MM: Tell me about a time you had a positive mentoring experience, where you were the mentor.
TS: I was very active in the dietitian arena – where I was a spokesperson, eventually – but my sole focus was in the dietitian world building skills to effectively disseminate science-based information to the public. I was also, at the same time, learning more about myself and realized diabetes was going to be my area of expertise.
To be honest, a couple years ago was the first time I joined AADE and attended my first annual meeting. At the opening session, President Deborah Greenwood started the day giving a presentation about diabetes and technology, and I was so inspired. I felt so good about where the organization (AADE) was going and her messaging about technology and hopes for people with diabetes. She inspired me, that there is a lot of hope out there and it made me want to be more involved with AADE.
That’s where the fire started for me. I raised my hand and said, "I’m really interested in getting more involved." That’s all it took.
I’ve had a volunteer position with AADE ever since that talk. I went to Deb and thanked her for the presentation. I found her easy to talk to and very humble. I told her about my interest, and between Deb and fellow dietitian, Hope Warshaw, they opened some doors for me. Suddenly, I was in a room of like-minded volunteers who are passionate about our work and diabetes. That’s where the fire started for me. I raised my hand and said, "I’m really interested in getting more involved." That’s all it took.
MM: How have you been able to reciprocate this with others?
TS: Just recently at the Food Nutrition Conference and Expo (FNCE) in Chicago, I was approached by several interns who asked, "Who or how do I connect with people?" It seemed like everyone was looking for really cool out of the box internships. I could pay it forward by connecting them with some of my networks.
The thing about giving back and raising your hand is you need to know that it’s a lot of volunteer work to get there. But you do it for your career, you do it to learn and stretch your career. You get to meet a lot of amazing people in your venture.
MM: What advice would you give to someone watching to get to the doing?
TS: People do say "oh I’ve been watching you and you are doing great." My comment is always "you can too, I’ll help you, but you can do this too." We can get comfortable in our small little world, but that’s no longer the place you have to go as a CDE, you can do so much more – there is nothing stopping you, but you have to be willing to step out of that box that is your 9 – 5.
Toby Smithson, MS, RDN, LD, CDE
Toby Smithson is a registered and licensed dietitian, certified diabetes educator, and media spokesperson for AADE. She also holds a Master’s of Science in Nutrition and Wellness with an emphasis in Entrepreneurship from Benedictine University.
Smithson combines her professional guidance as a certified diabetes educator with her personal experience living with type 1 diabetes for over four decades to serve as an expert for print and online resources including local and national newspapers, magazines and radio. She is the principal author of Diabetes Meal Planning and Nutrition for Dummies (John Wiley & Sons, October 2013), and writes regularly for U.S. News and World Report on issues related to diabetes, and for Type2Diabetes.com. In 2016, she was the theme editor for On the Cutting Edge for the Diabetes Care and Education group, Diabetes and Technology edition.
Toby founded DiabetesEveryDay.com, an online technical and lifestyle support resource for people with diabetes, offering constant access to her unique professional and personal diabetes management insights, primarily through original video segments.