Harkin on Wellness Symposium

The Harkin on Wellness (HOW) Symposium is an annual gathering to discuss timely topics associated with wellness and nutrition. Each year, the HOW Symposium gathers practitioners, policymakers, students, educators and members of the public for an engaging and educational event.

2021 Harkin On Wellness Symposium

March 8-9, 9 a.m.-2 p.m. CST

This year’s symposium will explore how food is medicine to our bodies, society, economy and environment. “Food is Medicine” solutions promote better wellbeing and lower health care costs, create resilient and sustainable practices, reduce disparities among population groups, improve economic competitiveness and lead to greater national security. Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, dean of the renowned Friedman School of Nutrition Science & Policy at Tufts University, will deliver the keynote speech. Dr. Mozaffarian is a cardiologist, nutrition scientist and public health advocate who was named one of the World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds by Thomson Reuters in 2016.


The general sessions for this event will feature ASL and live captioning in English. Presentations will be made available in advance of the event. If you have questions about specific accommodations, please contact Emily Schettler, emily.schettler@drake.edu or 515-271-3592.


The 2021 HOW Symposium will be available to stream on demand after the event. Please note, it may take several days to format and upload content after the symposium. All times presented are in Central Standard Time (CST).

Day 1: Monday, March 8, 2021

9 a.m. Welcome
Senator Tom Harkin

Joseph Jones, MPA, Executive Director, The Harkin Institute

9:15 a.m. Keynote Presentation: Food is Medicine Model
Dariush Mozaffarian, MD, DrPH, Dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science & Policy, Tufts University
10 a.m. Live Q&A  
Dariush Mozaffarian

Senator Tom Harkin

10:30 a.m. Panel Discussion: Redefining Health, Food is Medicine Model
Andrew Nish, MD, Medical Director John Stoddard Cancer Center, UnityPoint Health

Megan Lott, MPH, RDN, Deputy Director, Healthy Eating Research

Mark Rasmussen, PhD, Director, Leopold Center, Iowa State University

Michael Roberts, Esq., Executive Director, Resnick Center for Food Law and Policy, UCLA

11:30 a.m. Live Q&A with available panelists
 12 p.m. 1 hour break 
  PART 2
1 p.m. Breakout Sessions: Harkin on Wellness designees

Food Outreach; Julie Lock, Executive Director and Kathy Spencer, Director of Client Services

Brighter Bites

1:45 p.m.  Closing Remarks

Day 2: Tuesday, March 9, 2021

9 a.m. Opening message
Lyndi Buckingham-Schutt, PhD, RDN, LD, Associate Director Wellness and Nutrition Policy, The Harkin Institute
9:15 a.m. Keynote Presentation
Edward Ehlinger, MD, MSPH
10 a.m. Live Q&A with Health Equity Leaders
Edward Ehlinger, MD, MSPH

Chris Mackey, Information Specialist, National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability

Nalo Johnson, Director, Division of Health Promotion & Chronic Disease Prevention, Iowa Department of Public Health

Senator Tom Harkin

10:30 a.m. Panel Discussion: Innovation and Equity in Health Care
Alyssa Auvinen, Project Director, Washington State Department of Health

Lisa Harnack, DrPH, RD, MPH, Professor, Division of Epidemiology & Community Health, University of Minnesota

Allison Yoder, MA, RDN, LD, Nutrition in Food Retail Program Development Fellow, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Foundation

Mona Shah, PhD, MPH, Senior Program Office, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

11:30 a.m. Live Q&A with available panelists
 12 p.m. 1 hour break 
  PART 2
1 p.m. Breakout Sessions: Harkin on Wellness designees

Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation (CHLPI) of Harvard Law School’s Food is Medicine, Katie Garfield, JD, Clinical Instructor, Harvard Law School

The Chicago Botanic Garden; Eliza Founier, Special Contracts Director

Open Arm Minnesota; Brianna Tobritzhofer, Senior Manager of Nutrition Services

1:45 p.m.  Closing Remarks

2019 Harkin on Wellness Report

The 2019 Harkin on Wellness (HOW) Report provides detailed information about 10 successful community wellness and nutrition initiatives from around the United States. The report was designed to share best practices for how communities and organizations can invest in health.

