CDM of the Month

Nehal-Patel

Name: Nehal Patel, CDM, CFPP

Job Title: Senior Vice President of Dietary Services

Employer: Philosophy Care Centers

Job Location: New York, NY
 
Years at Current Facility: 21 Years

Years in Current Position: 4 Years

CDM Since: 2017

Why did you decide to become a CDM?

As my entire career was formed in long term care/rehab facilities, I was always determined to know everything there was to know about food and nutritional services, and long term care operations which included CMS regulatory systems and survey process.  

When the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued its final regulations for long-term care facilities, in which, The Certified Dietary Manager, Certified Food Protection Professional (CDM, CFPP) credentials were listed as the primary qualification for the Director of Food and Nutrition Services, I realized that to shape my career better in food service, and to extend my knowledge as a food service professional, being a CDM, CFPP was imperative.   

To prepare for CDM test, I was introduced to ANFP, which provided relevant information, which enabled me to further develop my knowledge and skills beyond my imaginations. I wish I had known about and become CDM long ago.

What are your main responsibilities in your current position?

As a senior VP of dietary at Philosophy Care Centers, I support facility administrators, hire, supervise, discipline, and train food service directors and production managers for all long term care/rehab facilities in the company portfolio.   

I establish the dietary department budget and ensure that the department operates within budgeted parameters. I manage business operations of foodservice department and implement cost effective techniques. I also conduct leadership meetings with key department personnel to keep updated with current regulations. 

In addition, I develop and implement department policies and procedures to comply effectively with federal, state, and OSHA regulations related to food and nutritional services. 

How do you organize your time at work to make sure you accomplish all your responsibilities?

As Mark Twain said, "If it's your job to eat a frog, it's best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it's your job to eat two frogs, it's best to eat the biggest one first." His point is tackle your biggest tasks in the morning. 

I do like to complete the task that gives me a sense of an accomplishment first thing in the morning, which sets me up for a path to accomplish more through the rest of the day.  

What is an example of an innovative way you have made change at your facility and how did you implement it?

Since my job is to oversee few nursing homes’ food and nutrition departments, I took the opportunity to create a healthy competition between food service directors. Participants created presentations of quality improvement projects. Some of the presentations included pictures, new menu ideas, letters from   residents & family members and/or administrators expressing satisfaction with program implemented in their facility. Programs implemented by the directors either eliminated or reduced reoccurring issues i.e.… Tray accuracy, food replacement ideas for call backs, employee sick calls, and weekend calls etc. This exercise and idea sharing benefited all of us. 

The winner of this competition, the one who made biggest improvement and showed out of the box thinking, received a full expense paid trip to the ANFP ACE conference.  

What was your first job in the foodservice industry?

I started working as a dietetic technician. 

Who has been your biggest mentor in foodservice and how have they helped shape your career?

I consider Mercy Martin, my previous Food and Nutrition Director, as my biggest mentor in food service.  She provided encouragement and necessary support to excel and succeed. She taught me that in order to continue to succeed I need to push myself beyond my comfort zone and I believe that guidance over the years has served me well.

What are the biggest challenges you face in your position and how do you handle them?

The biggest challenge I face is hiring and retaining hard working and experienced staff. To handle this challenge I try to provide educational, networking and advancement opportunities, along with flexible schedule where possible to our employees. I provide an environment where creativity is encouraged without fear of penalty.  

What is your favorite part of your job?

When I’m able to help someone to advance their career. Over 15 employees have been promoted from their original title to a better (superior) title in the last four years under my leadership.

How do you stay up to date with current innovations and trends?

I consider myself a people person and enjoy leaning from networking with peers the most. In addition to reading most food, nutrition and dietetics related magazines; I attend seminars, workshops and webinars. 

I like to try new projects, as they require me to do research and browse through websites that are trending in our industry. 

How do you envision the foodservice industry changing in the next few years?

General upticks in health consciousness have pushed the food service industry to think in an innovative way. I envision the food service industry will understand better nutrition and will set a good example of nutritionally balanced operations, in both healthcare and in the restaurant industries. Authentic foods from other cultures and healthier and sustainable food programs will bring the food service industry to the next level. 

What is your advice to those just getting started in the foodservice industry?

Be humble, be hungry for knowledge, and be the hardest worker in the room.