Annual Meeting Speakers

Christy Wilson, RD

Christy Wilson is a Tucson, AZ based Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with a special interest in culinary nutrition. She is the owner of Christy Wilson Nutrition, LLC, a nutrition communications consulting service and blog. 

Originally from the border town of Nogales, Arizona, Christy is a cook, a health advocate and a teacher at heart. She earned her bachelor’s degree in nutritional sciences from the University of Arizona and over the past two decades, Christy has been in the business of health and wellness as a nutrition counselor, food and nutrition blogger, speaker, influencer and cooking teacher. Her work with the HIV/AIDS community spans over a decade at El Rio Health where she counsels clients and teaches a monthly, nutrition-focused cooking class. She is also the founder of Fiesta Flavors, an interactive nutrition education lesson for elementary and middle school aged children.

Christy’s passion for nutrition, cooking and teaching is highlighted on her website and blog,, which showcases recipe development, blogging, and food photography work she has done in collaboration with numerous food brands and commodities over the past decade including Wonderful Pistachios, Almond Breeze, Kikkoman, as well as the California Strawberry Commission, Tomato Wellness and the National Honey Board.

Zach Cordell, MS, RDN

Zach’s focus in nutrition largely surrounds how culture influences our nutrition behaviors. Having lived in 10 different states and worked with immigrants, refugee’s, students, hospital patients and companies he recognizes when addressing behavior change you need to be culturally aware of participants environments and background. Whether it is location, income, faith, education, or family, our cultural background shapes our behaviors. Having an awareness of that influence opens the doors of change and the opportunity to progress.

He is currently an Assistant Teaching Professor at Arizona State University. Zach has experienced clinical dietetics, out-patient counseling, public speaking, blogging, and podcasting. He has published two books discussing the connection between faith and food. He also created a textbook discussing the intersection of culture and health for future healthcare professionals. Prior to moving to Arizona, he served as the Secretary for the Volusia Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and is the current Treasurer for the Arizona Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.  

After obtaining his bachelor’s degree in nutrition from the University of North Carolina in Greensboro, Zach received his master’s degree from the University of Massachusetts and performed his dietetic internship at Yale New Haven Hospital.

Leila Ali-Akbarian, MD,MPH

Leila Ali-Akbarian (Dr. Ali) is the co-owner and practicing physician at Banyan Integrative Health in Tucson, Arizona, an integrative primary care clinic in Tucson, AZ.

Dr. Ali graduated from the University of Arizona (U of A) Family Medicine Residency program in 2009 after receiving her medical degree (MD) and Masters of Public Health (MPH) at the U of A. She worked as an attending physician and faculty member in the Family Medicine department following her training, actively participating in patient care, research, and education. She is a graduate of the Arizona Fellowship in Integrative Medicine and was the director of the Family Medicine Integrative Medicine Residential Fellowship program from 2013 – 2019. She continues as a faculty member and teacher with the Andrew Weil Center for Integrative Medicine (AWCIM) in Tucson, AZ.

Dr. Ali served as the medical director of the Supportive Care Clinic at the University of Arizona Cancer Center from 2013 – 2019 and has given many community and academic lectures in the field of integrative oncology and cancer survivorship. 

Dr. Ali is committed to providing the highest quality primary care for people of all ages with any health conditions, aiming to ally with her patients to use the least amount of medication necessary to optimize wellness and increase longevity. She is board certified in Family Medicine and is committed to staying on the cutting edge of integrative medicine and fostering resilience. When she is not working, Dr. Ali enjoys frolicking with her children, cooking with her husband, or spending time in nature.

Noshene Ranjbar, M.D.

Born and raised in Tehran, Iran until immigrating to the US in adolescence, Dr. Noshene Ranjbar developed a passion for a holistic view of medicine and healing from early on in her life. Throughout her studies and life experiences, including her own illness as well as caring for her mom who suffered from several autoimmune illnesses and cancer, to fostering refugee children with PTSD, to working with American Indian communities across the U.S., she developed a keen interest in approaches to healing trauma and advocating for holistic mental health in empowering, culturally appropriate ways.

Dr. Ranjbar completed undergraduate and medical school at the University of Virginia, followed by Family Medicine Internship at Middlesex Hospital/Hartford Hospital, Psychiatry Residency at the University of Arizona-Tucson, and Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Fellowship at Boston Children’s Hospital/Harvard Medical School. Board Certified in General Psychiatry, Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, and Integrative Medicine, Dr. Ranjbar currently serves as Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Director of the Integrative Psychiatry Program at the University of Arizona. She also serves on Faculty with The Center for Mind-Body Medicine, the Andrew Weil Center for Integrative Medicine, and the Integrative Psychiatry Institute. 