Keynote Speakers

Dariush Mozaffarian, MD, DrPH,

Dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science & Policy, Tufts University

Dariush Mozaffarian is a cardiologist, Dean and Jean Mayer Professor at the Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, and Professor of Medicine at Tufts Medical School. As one of the top nutrition institutions in the world, the Friedman School’s mission is to produce trusted science, future leaders, and real-world impact. Dr. Mozaffarian has authored more than 400 scientific publications on dietary priorities for obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases, and on evidence-based policy approaches to reduce these burdens in the US and globally. He has served in numerous advisory roles including for the US and Canadian governments, American Heart Association, World Health Organization, and United Nations. His work has been featured in a wide array of media outlets including the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, National Public Radio, and Time Magazine. In 2016, Thomson Reuters named him as one of the World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds. Dr. Mozaffarian received a BS in biological sciences at Stanford (Phi Beta Kappa), MD at Columbia (Alpha Omega Alpha), residency training in internal medicine at Stanford, and fellowship training in cardiovascular medicine at the University of Washington. He also received an MPH from the University of Washington and a Doctorate in Public Health from Harvard. Before being appointed as Dean at Tufts in 2014, Dr. Mozaffarian was at Harvard Medical School and Harvard School of Public Health for a decade and clinically active in cardiology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. He is married, has three children, and actively trains as a Third Degree Black Belt in Taekwondo. The Friedman School pursues cutting-edge research, education, and public impact across five Divisions, a cross-divisional Center, and multiple academic programs. Areas of focus range from cell to society, including: molecular nutrition, human metabolism and clinical trials, nutrition data science, behavior change, community and organizational interventions, communication and media, agriculture, food systems, and sustainability, hunger and food security, humanitarian crisis, and food policy and economics. Friedman School graduates are leaders in academia, US and international government, policy, advocacy, industry, public health, community service, and entrepreneurship. The school’s unique breadth, engagement with the world, and entrepreneurial spirit make it a leading institution for nutrition education, research, and public impact.

Edward P. Ehlinger, MD, MSPH

Dr. Edward Ehlinger is a public health metaphysician who has spent his professional career working in various settings to advance health equity and optimal health for all.  He has Integrated the values, practices, and approaches of medical care, public health, community building, and social justice in his work as a Senior Assistant Surgeon with the National Health Service Corps, Director of Maternal and Child Health at the Minneapolis Health Department, Director and Chief Health Officer at Boynton Health Service at the University of Minnesota, and Commissioner of Health at the Minnesota Department of Health.  He currently chairs the federal HHS Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Infant Mortality, serves on several boards, provides coaching for the National Leadership Academy for Public Health, and consults and speaks on public health and community-building issues locally and nationally. Dr. Ehlinger received his BA degree in English and his MD degree from the University of Wisconsin – Madison and his Master of Science in Public Health degree from the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill.  He is a Fellow of the American College Health Association, a Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholar, and a Bush Fellow.  He is board certified in internal medicine and pediatrics and is an Adjunct Professor in the School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota.  He is a past president of the Minnesota Public Health Association, the North Central College Health Association, the Twin Cities Medical Society, the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, and the first board chair of CityMatCH.


Alison Yoder, MA, RDN, LD

Allison Yoder, MA, RDN, LD is the Nutrition in Food Retail Program Development Fellow through the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Foundation, leading the “Leveraging RDNs in the Food Retail Environment to Improve Public Health” project.    Allison is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and leader in the retail health and wellness industry, with over 15 years specializing in the strategic development of wellness programming.  Allison has a passion for improving the health of individuals and communities and utilizes data analytics and an extensive background in health promotion and retail nutrition to produce cost-effective and results-driven wellness strategies to improve nutrition and health outcomes. Previously, Allison served in many capacities at Hy-Vee, Inc. She started her career as an in-store Registered Dietitian and HealthMarket manager, where she worked directly with customers to implement health and wellness strategies. She also spent many years at Hy-Vee’s corporate office, supervising the retail dietitian program as well as HealthMarket departments.   Allison received a Bachelor’s degree in Dietetics from Iowa State University, and has a Master’s degree in Health Promotion from the University of Alabama. She is certified in adult weight management and a trained lifestyle coach through the National Diabetes Prevention and Recognition program. 

