by Robin Plotkin, RD, LD
For Cathy Montgomery, RD, CSP, LD, love for legislation came naturally. Cathy, a neonatal nutritionist at Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital, had the history of family politics on her side. With a mother who had run for the Texas State Legislator and a brother with over a decade of political involvement, the Houstonian was instantly drawn to the legislative process and dietetics. “I attended Nutrition Day at the Capitol and loved it!” says Montgomery .
With the simple mention of her interest in politics to a colleague, Cathy Montgomery found herself in Washington DC at the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Public Policy Workshop (PPW) in 2004. The powerful feelings of she felt when she attended Nutrition Day at the Capitol returned and she once again fell in love with the legislative process. “It was so empowering to be in Washington, DC, surrounded by hundreds of RDs from across the country all wanting to be a voice for dietitians, our clients and our issues, “ says Cathy. “To then meet our legislators in person and realize that they DO care and that MY message is heard was an incredible feeling.”
Appointed to the Legislative Chair position for the Houston Area Dietetic Association for the 2004-05 year, she returned to the PPW in 2005 and along with Hawley Pointsett , MS , RD, LD had the opportunity to coordinate and organized the Texas dietitians in DC. Cathy is currently serving as President Elect of HADA.
Showing true fervor and energy for legislation and the effect on the profession, Cathy jumped at the chance when asked to testify before the Sunset Commission earlier this year. With her trademark professionalism, Cathy took her job of educating members of the commission on what dietitians do and their qualifications very seriously. As a expert pediatric/neonatal dietitian, Cathy brought a visual to the eyes of the legistlators that they simply could not ignore. Bringing in a premie diaper to illustrate the size of her patients was stroke of genious and the impact it made on the lawmakers was undeniable. TAND Past President Linda Farr , RD, LD, commented on Cathy’s ability to communicate the message passionately and effectively. “Cathy spoke before the legislative committee members as though they were her personal clients,” said Farr. “Her patient care stories tugged on everyone’s heart strings and demonstrated how essential the LD is in quality patient care” said Farr. Her influential testimony and political contacts really built strong support for our licensure bill.” Cathy credits the assistance of Greg Hoosier, TAND Lobbyist, her fellow RD’s and her Mother for their support before, during and after the critical testimony.
As an involved constituent as well as a leader in the Houston Area Dietetic Association, Cathy has seen first hand the impact RD involvement can have on outcomes. “Public policy affects every aspect of everyday … from our taxes to the meals our children are served in school lunches. Legislation gets passed by a handful of people – people who take the time to get involved. Calling, meeting and writing your members of Congress is your right and your privilege . I have learned that my legislators WANT to know MY opinion and in the absence of it, they will listen to someone else.”
Cathy issues a challenge to her fellow RD’s, “Take the time to get involved and let your voice be heard. It does matter.”
Below are Cathy’s Recommendations for all RD’s in taking that step to get involved:
- Find out who your Representatives are (state and federal).
- Find out how to contact them so you are ready when TAND or AND calls on you for action.
- Send them a letter when your assistance is needed! AND/TAND make is so easy for you by sending sample letters AND you can email your letter.
- Call your State Representative’s district office. Simply tell them that you are Registered,
- Licensed dietitian in his/her district and to please contact you if they ever have any nutrition-related questions/issues.
- Contribute to TAND PAC and AND PAC… your money goes to help make sure the voice of dietitians is heard at the Capitol!