Her research focuses on training the next generation of psychiatrists to offer a holistic approach to mental health, while serving children and families most in need. As a Robert Wood Johnson Culture of Health Leader, she is expanding her work in integrative mental health and indigenous mental health nationally and internationally. 

Linked In:
Twitter: @NosheneMD


Mari Anoushka Ricker, MD, FAAFP, Dipl. ABOIM

Dr. Mari Ricker is a Professor in the University of Arizona Department of Family and Community Medicine. She is the Director for the Integrative Medicine in Residency Program at the Andrew Weil Center for Integrative Medicine. She has a strong interest in physician resiliency, burnout prevention, and finding meaning in our work. She teaches at the University of Arizona, College of Medicine Tucson, for medical students and residents in Family Medicine. She has written about the Anti-inflammatory Diet and incorporates nutrition education in all of her Integrative Medicine teaching with students and residents.




Diana Kinsfather, MS, RDN

Diana received her Bachelor of Science degree and her Masters of Science degree from Arizona State University. She completed her dietetic internship, also through Arizona State University, and received her Registered Dietitian Certificate in 2013.

Diana is the Dietetic Internship Supervisor for Maricopa County Department of Public Health.  She also teaches nutrition classes at various Maricopa Community Colleges.  Diana is co-chair of the Arizona Dietetic Practicum Advisory Committee (AzDPAC) and Conference-Chair Elect for the Arizona Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.









Melanie Hingle, PhD, MPH, RDN

Melanie Hingle, PhD, MPH, RDN, Professor, School of Nutritional Sciences and Wellness, The University of Arizona.

Dr. Hingle is a community-engaged nutrition scientist, public health researcher, and Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with expertise in the design and conduct of interventions to promote health and prevent or manage diet-sensitive diseases and conditions, including diabetes. She is the Principal Investigator of the FRESH Study, which seeks to test the impact of medically tailored groceries plus nutrition and diabetes education on health outcomes and healthcare utilization among persons with diabetes who identify as food insecure. She is also a Co-Director of the University of Arizona Culinary Medicine Initiative.




Jennifer Parlin

Jenn Parlin is the Assistant Agent for the University of Arizona’s The Garden Kitchen program. Using her background in public health policy and management, Jenn works to develop and implement trauma aware educational activities as well as policy, system, and environmental changes that aim to reduce health disparities across socioeconomic levels.  Jenn has also developed and teaches the Culinary Medicine lab for the University of Arizona’s School of Nutritional Sciences and Wellness.





Connie Bell, M.B.A.

Connie Bell is an Assistant Professor of Practice in the School of Nutritional Sciences and Wellness at the University of Arizona and a chef and caterer as well. She co-teaches the school’s Culinary Medicine class. With a background in business administration and management, she also teaches Foodservice Management to the graduate students in the school’s program for Dietetics.






Carmen Young, MFN, RDN, CSSD

Carmen Young has been a lifelong athlete-starting swimming lessons when she was 7 years old, competing as a Division 1 collegiate swimmer, to becoming a US Masters Swimming National Champion at 26 years old. This is where her love for nutrition and sports stemmed from. Carmen has worked in the School of Nutritional Sciences and Wellness at the University of Arizona since 2018, serving as an Assistant Professor of Practice, specifically teaching Sports Nutrition minor course curriculum. Prior to teaching, Carmen worked as a Research Assistant in an Exercise Physiology lab at Bowling Green State University, performing various types of research based in nutrition and physical activity. From there, she pursued her true passion for sports nutrition as a Performance Nutrition Dietitian at Rutgers University, working one-on-one with athletes and teams, providing individualized nutrition services and education. Her love for helping athletes fuel themselves to their greatest potential, while also creating great relationships with food and their body runs deep, stemming from her own experience as an elite athlete.


Katie Spada, MS, RDN, LDN

Katie is a registered dietitian and former athlete. She is the owner and founder of Spada Strong Nutrition LLC, a nutrition coaching business focused on helping athletes, former athletes, and active individuals fuel for training and for life. She holds a master’s degree in Nutrition from Northeastern University with a concentration in Sports and Fitness. Katie competed as an elite level synchronized swimmer. During her career, she had three national team appointments and competed collegiately for The Ohio State University before retiring and pursuing her career as a dietitian. Katie founded Spada Strong Nutrition with the goal of helping individuals learn how to fuel their body’s properly, work through body image struggles, and develop a healthy relationship with food that supports their lifestyle. Katie believes every person deserves to feel good in their skin, fuel their body well, and enjoy the foods they eat, guilt-free!




