Hospital nutrition director began as an intern, now has long legacy of teaching and mentoring

What started as a college internship for Sierra Rogers has turned into a 37-year career in hospital nutrition services in Madison, Indiana.

When Sierra Rogers talks about her life’s work, her face brightens like a kid in a candy store. Her eyes sparkle. She exudes enthusiasm in a way that connects with people. Her energy and positivity reflect someone truly connected to a purpose.

“What I enjoy most is the people,” Sierra says of her 37-year career with Norton King’s Daughters’ Health in Madison, Indiana. “The people who you work with and the patients you encounter — they make the work wonderful. As a clinical dietitian, I love engaging with patients. I also enjoy my work family. There are a lot of great people who work on our team.”

Sierra has been part of nutrition services at the hospital since June 2, 1987. She even helped develop her own dietetic internship program under Sue Livers, who preceded Sierra as director of nutrition services. Traveling back and forth from Ball State University in Muncie, Sierra used her internship to complete program requirements while also finishing her masters’ degree. Shortly thereafter, Sierra began her full-time career as the hospital’s clinical dietitian in 1991.

An ironic part of Sierra’s journey is that she began her college experience in elementary education, largely because she wanted to avoid chemistry classes. After switching her major during her junior year, she ended up one class shy of earning a minor in chemistry. Life is funny that way, although her sister, Shirley Herrick, teaches culinary arts at the Southeastern Career Center in Versailles, Indiana. In some ways, Sierra’s life fulfills two legacies — teaching and nutrition.

Her desire to teach is one of the reasons why she eagerly welcomes student interns. Her own journey is a mirror for those she hopes to inspire.

“I enjoy helping people and helping them prepare for a career in dietetics,” Sierra said. “I try to find a way to give back. I had good mentors. Sue was a dynamic personality, and she pushed you to be your best. Sue was also passionate about paying her knowledge forward.”

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Amanda Corbin, clinical dietitian at Norton King’s Daughters’ Health, was the first intern after Sierra became director of nutrition services in 2006. Today, Amanda and Sierra work together as partners and peers — a relationship that spans 18 years.

“Learning from Sierra as an intern and student was amazing,” Amanda said. “She not only taught me about the profession, she also provided me life lessons and advice to help me become the dietitian and person I am today. She is truly a caring leader, mentor and friend.”

While much as changed in 37 years, one of Sierra’s greatest challenges was transitioning her team from the hospital’s former downtown location to the new facility in 2013. The day of the move, she had staff working in both locations.

“The space here offers so many great things, even though the move itself was challenging. We had to learn new ways to operate,” Sierra said. “Change can be a great thing; it’s just not always easy for everyone. Our new café is so much nicer, though. We have windows, and we are right on the first floor. It’s a wonderful area for patients, families and guests.”

When asked about her future, Sierra smiled, her eyes once again sparkling.

“I like being part of something bigger and working with people to achieve their goals,” she said. “You learn to meet people where they are. Understanding their situation is important. Sometimes, the first steps toward better nutrition are baby steps, and that’s okay.”

In other words, she is happy and content, loving her mission and purpose.

“It really is about the people you encounter,” she said.

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