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Leading the State of Louisiana with Exceptional Nutrition Plans

Young Government Leaders (YGL) and GovLoop present the NextGen Public Service Awards for superior public service and achievement. The 5th Annual NextGen Public Service Awards will be given at the 2015 NextGen Award’s Ceremony, which will kick of the NextGen Training Summit on July 20th and 21st in Washington, DC. This year we have 30 finalists – the NextGen 30. Over the next month we will introduce you to our finalists through this blog series.

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Meet the finalist:

Who: Monica McDaniels, Assistant Director for Nutrition Services, Office of Public Health in Louisiana

Achievement: NextGen Public Service Finalist, Exemplary Leaders Category

“July of last year we didn’t have Internet access in our clinic for 36 days and couldn’t process patients as we normally did. Monica got creative. She added me to another site so that I could login and begin processing patients. The best part is that she joined in and started certifying patients, printing food instruments, and scheduling appointments. Normally, we don’t see someone in her position reach out to a contract site. Monica loves her position and it shows with her enthusiasm, smile and warm hug. She makes every WIC employee in the state of Louisiana feel special,” said Emily Fontenot, a co-worker who nominated Monica for NextGen Exemplary Leaders Award.

When Monica McDaniels’ career is put into perspective, “helping people” is only scratching the surface of what she truly does for the women and children of Louisiana.

McDaniels, works in the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) office to educate mothers and children about better nutrition habits for a lifetime. WIC has 104 clinics across Louisiana where they manage approximately 127,000 families of low socioeconomic status. They provide supplemental nutrition programs where they give breastfeeding support, nutritional education and supplemental food.

Developing lasting relationships with mothers and children is one of the many reasons McDaniels loves her job. “We see these moms and babies every three months and our program provides nutrition services to children up to age five. So we are committing ourselves to a child from birth to age five, we are committing ourselves to a mother from the time she enters our doors and tells us she is pregnant and she needs service until after she’s delivered, through the breastfeeding period. So it’s a long relationship.”

By trade, McDaniels is a registered dietician, so she has worked across the lifespan with assisting, providing nutritional assessments and counseling from pediatric to geriatric patients. Even with her experience in different nutritional fields, her niche will always be working for WIC.

“When you’re working with a pregnant mom, you’re working with the fetus and an embryo and you’re able to watch that embryo grow and develop and it’s all attributed to good nutrition. I like watching and being a part of watching that development through nutrition from the beginning of life,” McDaniels said.

Passion and dedication are a few key ingredients to McDaniels’ recipe for career and leadership success.

Not only is McDaniels a team player, she is also an exceptional leader. “I think what sets me apart is that I’m willing to work just as hard as my staff. You have to be a good manager, but you also have to be a good leader. I try to lead the team, and not so much manage the team, so as to build a cohesiveness among the team.”

For such a powerful woman in such an important position, she is not afraid to admit her struggles and biggest learning experiences. McDaniels said the biggest lesson she has learned, up to this point, is patience. “The wheels of bureaucracy turn really slow. I’ve been in state government for 16 years now and some things change but the wheels don’t turn any faster.”

Her advice is to be persistent and committed to whatever the task is. If you see it through, McDaniels advised, most times your goals will be met in serving your population.

It’s evident that McDaniels’ goals have been met for serving the women and children of Louisiana. WIC is now 41 years old and research is proving that its efforts are working across the country. “Fifty percent of children in the United States are in the WIC program across the country. We know the program works.”

McDaniels’ passion for helping people will continue to guide her through her career.“I’m a public servant because I love helping people. I like working and I love helping people who may not otherwise get the handout. And if I can help just one family progress, or get empowered through our program, my job is done.”

We will be talking to all the NextGen Public Service Award finalists in the upcoming weeks. See the full list here. Finally, register to attend the Awards Ceremony to get to know the NextGen 30 in-person!

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