Meet the Board
The Board Members for 2022-2023!
Sandra Porter Leon, MS, RDN - Co-President
Sandra Porter Leon is the Director of Nutrition and Wellness at The Neighborhood Harvest, a local farm-to-table company that grows a variety of greens, partners with 30+regional farms, and provides chef-prepared meals, all delivered to a customer base of about 10,000 throughout Virginia. Sandra has studied, consulted, and worked in both the clinical nutrition and research fields at Virginia Tech University, Duke University, Children's Hospital of the King's Daughters, and Tidewater Community College where she taught nutrition classes for over twenty years.
Jill Comess, DHSc, MS, RDN - Co-President
Jill Comess, DHSc, MS, RDN is the Food Science and Nutrition Program Director at Norfolk State
University (NSU), Norfolk, VA in the Department of Nursing and Allied Health, College of Science,
Engineering and Technology. Her experiences and interests are in lifecycle nutrition, minority health,
and obesity. She has worked as a corporate dietitian, pediatric dietitian, and for the egg industry.
Currently she is a member of the NSU Center of Excellence in Minority Health Disparities, the
NSU/ODU/EVMS Public Health Initiative, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the VA Academy of
Nutrition and Dietetics.
Shaye Arluk, MS, RDN - Co-President Elect
Shaye Arluk graduated Cornell University and the VCU School of Medicine Nutrition Internship before returning to her hometown of Virginia Beach. She has worn many hats as a dietitian over the last 25 years from running the NICU nutrition at NMCP to being an adjunct professor at ODU to being a nutritional consultant for McDonald's on the East Coast. Currently she is the Nutrition and Wellness Coordinator of the Sentara Brock Cancer Center where she promotes antioxidant rich diets and balanced lifestyle. On the side, Shaye runs the FCHS Patriettes Dance Team, her alma mater.
Kirsten Romero, MS, RD - Co-President Elect
Kirsten Romero is a Virginia Beach based Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) who believes in helping her clients achieve their health goals through a livable diet that includes great tasting, healthy foods in moderation. She currently works as a consultant dietitian with Senior Services of Southeastern Virginia where she provides nutrition education and one-on-one counseling to seniors throughout the Southside and western Tidewater area. Kirsten has worked in varied clinical settings, including pediatrics, intensive care, outpatient settings, and public health. She graduated from Virginia Tech with both her Bachelor's Degree and Master's Degree in Nutrition. She completed her dietetic internship at the University of Virginia Health Sciences Center.
Kimberly Loftis, RD - Treasurer
Kimberley grew up in Delaware where she received her undergraduate degree in Nutrition and Dietetics at the University of Delaware and completed her DI at Jefferson Health in Philadelphia. During her undergrad, she severed as the vice-president of the Nutrition and Dietetics club. She is currently finishing up her Masters's in Advance Human Nutrition at University of Alabama. After she finishes her Master's. Her goal is to obtain the Obesity and Weight Management Board Certified Specialist. Her career consists of Pediatric advance nutrition therapy, long-term care and obesity and weight management specifically for bariatric clients.
She continues to stay active in the community by serving as the treasurer for the Tidewater Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Additionally, along with nutrition, she has a love for fitness. She continues to encourage women to explore lifting weights by co-training group personal training sessions with her husband at OneLife Princess. If you don't find her reading all the nutrition facts labels at the grocery store, meal prepping, or "lifting things up and putting things down," then you will find her training her spiritual life, spending time with her 2 dogs and kitty, and salsa dancing
Kenneth Makaiwi, RDN - Secretary
Kenneth Makaiwi completed his undergrad at Norfolk State University. Kenneth is currently working as the Nutritionist Senior/Office Supervisor at the Indian River WIC office in Virginia Beach, while also completing a dietetic internship through the Virginia/Maryland WIC program, and will be completing the program in August. Kenneth's plan is to take and pass the RD exam in October. After this is completed, there will be a payback period for WIC, and then Kenneth plans to seek employment at a pediatric hospital where the focus is on intensive care. Kenneth is very interested in nutrition support and plans to obtain the CNSC. Kenneth has been married to his husband for 2 years and they adopted a cat named Binx this year.
Katie Abbott, MS, RD, INHC - Webmaster / Past President (2017-2018)
Katie grew up in the mountains of Abingdon, VA, but is currently loving living by the beach in Virginia Beach. She graduated from James Madison University (undergrad), Case Western Reserve University (grad), and the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (health coach certification). She completed her Dietetic Internship all over the country from Napa Valley, Raleigh, Cleveland, and New York City. Katie has worked in various settings such as an integrative wellness institute, surgical and non-surgical weight loss, Canyon Ranch, Ornish Lifestyle Medicine, private practice, and taught nutrition for the Virginia Community College System. She was past president of TAND during 2017-2018. She currently works as a Team Lead for Omada Healthcare.
Heather Wooden, RD - District Legislative Representative
Heather’s first career was that of a wife and mother. Together she and her husband have raised five children. They have been in the Virginia Beach area for just over ten years. Upon her husband’s retirement from the Navy in 2015, Heather embarked on her next career as a Registered Dietitian through Kansas State University’s Distance DPD Program. Heather completed her dietetic internship with Morrison Healthcare. Prior to that, she was the Formula Room/Milk Lab Supervisor at Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters. And she is now an RD at CHKD.
Véronique Pettitt, RD - Nominating Committee
Véro graduated from Laval University in Québec City (Canada) and is currently working on her Master in Nutrition at Arizona State University. She is a Certified Specialist in Renal Nutrition, and she works as a Renal Dietitian for Somatus. She loves helping her patients by trying to find ways with them to improve their health while still enjoying food! In her free time, she likes spending time with her 3 kids, staying active (either running, swimming, kickball, workout, skiing or yoga), cooking, shopping and working on home projects.
Rachel Sheldon, MS, RD - Nominating Committee / Past President (2021-2022)
Rachel has been a Dietitian for 5 years, starting out at a DME company. She moved to the Tidewater area about a year and a half ago where she now works at Chesapeake Regional Medical Center as a Clinical Dietitian. She did her undergrad at UNC-Greensboro and her masters at East Carolina University. She grew up in Greensboro, North Carolina it was always a dream of hers to live near the beach. In her free time you can find Rachel browsing though cookbooks and trying out new recipes. When she is not cooking you can often find her playing with her cat Poppy or planning her next trip.
Olivia Ross, MPH, Dietetic Student - Membership Chair/IG
Olivia is a Virginia Beach native with a career as a student. After graduating from Virginia Tech with her BS in biology, she felt stuck. She began taking a few intro classes at TCC and fell in love with nutrition with Sandra as a professor. Olivia went on to receive her Master of Public Health at EVMS, where she did a practicum research project at the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore, working closely with the RD to pilot a nutrition initiative to simplify information for clients. She is currently in a dietetics program at the University of New England, and loves their hands-on approach to learning. Once she becomes a credentialed RD, Olivia hopes to work in nutrition informatics or nutrition research. She currently works at EVMS in clinical research as Recruiting and Regulatory Specialist, finding participants and ensuring ethical compliance with regulatory boards. In her free time, Olivia loves reading, watching movies (mainly thrillers or horror), knitting, crocheting, and writing on her typewriter.