Department of Nutrition faculty, student honored by Nevada Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

Meet Nevada Outstanding Dietitian David St-Jules , Recognized Dietetic Technician Deborah Joakimson and Outstanding Dietetic Student Shauna Tavcar

David St-Jules.

Assistant Professor David St-Jules, with the College of Agriculture, Biotechnology & Natural Resources, was recognized as the Nevada Outstanding Dietitian of the Year. Photo by Robert Moore.

Department of Nutrition faculty, student honored by Nevada Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

Meet Nevada Outstanding Dietitian David St-Jules , Recognized Dietetic Technician Deborah Joakimson and Outstanding Dietetic Student Shauna Tavcar

Assistant Professor David St-Jules, with the College of Agriculture, Biotechnology & Natural Resources, was recognized as the Nevada Outstanding Dietitian of the Year. Photo by Robert Moore.

David St-Jules.

Assistant Professor David St-Jules, with the College of Agriculture, Biotechnology & Natural Resources, was recognized as the Nevada Outstanding Dietitian of the Year. Photo by Robert Moore.

David St-Jules | Nevada Outstanding Dietitian of the Year

St-Jules joined the College's Department of Nutrition in 2019 with a vision to transform scientific discoveries into treatments and approaches that help people.

"David's research aims to help establish science-based nutrition guidelines for people with chronic kidney disease," Nutrition Department Chair Jamie Benedict said. "His work centers around managing the disease with diet. Given the increasing number of people worldwide who are at risk for kidney disease, the potential impact of his research is astounding."

St-Jules' research has shown that the traditional recommendation for dialysis patients to avoid eating plants that are high in potassium is not science-based. It may harm patients. The article St-Jules wrote on this is the highest-impact piece in the Journal of Renal Nutrition.

St-Jules has published 35 journal articles in high-impact journals since 2013, often as the senior author. For example, he's published in the American Journal of Kidney Disease and the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.

Benedict said, "David has made significant and impactful scholarly contributions that serve to advance the science of dietetics. "

Due in part to his reputation as an exceptional scholar, St-Jules receives many speaking requests. In just the past year, he presented for national and international professional associations and conferences in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the U.S.

Additionally, St-Jules mentors future nutrition and dietetic scholars. He serves as the Graduate Advisory Committee Chair to four University students, three in the Nutrition Graduate Program and one in the Environmental Sciences & Health Program. He has an undergraduate student, Tavcar, working alongside graduate students in his lab, and he has partnered with UNLV nutrition faculty to help educate UNLV nutrition students.

"The time required to mentor and guide students is significant," Benedict said, "I have no doubt his students benefit greatly from his guidance."

St-Jules is also active in Nevada communities, delivering research-based programs designed to support residents in leading healthier lives, including free workshops for nutrition and dietetic professionals.

Deborah Joakimson | Nevada Recognized Dietetic Technician of the Year

Deborah Joakimson.

Joakimson earned her bachelor's degree in nutrition with an emphasis in dietetics as well as a master's degree in nutrition from the College.

She said. "I returned to UNR to start over again after the 2008 housing crisis when my family lost everything. I was turning 50, and everyone, including traditional students and staff, were so supportive. This University is so exceptional and such a blessing."

Joakimson earned her nutrition and dietetics technician, registered credential shortly after completing her bachelor's degree. During her studies, she expressed an interest in the College's efforts to reduce children’s intake of sugary drinks.

"I was pleased to have Deborah as part of our research team," Benedict, who leads the College's Rethink Your Drink Nevada Program, said. "She developed an online survey and new ways of reaching respondents, and executed a cross-sectional study of consumers. She approached these tasks with the dedication of a true scholar."

While completing the graduate program requirements, Joakimson also worked for the Department, helping with other components of the Rethink Your Drink Nevada Program. She helped develop, implement and evaluate the College's work to increase shoppers' healthful beverage choices by providing free recipe cards at grocery stores. This included developing low-cost, simple recipes for refreshing sugar-free beverages; recruiting grocery stores to participate; conducting on-site demonstrations; and maintaining grocery store displays, even during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Benedict said, "Thanks to Deborah's leadership and perseverance, grocery store displays are located in 25 different locations in 12 Nevada counties, and the success of this intervention has been highlighted by the USDA Food and Nutrition Service."

Joakimson is now the public policy assistant and sponsorship chair for the Nevada Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and full-time administrative faculty with the Department.

"Deborah is driven by her genuine interest in promoting nutrition among vulnerable families," Benedict said. "I couldn’t be more pleased with her decision to continue working with us."

Shauna Tavcar | Nevada Outstanding Dietetic Student of the Year

Shauna Tavcar.

Tavcar is earning a bachelor's degree in nutrition with a specialization in dietetics from the College.

"I have only taught a handful of students who have produced the exceptional academic work that Shauna has," Nutrition Instructor Maureen Molini said. "But, it is not only Shauna’s strong intellectual abilities that made her an ideal candidate for this award. She is also an excellent communicator and possesses an openness, maturity and diverse skill set that set her apart."

Tavcar has a previous undergraduate degree from the University in business administration.

"She made the decision to come back to school to earn her bachelor's degree in nutrition, as she is highly motivated to become a registered dietitian nutritionist," Didactic Program in Dietetics Director Jolyn Wirshing said.

The skills she developed in her previous career benefit her in her new one.

"Shauna brings to dietetics a strong set of talents, due to many years of experience working closely with people in challenging situations during her time with the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services," Molini said. "Those talents align well with those needed by a registered dietitian nutritionist, such as attention to detail, supervisory experience, and program monitoring and evaluation."

Tavcar earned the National Restaurant Association’s ServSafe Food Protection Manager Certification, works as a nutrition representative for Renown Regional Medical Center and volunteers in St-Jules' renal dietetics lab. Her goal is to work in renal nutrition or as a certified diabetes educator.

St-Jules said, "Her enthusiasm and support for others in the lab has been wonderful, and will be greatly missed after her graduation."

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