Alyssa Auvinen, MPH

Project Director, Washington State Department of Health

Alyssa Auvinen manages the Washington State Department of Health’s Fruit and Vegetable Incentive program, which includes fruit and vegetable prescriptions and SNAP incentives. In her role, she collaborates with farmers markets, grocery stores, health systems, and a network of state and local organizations invested in food access and agriculture. Prior to working at DOH, Alyssa was a CDC Public Health Associate at a county health department in Montana and ran a community farmers market. Alyssa graduated from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Master in Public Health program, where she was Bloomberg Fellow with a focus on obesity and the food system. Alyssa received her undergraduate degree in public health from the University of Washington.

Mark Rasmussen, PhD, MBA, MS, Director, Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Iowa State University

Mark Rasmussen is the Director of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University.  He is involved with a broad range of research related to sustainable agriculture.  Currently he is trying to understand the impacts of climate change on agriculture and determine how agriculture can be altered to limit the effects of climate change. Mark has a PhD in animal science/microbiology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  His other academic degrees include an MBA from Iowa State University, a MS in animal nutrition and a BS in animal science from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.  He has farming experience and has held research positions in industry and at the National Animal Disease Center, ARS/USDA, Ames, IA and at the Center for Veterinary Medicine, FDA, Laurel, MD.

Lisa Harnack, DrPH, RD

Professor, Division of Epidemiology & Community Health, University of Minnesota

Dr. Harnack is a Professor in the School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota. She also Directs the Nutrition Coordinating Center and Co-Directs the Healthy Weight Research Center at the University. She holds a bachelor’s degree in dietetics from the University of Wisconsin Stout and received masters and doctoral training in public health from the University of California at Berkeley. She has led or collaborated on dozens of studies evaluating public policies and programs to improve the American diet. She is currently leading a study evaluating ways SNAP may be reshaped to better support family nutrition, and she is collaborating on studies evaluating policies related to minimum wage, restaurant children’s menu beverage offerings, and food retailer stocking requirements.

Dr. Andrew Nish, MD

Medical Director, John Stoddard Cancer Center, Des Moines

Dr. Nish graduated from Carleton College in 1981 and then perused his medical degree at the Chicago Medical School. Following graduation from medical school he completed a 4 year residency in Diagnostic Radiology at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. Following residency he completed a 1 year fellowship at Henry Ford Hospital in Interventional Radiology.Following his fellowship he moved to Des Moines and began a 27 year career as an Interventional Radiologist at Iowa Methodist Hospital. During that time he introduced many new procedures to the medical center. Despite his successful career he became restless and began to question the care model of traditional western style medicine. A retrospective analysis of his 27 year career revealed the fact that patient health was not getting better and that the traditional care model was failing patients and their families. With this new insight he began to study nutrition, stress, exercise and sleep as it related to health and wellness. He went on to enroll in a 2 year fellowship at the Andrew Weil Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona, completing his studies in October of 2018. Currently Dr. Nish is the medical director of the John Stoddard Cancer Center in Des Moines. His passion is to educate the public and health care workers about true health and well being and how this can be achieved through lifestyle changes including: food and nutrition, stress management, sleep, exercise, purpose in life and social relationships. He is especially fascinated with the mind-body connection and how our thoughts and beliefs directly influence our physical and mental health.

Michael Roberts, Esq.

Executive Director, Resnick Center for Food Law and Policy, UCLA

Michael T. Roberts is the founding Executive Director of the Resnick Center for Food Law and Policy at UCLA School of Law. He is well versed in a broad range of legal and policy issues from farm to fork in local, national, and global food supply systems. He has authored the first major treatise on food law, titled, Food Law in the United States, published by Cambridge University Press. He is also co-editor of Food Law & Policy, a new casebook published by Wolters Kluwer. He has also written several other chapters, articles, and papers on food law topics. Roberts is actively involved in the development of food law and policy. He has lectured on food-law subjects at law schools and conferences in a number of countries. He is a Research Fellow for Renmin University School of Law’s Center for Coordination and Innovation for Food Safety. He is an Adjunct Professor of Law for East China University of Science and Technology (Shanghai), where he lectures annually on food law topics. In addition to working with the Advisory Board for the Resnick Center, Roberts serves on various boards related to food law and policy. He is member of the Board of Directors for the newly established non-profit, Feed the Truth organization. He is also a founding board member and historian for the Academy for Food Law and Policy and on the  advisory board for the World Food Law Institute. Roberts teaches two courses at UCLA Law: Introduction to Food Law and Policy (for second and third year law students) and Historical Perspective: The Role of Law in the Pursuit of a Moral Food System (a “modes” class for first year law students).

