Starving Dietitian

The Iceberg of Success

“Accomplishment is 99% work and 1% acknowledgement.”

I never really thought about what it takes to receive acknowledgement in a professional sense until I started working in healthcare. So often the work we do feels unrecognized that I’m more used to not receiving praise and just being happy when a patient has no complaints. Nurses, doctors, dietitians, I think it’s almost a universal that “no complaints” is as good as “great job!”. So imagine my surprise when my advocacy to embrace technology in areas of healthcare that have long struggled to modernize (e.g. foodservice, nutrition, etc) caught the attention of Food Service Director (FSD), a publication focused on the leading edge of food service (Link). Now let me just say that I cringe at being praised and absolutely suck at receiving compliments, so being asked to answer a bunch of questions about what “separates me” is perhaps my worst nightmare, but if someone is kind enough to nominate me I’d feel terrible turning it down.

So, having answered a bunch of questions and BEING CHOSEN (what really?!) I thought I’d release all of the Q&A from the questions they asked because only a few could make it into the final FSD template. So here goes nothing… (without the ones posted by FSD)

1. What has been your proudest career accomplishment within the last year?

I would have to say, getting published by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics! I wrote an article on what future dietitian careers might look like and am incredibly grateful that it was chosen in April. I think my favorite part though has been guiding the dietetic interns who have reached out since then towards careers in food service! (Link)

2. What’s the best career advice you’ve been given?

I had a really engaging preceptor during my Cal Poly Pomona Dietetic Internship that told me “You don’t change the world by saying it’s wrong, you change things by demonstrating a better way” and it stuck. Technology is essential in modern Food Service but it’s not always cheaper and in some cases less engaging for customers. Conducting small scale trials before a large rollout has been great for customer adoption and massively improved the chances of getting new ideas approved.

3. What’s been your most rewarding moment?

Hands down, becoming a mentor for Dietetic Interns has been the most rewarding thing I’ve experienced. I love to teach and being able to share experiences in an honest way helps future Dietitians set realistic career goals. I’ll always remember being told, “I’m really glad you pushed me, I never would’ve considered it!” by an intern who ended up working with eating disorder patients.

4. What would you like to accomplish in your career in the long-term?

I’m determined to put an end to the stigma of ‘Hospital Food’. When I ask patients what they want to eat I constantly hear the words “Healthy” and “Gourmet”. What they don’t realize is that here at Morrison Healthcare we source hormone free meat, eggs, and milk for recipes developed by industry leading chefs. We can serve 4 ounce portions of bone-in lamb and somehow, it’s still considered “hospital food”. That kind of thinking has to change.

5. What’s the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome?

Vegan meats! I myself don’t follow a vegan lifestyle but am totally convinced that sustainable meat alternatives will be essential for a growing world population. Although I’m from the San Francisco Bay Area, I started my career in San Bernardino County and was determined to persuade resistant customers of the benefits. It took time, free samples, and a lot of “fake meat” name calling, but sure enough our vegan entrees ended up outselling traditional meat offerings. The icing on the cake was later finding out we had become one of the top 10 purchasers of vegan meats in the county!

6. What experience have you learned an important lesson from?

Food service changes constantly and sometimes you’ll find yourself the focus of staff frustration just because you’re the Director. No matter your background, the first time you feel that negativity it shakes you to the core. It taught me a lot about what my role as a leader was and how addressing conflict head on can prevent much larger issues down the road.

7. What do you value most in a workplace? Are there any ways your workplace delivers on that?

I have an entrepreneurial spirit and find that too much routine really affects my motivation. On the other hand, I enjoy improving processes and sometimes that requires doing something days or weeks before finding a better way. At Morrison I’m able to strike a balance between routines I can improve on and new projects I can challenge myself with and that’s something I’ve learned is really difficult to find in a career.

8. Do you use or view technology differently than your coworkers? If so, how?

I’m one of the first generations where my parents owned a computer before I was born and that has had a huge impact on the intuition I have for technology. Imagine you had to learn to speak a new language for each device you bought at the store. Some people use technology like it’s a foreign language, for me it feels like a universal language that works with everything. Other people see technology as a hassle to adopt, but I see it as an opportunity to harness untapped efficiency.

9. What keeps you up at night?

Honestly? I think a lot about how my staff are interacting with each other and how to build a more cohesive team. I can plan technology improvements until I’m blue in the face but without a unified department anything that rolls out won’t have enough momentum to sustain itself.  If I can keep the team engaged, changes are met with less resistance and show quicker results. It’s kind of magical!

10. What’s the one thing you wish you could change about the industry?

The perception of how powerful food can be! Seriously, serving quality food at a reasonable price communicates a massive amount of information about your values as an organization. Whether you’re a school or a hospital, people absolutely recognize when they’re getting a good deal and often apply the perception across the organization. I wish more organizations would allow food service to be the loss leader as part of reaching a larger audience.

11. Why do you think the noncommercial market is viewed as a less-attractive career path than the restaurant business?

Because it’s tough as nails! I had a manager who told me, “If you can work in healthcare foodservice, you can work anywhere” and I’ve never doubted that statement. Noncommercial markets require specialized knowledge that takes years to develop on top of advance credentials like a CDM or RDN credential.

12. What attracted you to the noncommercial foodservice segment?

As a Registered Dietitian I found myself spending more and more time in the hospital kitchen. Initially I was focused on ensuring the quality and consistency I wanted for my patients, but soon found myself volunteering to update old policies with my recommendations. I guess you could say I fell into the segment, but it welcomed me with open arms!

13. How do you think the industry will change in the next five years? How do you think that will impact your goals and career?

Call it optimism but I think within healthcare at least we’ll see hospitals expand their food service offerings. Patients nowadays expect hotel quality food and a huge variety of choices. I think this will go a long way toward ending the hospital food stigma but you won’t see it happen overnight. Additionally, I think we’ll see technology integrate with all areas of food. Whether it’s watching a bio of the farmer who supplied the ingredients for your meal on your hospital tv, or having food apps automatically sync with the diet plan your Dietitian recommended, the industry is poised for a major shakeup.


Back to the idea of acknowledgement, I think it’s easy to look at accomplishments of others and wonder why one person gets recognized and another doesn’t. What I didn’t realize is that recognition is just this tiny fraction of a tip of the iceberg, beneath the surface there’s countless nights staying late, bringing work home, researching the industry, researching other industries, brainstorming, talking to customers/staff/patients, following trends, taking risks, all of which often goes without any recognition. For now, I’m excited to see what new opportunities this affords in bringing the positive changes I’ve worked towards. As of now, I’m just at the tip of the iceberg.

Be good to each other,

Joshua Iufer, RD

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