Executive Committee

Executive Committee 2018-19



Sara Carrion Perrone, MS, RDN, LD

Sara Carrion Perrone

Sara Carrion Perrone has been a Registered Dietitian for over 20 years and is a Sodexo Clinical Nutrition Manager at Corpus Christi Medical Center. Sara has a vast knowledge in dietetics including a background in adult and pediatric clinical nutrition, weight and diabetes management, community nutrition, breastfeeding promotion, teaching at the university level, and management experience. Sara has held leadership positions for LAHIDAN in the past as both Secretary, Regional Coordinator and Chair-Elect and has been an Academy Member for almost twenty years.

Sara has served in leadership capacities at both the local, state and national levels. She was President of the Corpus Christi Breastfeeding Coalition and helped secure grant money to build a website aimed to better serve breastfeeding moms in the coastal bend area. She has also volunteered her time to the Texas Academy of Nutrition as Nominating Committee member, Scholarship Coordinator and currently serves as the Legislative Coordinator for the South Region of the Texas Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Sara has also held specialty certifications including Board Certified Specialization in Pediatric Nutrition (CSP) and Child and Adolescent Weight Management. She was also tapped as an expert content writer/committee member for the Commission on Dietetic Registration’s Specialty Exam in Pediatrics.

In her current managerial position, Sara was recently awarded with the Sodexo Cornerstones of Cares award for Service: Patient/Resident Experience in her region for her dedication to patients. She was also recognized as a Sodexo Clinical Matter Expert helping to orient new Sodexo clinical dietitians to their role.




Janine Ricketts-Byrne, MA, RDN, LDN

Janine Ricketts-Byrne

Janine Ricketts-Byrne, MA, RDN, LDN has been practicing in dietetics for over 30 years. She worked in Diabetes Education of multidisciplinary healthcare teams addressing the prevalence of diabetes among the Hispanic population. Recruited Hispanic RDN's to serve as Spokesperson to enhance Hispanic representation focused on diabetes specialization.

As ACEND staff she worked at ensuring implementation of high academic standards and competencies to prepare dietetic students to become successful and culturally sensitive registered dietitians. Served on the Ad-Hoc Committee of Hispanic-Serving Programs and Education. Coached clients discover and overcome their personal barriers, facilitate individuals to develop objectives with measurable outcomes using behavior modification and motivation techniques. Conduct power employment workshops, facilitate resume writing workshop and disseminate instruction materials. Provide volunteer networking opportunities and accountability support.

Encourage RDNs to pursue specialties that elevate our profession and consider the functional medicine aspects culturally rooted in Hispanic traditions and culture. Building a private consulting business for organizations marketing to Hispanics, creating welcoming environments that enhance understanding, acceptance and multicultural collaboration and leadership.

1)Empower Hispanics RDNs by systematically increasing leadership representation to meet the diversity demand through LAHIDAN. 2) Model leadership that embraces/manages positive change, policy implementation, and promotes a collegiate culture of inquiry and communication. 3)Think strategically with global and futuristic outreach perspective to integrate the needs of LAHIDAN with the entire Academy's membership.4) Problem solver to address challenges, mediate and generate solutions. 5)Connector, fluent bilingual speaker (lived abroad), inspires internal/external stakeholders to view LAHIDAN as the vital source of Hispanic cultural nutrition expertise, social media presence and reciprocity.





Margaret Cook–Newell, PhD, RDN, LD, CDE, CN, MLDE

Margaret Cook–Newell

Margaret ‘Maggie’ E. Cook-Newell, PHD, RDN, LD, CDE®, CN, MLDE, has been practicing dietetics for over 35 years.  She has been active in the field of diabetes since 1981 and uses her role as faculty at Western Kentucky University to encourage students in all health care professions to attend or advocate for the Kentucky Diabetes Camp for Children Inc., ‘Camp Hendon’ as a tool for learning how to manage life with diabetes.  Maggie has been active in AND at the local and state level and is looking forward to involvement at the national level.  As a registered dietitian/nutritionist her professional opportunities have been exciting and rewarding and still allow for future adventures in the field.







Magaly Hernandez, MPH, RDN, LD

Maggie Hernandez

Maggie Hernandez has been a dietitian for 39 years. She has diverse experience. She has been a food service director for 5 years, worked as a renal dietitian, diabetes educator, pediatric dietitian and long term care. She has work as an assistant professor at Andrews University for 14 years (2002-2016). During those 14 years she taught in the Department of Public Health, Nutrition and Wellness. Some of her main responsibilities were teaching clinical courses to dietetics students and directing the Dietetic Internship of Nutrition and Dietetics. Also she was a relief clinical dietitian for Lakeland Health for the 9 years (2006-2015), her responsibilities were to work as a clinical dietitian.

She relocated to Orlando, Florida on June 2015. She continues to work at the university setting where she teaches nutrition for nurses, pre-med students and other health professionals at the Adventist University of Health Sciences.

