communications and public policy, Cohn Weiss is a resident nutrition expert with the public relations firm Porter Novelli. Working with the company’s food, beverage and nutrition practice, she helps clients translate the science of nutrition into language consumers can understand and tools that health care professionals can use to help educate their patients and clients. Prior to her current position, she served as the director of nutrition policy for the National Restaurant Association. Cohn Weiss says she has always been fascinated by the effects of food on the body and the mind—she used to sit on the counter as a child while her mother baked to smell each and every ingredient.

Jessica Donze Black BS’96, Dietetics, Nutritional Sciences

Donze Black directs the healthy schools program at Alliance for a Healthier Generation, an initiative aimed at reversing the epidemic of childhood obesity by advancing healthier choices and increased levels of physical exercise for young people. She and her staff work with more than 7,500 schools in all 50 states to foster healthy lifestyle habits. She previously lent her public health advocacy talents to the Campaign to End Obesity, the American Heart Association and the American Dietetic Association. When she’s not working, Donze Black says she spends most of her time focused on her two young sons—and their laundry.

Michelle Dudash BS’99, Dietetics

A classically trained chef, Dudash combines her culinary skills with a passion for healthy living as a nutritional consultant. Based in Phoenix, she works with a range of individual and corporate clients to promote healthier eating and lifestyles, where her services might include anything from one-on-one nutrition coaching to analyzing recipes and menus to help organizations serve more nutritious food in cafeterias. When she’s not consulting, Dudash is often dispensing diet and lifestyle advice on social networking sites or through the media. She plans to begin work on a cookbook for time-pressed families—something that she can relate to as a multitasking mom.

Erin Dummert BS’98, Dietetics

Dummert is president of Madam Nutrition, a wellness company dedicated to “positive nutrition,” which emphasizes adding healthy foods to a diet rather than eliminating unhealthy ones. Dummert trails clients to the places where they make their eating choices—in homes and groceries—to make recommendations about healthy additions to their regular diets. A special emphasis of her work is on the role of healthy eating in preventing cancer, inspired by time she spent directing nutritional services for an oncology practice in Milwaukee. Since graduating from CALS, she credits her former instructors as invaluable professional resources, continuing to provide everything from advice on starting her own business to input on consulting jobs.

Leslie Goldman BS’98, Nutritional Sciences

After setting off on a pre-med path at CALS, Goldman discovered a passion for communicating about health, nutrition and fitness. She went on to write Locker Room Diaries: The Naked Truth About Women, Body Image and Re-Imagining the Perfect Body, a book that reflects on her own experiences handling body image issues and interviews with hundreds of women. After a 13-city tour of college campuses to spread the message about healthy body images, Goldman is now a full-time freelance writer who regularly contributes to Health, Parenting, Runner’s World, Self, Women’s Health and other national magazines.

Erica Lesperance Stelton BS’99, Nutritional Sciences

After five years working as a metabolic dietitian at Emory University, where she helped patients with PKU, MSUD and other metabolic disorders, Lesperance Stelton began applying her technical, culinary and nutritional expertise to design and develop new specialty food products for Cambrooke Foods. These protein-modified foods have significantly improved the quality of life of tens of thousands of patients with metabolic disorders. She has also been working side-by-side with a UW-Madison research team to bring to market a groundbreaking new PKU treatment. When she’s not finding ways to make the metabolic diet more manageable and enjoyable, you can find her training for her next marathon or triathlon.

Forrest Nielson BS’63, Biochemistry

In 1970, Nielsen was the first scientist hired at USDA’s new human nutrition research center in Grand Forks, North Dakota. In his 40 years with the center, his discoveries have established Nielsen as a leading expert on the nutritional importance and health benefits of mineral elements, notably boron, nickel and silicon. Since 2005, his research has focused on the nutritional importance of magnesium, particularly its effect on inflammation that leads to chronic diseases such as atherosclerosis, diabetes and osteoporosis. When not in the lab, Nelson is often globe-trotting: he and his wife have visited all seven continents.

Sarah Roller BS’80, Dietetics

A registered dietitian and former clinical research nutritionist with Mt. Sinai hospital, Roller now regards the food industry with a legal eye. As a partner with the law firm Kelley Drye & Warren, she focuses her practice on food and drug law, working with U.S. and global companies, industry and trade organizations to ensure that food products’ health and nutrition claims are adequately substantiated by scientific evidence. Roller also counsels clients on how food is marketed to children and legal and policy developments surrounding obesity and diet-related public health concerns.

Mary K. Russell MS’81, Nutritional Sciences

Currently the director of nutrition services at the University of Chicago Medical Center, Russell has long specialized in clinical dietetics and patient care. Before moving to Chicago, she spent 17 years working at Duke University Hospital, eventually serving as director of nutrition services. Russell enjoys the science of nutrition beyond the practice and the interdisciplinary collaboration that goes into providing the best possible care for a patient. She is also the 2009 recipient of the Medallion Award from the American Dietetics Association for outstanding service and leadership to the dietetics profession. In her free time, she enjoys exploring the fascinating architecture of her new city.

Julie Thayer BS’02 Biology, Nutritional Sciences

As youth development specialist for the nutrition and fitness for life program at the Boston Medical Center, Thayer runs weekly sessions during the school year and a five-week summer program to train youth on issues related to nutrition, food systems, physical activity and health. By engaging the local community, she aims to decrease chronic disease risk and improve access to healthy food and fitness opportunities. She also organizes a farmers’ market in the medical center to make fresh, locally and sustainably grown food more accessible to hospital staff, patients and visitors. Studying abroad in Uganda during her time at CALS spurred Thayer’s interest in the socioeconomic aspects of public health.

Monica Woldt BS’88 Biochemistry, MS’93 Nutritional Sciences

Woldt has 15 years of experience in developing, managing and evaluating international community health and nutrition programs. She currently serves as a maternal and child health and nutrition advisor for the Academy for Educational Development, which works in cooperation with the U.S. Agency for International Development. She guides and supports projects in areas such as nutrition, HIV prevention, child survival and health, and food security. Woldt previously served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Guatemala, worked four years as a technical advisor on nutrition and health for World Vision International in Mozambique, and provided technical assistance in emergency relief to World Vision in Ethiopia.

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