How to Be a Leader in a Busy World

Join us on Wednesday, September 26th from 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm via Zoom to hear dietitians and dietetic interns talk about their journey and experiences as members of the Illinois Academy in this virtual panel! We will be going over topics such as career paths, experiences, advice and so much more! The panel will feature 4 remarkable panelists.

Zoom registration link will be emailed to Illinois Academy members on September 14 and September 22. 

CPE Level: 2


Learning Objectives:
  • Examine the different levels of involvement including local, state, and national to pursue opportunities to support personal career goals
  • Utilize others’s career stories to leverage advancement in the profession for greater marketability and earning potential
  • Compare the experiences of membership through the storytelling of four leaders
Performance Indicators:
  • 3.1.1 Identifies strengths and opportunities for improvement in self and in others.
  • 3.2.4 Encourages others to engage in personal and professional development activities for career growth and skill enhancement.
  • 4.2.2 Reflects on own values, beliefs and biases.


Vanessa Keir

Vanessa is a graduate student entering her second year of her Master's in Clinical Nutrition/Dietetic Internship program at Rush University Medical Center. She started volunteering with the Illinois Academy via the Pathway to Leadership program and currently serves as a student member on the communications committee. Her professional interests include sports nutrition, business management, nutrition communications and policy. In her spare time she likes to cook with friends and walk the lake while listening to a podcast.

Erin Bannister, MS, RDN, CLC

Erin is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Lactation Counselor with a Master's of Nutrition and Dietetics from Northern Illinois University and Bachelors in Dietetics and Food Science from Florida State University. She is currently a Metabolic Dietitian at Ann & Robert H Lurie Children’s Hospital. Erin has a special interest in metabolism and completed graduate research in validation of predictive resting metabolic equations. Diversity, equity and inclusion is of particular interest as well. With the support and guidance of the Illinois Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics through the Pathway to Leadership program, Erin was able to help create an interactive seminar series and space for DEI continuing education in IAND's yearly meeting. In her spare time, Erin enjoys growing mushrooms and playing with her dog. She is passionate about feeding in complex cases and sustaining inclusivity even in the absence of diversity. She is excited to continue her career as a metabolic dietitian.

Gayle Jennings, MS, RDN, BC-ADM, CDCES, LDN

Gayle is currently the Director of Nutrition and Diabetes Education at SIU Center for Family Medicine, in Springfield, IL. She has worked for SIU for the past 7 years, working with patients on various nutrition related concerns, but a heavy focus on diabetes and weight management. Previously, Gayle worked as a clinical dietitian at Springfield Memorial Hospital and as a consultant in long term care with Nutrition Care Systems, Inc. She is involved in the profession with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, currently President of the Capital Area Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and also involved in the Association of Diabetes Care and Education Specialists. Gayle and her husband, Aaron have two teenagers and live on a farm near Buffalo, Illinois.

Mary Russell, MS, RDN, LDN, FAND, FASPEN 

Mary is an assistant clinical professor (adjunct) at the Rosalind Franklin School of Medicine and Science. Previously, she was a senior medical science liaison at Baxter Healthcare (retired in 2020), director of the department of clinical nutrition at the University of Chicago Medical Center and director of nutrition services at Duke University Hospital. Earlier, at Duke, she was the trauma/surgery dietitian clinician and served for nearly 10 years as an adult nutrition support team dietitian clinician. Prior to that, she was a clinical dietitian and a medical technologist. Currently she is Vice-Chair of the Academy’s Nominating Committee, Chair of the Academy’s Political Action Committee, and delegate for the Disabilities MIG. She has served as president-elect, president and immediate past president and Board of Directors member of the Academy (2017-2020) and treasurer-elect, treasurer and immediate past treasurer and Board of Directors member of the Academy (2010-2015). She has chaired the Ethics Committee and the FNCE Program Planning Advisory Committee and has been a member of the Academy’s Honors, Finance and Audit, Nutrition Care Process/Standardized Language, Name Change, Legislative and Public Policy, and International Dietetics and Nutrition Terminology Review committees, and the Code of Ethics Review Task Force. She is a past member of the Academy Foundation’s Board; past chair of the Dietitians in Nutrition Support dietetic practice group; and past president of the North Carolina Dietetic Association. Honors and awards include Fellow of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Fellow of the American Society of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition (ASPEN), Academy Medallion Award, Outstanding Member (Illinois Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics), Distinguished Nutrition Support Dietitian Service Award (ASPEN), and Member of the Year (North Carolina Dietetic Association). She earned a Bachelor of Science in Medical Technology from Marquette University and Master of Science in Nutritional Sciences from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  

Valerie Chudzinski, MA, RD, LDN, CNSC