Ashlee Linares-Gaffer, MS, RDN, FAND

Ashlee Linares-Gaffer is an Associate Professor of Practice in the School of Nutritional Sciences and Wellness at the University of Arizona, where she also serves as Director for Student Success, Retention and Equity. Ashlee teaches undergraduate and graduate courses, including a novel graduate course for dietetics students to engage in food systems, agriculture and public policy. Ashlee has spent the last ten years engaged in fostering more inclusive learning opportunities to increase diversity in the dietetics profession through the development and delivery of innovative programs and initiatives for students.




Kayle Skorupski, PhD, MS, RDN-AP, CNSC, FAND

Doctor Skorupski earned a BS in Animal Science and a BS in Nutrition from the University of Arizona. She earned her MS and completed her Dietetic Internship from State University of New York at Oneonta. In 2022, she completed her PhD in Health Sciences with a clinical emphasis in Health Promotion & Wellness, studying the impact of yoga on first year student resilience and retention. 

Kayle has worked as a clinical dietitian in intensive care setting with a focus on nutrition support and is a credentialed Certified Nutrition Support Clinician. She has also worked in Long Term and Skilled Nursing settings as a consulting dietitian, and as Nutrition Manager at Benson Hospital, a rural critical access hospital. In 2015 she joined the faculty in the School of Nutritional Sciences & Wellness in the College of Agriculture & Life Sciences at the University of Arizona. As an Associate Professor of Practice and Director of Professional Programs she oversees multiple programs, including a Graduate Certificate in Applied Nutrition as well as the Professional Science Masters in Applied Nutrition programs, which includes an ACEND accredited Graduate Program. 

As Director of Professional Programs, Kayle has been part of the ongoing efforts in the School of Nutritional Sciences & Wellness to expand access to dietetics education and training through the Arizona Online and UA Yuma campuses. 


Lauren Peña, RDN

Lauren Peña, (formerly known as Lauren Kemmer), is a registered dietitian nutritionist and completed both her B.S. in Nutritional Sciences and her dietetic internship at the University of Arizona. She is currently pursuing an M.S. in Organizational Leadership from Columbia Southern University. Lauren has previously worked in the school nutrition industry and in higher education food service. As the Manager of Sustainable Nutrition at the Dairy Council of Arizona, she focuses on promoting dairy’s health benefits to health professionals and chefs, combatting Arizona’s food insecurity, and communicating dairy farming’s sustainable concepts.




Casey Dugan

Desperado Dairy’s owner, Casey Dugan, represents the fourth generation in his family milking cows. His dairy is located in Casa Grande, AZ. His grandfather, Michael Dugan moved from Wisconsin to Arizona in 1965 and all six of his children became dairy producers in Arizona.

Dugan worked for his father, Pat, at the home dairy, Du Brook Dairy, until 2010. That year included a big change, as Dugan married his wife, Andrea, purchased 1,000 cows from his father, and started milking in a dry lot facility on his own. A decade later, the Dugans moved to a neighboring dairy, closer to the home farm, that was newer and featured Saudi-Style dairy barns. Dugan purchased an additional 800 cows from his father and today milks 2,000 cows three times a day. 

He graduated from Northern Arizona University with a bachelor’s degree in Business. Casey has been involved with numerous dairy organizations including GENEX, DHIA (Dairy Heard Improvement Association), Dairy Council of Arizona, Dairy Management West, and United Dairymen of Arizona. He is also co-owner to Dugan Brothers LLC., which harvests corn, alfalfa, and sorghum for other Pinal County farmers. Casey is also a partner in Dugan Feeds LLC which distributes feed rations to local dairy farms. He continues his passion for livestock as he raises cross-breed steers at his home.


​Ian Tomlinson

Ian Tomlinson began his career in agriculture in 2001 after completing his graduate degree at Seattle
University School of Law. As the third-generation manager and vice president of Vera Earl Ranch, Inc., Tomlinson oversees approximately 2,900 mother cows, on more than 200,000 acres, across the Sonoita valley, as well as parts of Cochise and Pima Counties. He also feeds an additional 5,000 head of cattle in three states, and farms 1,500 acres of wheat in Texas. In 2020, due to the Covid pandemic and a demand for home-raised, all-natural beef, he started a ranch-to-table company, Vera Earl Premium Beef, providing high quality cuts to consumers and restaurants alike, both in Arizona and beyond.