She has a passion to impart nutrition knowledge to everyone. She enjoys networking with dietitians, and other health care professionals.

Her motto is to live life to the fullest and to help people to have happy and healthy lives.





Andie Lee Gonzalez, PhD, MPH, RDN, LD

Andie Lee Gonzalez

Andie Lee Gonzalez is a native to South Texas. As a first-generation Latina college student, she received her Bachelors of Science in Dietetics, Dietetic internship rotation program and her Masters in Public Health, with an emphasis in nutrition from Michigan State University. She then completed her Doctorate in Philosophy in Leadership Studies from Our Lady of the Lake University. Through her experiences Andie has developed a strong purpose and passion for community and nutrition. She has found that working toward improving the community's health and wellbeing to be an incredibly fulfilling responsibility and an important goal of hers.

Andie's experiences are unique. They encompass a range of diverse experiences; from academia (6+ years in Migrant and Seasonal Farmworker community research, former University of Texas Rio Grande Valley adjunct professor) working with different populations (adults, children, women), serving in national public health service (HealthCorps at Nuestra Clinica Del Valle), management experience (foodservice supervisor for AL!VE Wellness Center and Outreach Coordinator for Project Puente), and clinical nutrition services (Hayes Green Beach Hospital) are just a few. She is Nationally ServSafe certified, a current member of the Latinos and Hispanics in Nutrition and Dietetics group, Food and Culinary Professionals dietetic practice group through the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, mentor for Diversify Dietetics and serves as the Texas Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics South Texas Region-Rio Grande Valley Liaison.

She is trained and continues to train in the nutrition field and through much research and experience she understands the importance of good health and well being. Through her focus of "taking SMALL steps for BIG changes" she has seen thousands of lives transformed. Her future aspirations include continuing to embrace health and wellness among H E B South Texas families.

As a H-E-B Medical Sales Representative she helps build on H-E-B-s nutrition services offerings, maintain relationships with physicians, health care providers and employers and serve as a spokesperson for nutrition education and health and wellness. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her husband Ricardo and daughter Aolani. She is a highly motivated Latina who values family, hard work, and helping others.




Nominating Chair

Virginia Tijerina Walls, MS, NC

Virginia Tijerina Walls

Virginia Tijerina Walls is a Mexican dietitian with 25 years of experience who has practiced the profession in several areas including clinical nutrition, education, research, health promotion and nutrition communication. She holds a MS in Nutrition from The University of Oklahoma and is PhD Candidate on Management and Public Policy from Medicine School at National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). Virginia is Professor at the School of Public Health and Nutrition at the Autonomous University of Nuevo Leon (UANL) and she is the Communication Manager of the Mexican Observatory of Noncommunicable Diseases. Also, she is the Founder and Director of Nutrien Nutrition & Health, a consulting agency for food and nutrition. Virginia is Past-President and Country Representative from Mexico of American Overseas Dietetic Association, the International Affiliate of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She has received several awards during her professional career; some of the most important are AODA 2015 Outstanding Dietitian of the Year and Excellence in Professional Development by the Autonomous University of Nuevo Leon in the same year. Virginia is an international speaker and her main research interests are health policy and childhood obesity prevention.




Nominating Chair-Elect

Aida Miles, EdD, MMSc, RDN, FAND

Aida Miles

Aida is the director of the Coordinated Master’s program in Public Health Nutrition at the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health. She is also a Pediatric Nutrition Consultant for two clinics that specialize in working with infants and children with feeding disorders, developmental disabilities and Autism Spectrum Disorder. Previously, she was a clinical dietitian at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and at medical centers in Georgia and Guatemala.

Aida has held various leadership positions locally and nationally. Most recently (2015-2017), Aida was a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Board of Directors, and was the Speaker of the House of Delegates. Aida’s current professional involvement includes being an executive committee member of the State of Minnesota’s Maternal and Child Health Task Force, vice-chair of the Academy’s Diversity Committee, a member of the University of Minnesota’s Disabilities Committee, and president of the Minnesota Consultant Dietitians Practice Group.

Aida is a graduate of Whittier College and earned a Master’s degree in Medical Science from Emory University. She is a Doctoral student at Bethel University in St. Paul, Minnesota, and her research focuses on the experiences of students with disabilities in higher education.





Mentoring Coordinator 

Julie Plasencia, PhD, RDN

Julie Plasencia

Dr. Julie Plasencia is a registered dietitian and is currently an assistant professor at the University of Kentucky. Her research interests are in investigating how culture influences dietary behaviors in Mexican-Americans with type 2 diabetes.

Dr. Plasencia started as a LAHIDAN student member in 2007 and subsequently held the positions of Newsletter Editor, Treasurer, Chair and is currently the Mentoring Program Coordinator. She was named the 2011 Nevada’s Recognized Young Registered Dietitian of the Year award recipient for her volunteer work in the dietetics profession, specifically for her involvement with LAHIDAN. She looks forward to increase participation in LAHIDAN’s mentoring program to help student and mentors mutually enhance each others skills.