RD Close-Up: JoAnn Martinez RDN, LD, H-E-B Border Regional Operations Lead
By RDBA Executive Director Annette Maggi, MS, RDN, LD, FAND
Please describe your role at H-E-B.
I have the pleasure of serving the H-E-B Nutrition Services department as an operations lead for the South Texas regions, including Laredo, the Rio Grande Valley, and Corpus Christi. My regional team consists of eleven retail dietitians currently. My responsibilities center around ensuring our dietitians have everything they need to excel in patient care and additional service offerings, whether in store or in virtual. In a nutshell, I help meet the needs of the team and help facilitate business operations so that we can provide excellent patient and customer care as we expand our program.
What's the story behind your experience in retail and how you came to work at H-E-B?
While I was in the Coordinated Program in Dietetics at UTRGV sitting as the president of our student branch of the Academy, I partnered with the H-E-B dietitian team in my region. There was only one dietitian in the region at the time and she welcomed all additional support she could find. After volunteering in various community events, I realized retail was where I needed to be. I was in awe of the work the H-E-B dietitians were doing. Having left my first career in search of more meaningful work with the community, I knew I had to pursue this retail dietetics role that we learned so little about in school. Frankly, the dietitian I partnered with in school was instrumental in my journey to H-E-B. She saw the spark in me and perhaps saw a potential in me that I was not yet aware of. I was diligent about volunteering and learning, and I was genuine about my career goals. So, with her support, I was given the opportunity to join the team within 6 months of graduating.
What has been the biggest challenge for you as a dietitian working in the retail industry?
For a long time, change and progress were something that our team pinned for. We had “big, hairy audacious goals” as my senior manager would say. However, being in the retail setting, we know that resistance to change by corporate leadership is not uncommon. Suddenly, COVID hit bringing along with it a global trend toward healthy living. That’s when demand for change came from all over. We were asked to move hard and fast. Thankfully, I’m a part of a team of trailblazers led by a true visionary. I can say the last year has been a challenge in more ways than one. The key learning for me was to lean into my team for support and strength when times are tough, and change is about.
What is one thing you wish you had known before starting your career in retail?
Never assume anything, and always communicate the “why” behind a decision. Practice your communication with patients and other stakeholders and always discuss expectations clearly with all parties involved in a decision. It’s a hard pill to swallow when a leader, a patient, a doctor, or a team member does not agree with your approach or methodology only because you assumed they would understand.
Has there been anything specific that has held you back?
I recently completed a team building program with my fellow operations leads and our nutrition services manager. It was the Brene Brown Dare to Lead workbook. There is a section in the workbook that helps you explore your values and those of your colleagues. We spent time discussing our values openly and learning how to be a better team, how to show up for each other and for our stakeholders. Learning how to complement my colleagues’ values and the work we hope to achieve together has helped me be a better leader and partner to my stakeholders.
In a similar vein, has there been anything specific that help you moved forward in your role?
In working for H-E-B, having a serving heart and being approachable are paramount to success in your career. More than that though, being a bilingual retail dietitian in a predominantly Hispanic community has helped me facilitate communication and relationship building between partners, leaders, and the community. I serve my team, my community, and my company. I have been able to do so more deeply and more meaningfully because I am bilingual.
Is there a program or initiative of which you are most proud?
Absolutely yes! With the support of my team, I was able to launch a patient-centered care training program for our retail dietitians. This program includes seven sessions facilitated by an expert in individual and organizational psychology as well as transformational growth. The sessions focus on cognitive behavioral therapy approaches as they relate to nutrition counseling, communication skill development and implementation, and motivational interviewing techniques. We are working to improve our nutrition counseling across the board with the end goal of providing a better patient experience. We aim to empower our dietitians with the confidence they need to help patients meet their personalized health goals.
JoAnn Martinez RDN, LD is an H-E-B Regional Ops Lead for Nutrition Services, overseeing dietitians in the Border, Gulf Coast, and Laredo regions. She acquired a B.A. in Mass Communication and a Minor in English from the University of Texas Pan American. After 7 years of communications experience, JoAnn discovered her calling for nutrition and soon after ventured into the realm of health and wellness. She received a B.S. in Dietetics in 2017 from the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) where she completed her internship rotations in food service, management, community health, and clinical dietetics as part of the Coordinated Program in Dietetics (CPD). Her life’s goal became to promote preventative healthcare by combining her experience in communication with her knowledge of food and nutrition - a skill set primed for retail dietetics. A bit of a foodie, you’ll often find JoAnn exploring new flavors and styles in her community and during her travels. Outside of her work, JoAnn enjoys spending time exploring sustainable living practices, reading fiction, and spending time with her loved ones.