Chris Mackey

Senior Project Coordinator, National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability (NCHPAD)

Chris Mackey has more than twenty years of experience in the field of disability and health. He currently is a Senior Project Coordinator with the National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability (NCHPAD) at the Lakeshore Foundation in Birmingham Alabama.  He serves as the lead staff member in NCHPAD’s activities in the public health sector which include initiatives related to inclusive healthy community design, accessibility of health promotion environments, adapting evidence based chronic disease prevention and management programs, (particularly in the area of diabetes) and health equity for people with disabilities. Prior to joining NCHPAD, Chris worked for the North Carolina Office on Disability and Health (NCODH)  where his work focused on increasing the capacity of public health and health promotion programs and professionals to include people with disabilities.  These included inclusive healthy community design, accessible health and dental care,  worksite wellness, accessible fitness environments and programs and disability inclusion in emergency preparedness. Chris graduated from East Carolina University with degree in Therapeutic Recreation and has briefly held an International Sports Science Association Certified Fitness Trainer (CFT) certification and was a trainer for the Chronic Disease Self-Management Program (CDSMP.).  He has served on various advisory boards of disability and public health organizations and has extensive knowledge of accessibility and compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Mona Shah, PhD, MPH

Senior Program Office, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Mona Shah, a senior program officer in the Research-Evaluation-Learning unit, joined the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in 2014. Drawing on her deep commitment to research and its potential to impact health and health care, she praises the Foundation’s work in making its extensive research accessible to the public and policymakers alike. As both a researcher and expert in health policy, Shah is involved in the process of understanding and measuring key health and health care issues essential to the Foundation’s overarching strategy to move our nation toward a Culture of Health. Before joining the Foundation, Shah served as associate director of federal relations at the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) in Washington. In this role she led and executed the organization’s strategy related to prevention, access to care, safety net programs, and health equity. Previously, as ACS CAN’s senior policy analyst, she managed a cancer prevention portfolio and led evaluation of health care reform efforts focused on prevention, early detection, and health equity. Shah earned her PhD in epidemiology from George Washington University, her MPH in epidemiology from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, and her BA in Biology and Society from Cornell University. She also is a founder of Subcontinental Drift—a nationwide South Asian American artistic coalition that fosters and provides a supportive and inclusive community for creative expression, community engagement, and positive social change.

Nalo Johnson, PhD

Director, Division of Health Promotion & Chronic Disease Prevention, Iowa Department of Public Health

Dr. Nalo Johnson is the Division Director for Health Promotion & Chronic Disease Prevention at the Iowa Department of Public Health, where she oversees four Bureaus – Chronic Disease Prevention & Management, Family Health, Nutrition & Physical Activity, and Oral Health – along with the Office of Disability, Injury and Violence Prevention.

Dr. Johnson has extensive experience in public health and community health efforts at state and local levels in both chronic disease prevention/health promotion as well as communicable disease prevention.  Dr. Johnson has a specific interest in reducing health disparities among Iowa’s vulnerable and underserved populations and practices participatory, evidence based methods to address community health concerns.


Thank you to our generous sponsors for supporting the 2021 Harkin on Wellness Symposium.

Platinum Sponsors

  • Anthem
  • RWJF Special Contributions Fund of the Princeton Area Community Foundation
  • Sukup Manufacturing

Gold Sponsors

  • Hy-Vee

Silver Sponsors

  • Cultivating Compassion: The Dr. Richard Deming Foundation
  • Kum & Go
  • Mid-Iowa Health Foundation
  • Navigate
  • Paul Schickler

Become a Sponsor

Showcase your organization and boost awareness of your work at the 2021 Harkin on Wellness Symposium For more information, contact Joseph Jones, joseph.jones@drake.edu or 515-271-3623.

Address: 2800 University Avenue, Des Moines, IA 50311

Phone: (515) 271-3623

Email: harkininstitute@drake.edu

Office Hours: Monday to Friday 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.