The Vera Earl takes great pride in working with many partners and third-party verification programs on all of the ranches. Some of the verifications include IMI Global to certify Never Ever Natural (no
hormones or antibiotics), NHTC (no hormones), CARE and GAP (animal welfare and environmental

Due to Tomlinson’s long-standing belief in environmental stewardship, he strives to manage the
ecosystem for the sustainability of both the land and the cattle. Working hand-in-hand with many
outside agencies, including the BLM, NRCS, AZ Game & Fish, and the US Forest Service, as well as
environmental advocates, he has become an integral part of many ecological studies and programs. He believes in science-based decision making, which has proven essential in protecting the 15 endangered species living on the ranches managed by the Vera Earl.

Lastly, Tomlinson believes in bolstering the surrounding communities. Both the Tomlinson family and
the ranch, as well as the beef company, are avid supporters and figureheads of many local programs,
fundraisers, and events. Organizations include 4-H, FFA, and the Cowbelles, as well as the Los Charros Foundation, of which Ian was a founding member.

Wes Kerr

Wes and his wife Lauren are both fourth generation Arizona dairy farmers. They live with their three children Madelyn (11), Caroline (9), and Evan (6) on their dairy farm in Buckeye, AZ.

Wes is passionate about genetics, dairy cattle nutrition, agronomy and advocacy for dairy farming. He has appeared on the cover of Progressive Dairymen Magazine for his use of polled genetics on his farm.

Wes graduated from Grand Canyon University in 2005 with a Bachelor of Art’s degree. He also graduated from Project CENTRL, a leadership development program for rural Arizona.

He is an active member of his community and serves on the school board at Palo Verde Elementary.



Lauren Scheller Maehling

Lauren grew up on her family’s beef cattle ranch in Los Alamos on the Central Coast of California. 

Lauren received her Bachelor of Science Degree from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo with a degree in Animal Science, emphasis in Agricultural Business and a minor in Rangeland Resource Management. 

As executive director of the Arizona Beef Council, Lauren enjoys serving Arizona’s cattlemen and women in promoting beef to Arizona consumers. She’s a foodie, enjoys sending snail mail, and is a tired mom of two toddlers.




Erika Barrera, MPH, RD

Erika Barrera, MPH, RDN has been a dietitian for four years now. She currently works at HonorHealth as a clinical dietitian and has her own business where she provides 1:1 nutrition coaching and teaches employee wellness programs. Since her dietetic internship, she’s been inspired to be involved in health policy. This inspiration has continued until this day which has led to her role as AZAND’s public policy coordinator. On her spare time, she loves to create new recipes, spend time with loved ones, and watch competition shows on Netflix.





Glenna McCollum, MPH, RDN, FAND

Dr. McCollum currently serves as Board Chair for the Arizona Center for Rural Leadership (Project CENTRL) and is a graduate of the program. CENTRL has equipped and empowered over 700 leaders to meet the needs of rural Arizona. Make A Difference is a project required of each graduate, one that promotes a healthy, vibrant and sustainable community in which they serve.

As a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), Dr. McCollum served as President and Speaker of the House of Delegates for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics – the largest food and nutrition organization serving over 120,000 credentialed practitioners nationwide. For 17 years, Glenna was the Director of Nutrition for Central Arizona College, and served her community of Chandler, AZ as the Executive Director for the Chandler Education Foundation. She continues to serve on several community and statewide boards, including the Food and Agricultural Policy Advisory Committee for the Arizona Department of Agriculture.

Glenna consults with selected agricultural companies who are focused on soil health and sustainability – to enhance, protect and restore the nutritional quality of crops and our food supply through regenerative practices.  She received her Doctorate in Management and Organizational Leadership from the University of Phoenix, a Master’s in Public Health from Loma Linda University, and two Bachelor of Science degrees from Arizona State University.



Ashley Munro, MPH, RDN, CDCES

Ashley Munro, MPH, RDN, CDCES (she/her)  is a Tucson Native and University of Arizona Alum. Ashley has been a dietitian for over 10 years and specializes in inclusive diabetes management, intuitive eating and health at every size (HAES®) concept as a doorway to body liberation. She works at the University of Arizona as a faculty member in the School of Nutritional Sciences and Wellness and is currently working with a team to provide weight-inclusive health programs and curriculum for UA students.