By the time Sally Phillips, clinical dietitian, graduated from Wooster High School, she’d been part of Wayne County 4-H club for 10 years. The practical knowledge and skills she learned, especially in food science and preparation, nutrition and wellness, kindled her interest in home economics.
Initially, Sally wanted to work in the consumer foods industry, until she spent a college semester at Hahnemann Hospital in inner-city Philadelphia working with cystic fibrosis and overweight patients. She saw how grocery shopping, meal planning and family involvement challenged patients. Her desire to help led her into dietetics in clinical settings.
“I feel such satisfaction in seeing someone get healthy,” Sally said. “It can be difficult for patients and their families to change their eating habits and lifestyle. My job is to help them identify and overcome barriers. When a mom with gestational diabetes or child with multiple food allergies improves because of our approach to their treatment, I get ‘high’ from their success.”
After 40 years at Akron Children’s, Sally retires on July 15. She looks forward to gardening, reading, volunteering, traveling and doing spontaneous activities with family and friends, such as walking in the Summit Metro Parks or hiking in Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
What brought you to Children’s?
I worked in Akron as a nutrition educator. During this time, I met Ann Sandvick, former manager of nutrition services, through a networking organization. After earning my master’s degree, I contacted Ann to see about doing an internship at Children’s. I needed work experience before I could take the exam to become a registered dietitian. Ann hired me to cover two maternity leaves. One of the women didn’t return, and I was hired to take her spot. The other person, Deb Hutsler, returned and eventually became my boss.
Have you always worked in the same department and role?
I’ve always worked in nutrition services where I’ve had the opportunity to be in many interesting situations and roles over the years. My earlier roles included:
- Being on teams that started Children’s Weight Management Clinic and Eating Disorder Program.
- Serving as our first maternal/neonatal outreach dietitian, which involved visiting and providing programs for hospitals and health departments in Children’s surrounding counties.
- Teaching nutrition and cooking classes to low-income, at-risk parents and their preschool children through a collaborative community initiative at the Decker Family Development Center in Barberton, Ohio.
More recently, I’m involved with numerous multidisciplinary clinical teams. I work as a certified diabetes educator (CDE) in Children’s Center for Diabetes and Endocrinology and am helping with American Diabetes Association accreditation planning. I also work with pediatric and adult cystic fibrosis patients, as well as patients affected by allergies and eosinophilic esophagitis, a growing cause of digestive system problems that’s closely related to food and environmental allergens. Finally, I’m the dietitian on the maternal fetal medicine team.
What have your biggest contributions been while here?
As a registered dietitian, we help patients in a variety of settings through our involvement on multidisciplinary teams. I’ve been able to meet patients and their families where they are, helping them to make changes that they don’t want to make. For example, when patients start on a meal plan and realize they like some of the foods and won’t starve, it’s heartening to me.
I’ve also been a media spokesperson for nutrition services in the Akron Beacon Journal and on Cleveland and Macedonia TV stations, helping to share information about the things we offer at Children’s.
How has Akron Children’s changed since you started here?
The dietitian staff has expanded from 6 to 25 people and become integral to how we treat many different diseases.
What is your most memorable and/or happiest moment at Akron Children’s?
I’m always thrilled for our cystic fibrosis patients who achieve goals that they didn’t believe were possible, such as attending college, having a career or starting a family.
What’s your idea of a perfect day?
Eating breakfast, reading a print copy of the newspaper, hiking with friends or gardening, cooking and needlepointing, especially while listening to a Cleveland Guardians game.
Do you have any advice for people just starting at Children’s?
Get to know the employees you interact with because you never know when they can help you out in a pinch! Take advantage of the multiple education opportunities here.
What couldn’t you live without?
Family and friends, faith and walks in nature.
What’s the last book your read?
“Lilac Girls” by Martha Hall Kelly