Previous Trainees

Alexandra Alford, MS-MPH, RDN

Alexandra Alford served as a funded MCH trainee from 2015-2018 while at the University of Tennessee. During her time as a funded MCH trainee, Alexandra completed her Master of Science in Public Health Nutrition, Master of Public Health in Community Health Education, and dietetic internship. After completing her coursework and dietetic internship, Alexandra worked for the University of Tennessee Extension in Wilson County as a Program Assistant for Farmers’ Market Fresh. In this role, she promoted fresh fruit and vegetable consumption from farmers’ markets to various individuals in the MCH population, specifically focused on low-income residents of Wilson County, TN. Alexandra now works for the USDA, National Institute of Food and Agriculture as a Program Specialist in the Division of Nutrition. She currently provides support for the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program, which aims to improve diet quality, physical activity, food resource management, food safety, and food security for over a half million low-income families and youth in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and six U.S. territories.

Marissa Black, MS, RDN, LDN

Marissa is a registered dietitian and graduate of the University of Tennessee Public Health Nutrition Graduate Program. She currently works as a single-site dietitian at a behavioral health hospital where she provides nutrition education and medical nutrition therapy to patients across the lifespan. Marissa also serves on the executive committee of the  Academy’s Behavioral Health Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group as the newly appointed Diversity Resource Liaison.

Randa Meade, MS, MPH, RDN

Randa Meade served as a funded MCH trainee from 2013-2017 during her tenure at the University of Tennessee while completing her Master of Science in Public Health Nutrition and her Master of Public Health in Health Policy and Management.  While studying at the University of Tennessee, Randa also completed minors in epidemiology and statistics, the health policy interdisciplinary graduate certificate, and her dietetic internship.  Randa currently works for the Tennessee Department of Education’s School Nutrition Program as the Menu Planning and Culinary Specialist where she provides training and technical assistance in these areas.  Randa also works with local school nutrition programs to increase children’s access to healthy meals through the Seamless Summer Option and the School Breakfast Program.  Randa relates much of her success in her early career as a public health nutritionist to the skills she learned and experiences she had as a funded trainee.  The training grant provided Randa with practice experiences and professional connections that led her to her current position.  Randa is passionate about feeding kids and her long-term career goal is to work with anti-hunger non-profit. Randa loves all things food and cooking and when not at work you can find her in the kitchen or exploring the Nashville food scene.  She is originally from small, rural town in the heart of Virginia’s Appalachian Mountains and has one dog, Duke.

Megan Rodgers, MS, RDN, LDN

Megan Rodgers, an alumni of the Maternal and Child Health Leadership traineeship, is a registered and licensed dietitian at the Knox County Health Department. At the University of Tennessee, Megan obtained a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition, Master of Science in Public Health Nutrition. Megan’s work at the health department focuses on planning, implementing and evaluating an afterschool program that teaches children about the importance of healthy eating and physical activity. She also strives to improve the afterschool environment through policy, systems and environmental changes that positively impact all students who attend afterschool care at these sites. Megan’s work directly engages the MCH population, which she grew to love through her time as a trainee. She is an active member of the Knoxville Area Afterschool Network and is on the Board of Directors for the Knoxville Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Shanthi Appelö, MS, RDN, LDN

Shanthi Appelö is a former MCH Leadership Trainee (2015-2016). A graduate of University of Tennessee, Shanthi obtained a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition, Master of Science in Public Health Nutrition. Shanthi is a registered and licensed dietitian nutritionist at the Knox County Health Department with programming in chronic disease prevention and treatment with a focus on health equity. A native of Enköping, Sweden, Shanthi strives to make her programming culturally and linguistically suitable for minority populations. Through her work, she particularly enjoys working with the maternal and child population. Shanthi enjoys engaging in the local media and is a columnist for the Greater Knoxville Area Business Journal. She is also adjunct faculty member at Tennessee Technological University where she teaches a Nutrition through the Lifespan course. Shanthi holds a leadership position in the local Knoxville Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics board of directors as the Legislative Chair.

Marissa McElrone, PhD, RDN

Marissa served as a funded Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Nutrition Leadership Trainee from 2016–2019 while she earned her doctoral degree at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville in Nutritional Sciences (Community Nutrition) and completed her dietetic internship. Originally from Easton, Pennsylvania, Marissa completed her Bachelor of Science in Nutritional Sciences from Penn State University. She has worked with diverse, domestic and international MCH populations in research, programmatic, consulting, and capacity building contexts. Marissa worked as a Minority Health Promotion Coordinator and later as a WIC Nutritionist with various non-profits in both Rhode Island and Pennsylvania. She also served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Tanzania, East Africa for two years focusing on MCH nutrition, HIV/AIDS and malaria prevention, water safety and sanitation, and women’s empowerment. In addition to her role as a MCH Trainee, Marissa served on the MCHB Trainee Ambassador Group (TAG) from January-December 2018, as the State Project Coordinator on the USDA funded multi-state iCook 4-H research project, and as a Research Assistant on a variety of other interdisciplinary projects with diverse domestic and international communities during her tenure at UTK. Marissa’s research aims to explore and address cultural, socioecological, and behavioral factors related to disparities in food security and nutrition equity through culturally relevant, community-based interventions to address these issues among diverse, socially disadvantage populations. Specifically, Marissa’s dissertation research used a community-based model to identify and culturally adapt an existing evidence-based curriculum to address the unique dietary acculturation barriers to and facilitators of food security among Burundian and Congolese refugee families. Marissa will be joining the faculty in the Department of Health and Human Performance at University of Tennessee, Chattanooga in August 2020 as an Assistant Professor.