SPOON Foundation Joint Council on International Children's Services

Our Team: Expert Contributors

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Julian Davies, MD

Julian is the co-director of the Center for Adoption Medicine at the University of Washington. He is also the editor of, an online resource for medical and developmental issues in adoption. His interest in adoption comes from his years clowning, teaching children’s theater, and leading summer camps with groups of Moscow orphans. In his clinical practice, he has an interest in integrative and nutritional approaches to neuro-developmental issues.

Michael Georgieff, MD

Michael is a Professor of Pediatrics and Child Development at the University of Minnesota where he is Head of the Section of Neonatology in the Department of Pediatrics, and Director of the Center on Neurobehavioral Development. He is a renowned expert on early nutrition and the brain having served on the Committee on Nutrition and the Breastfeeding Work Group for the American Academy of Pediatrics and on the Nutrition Study Section for the National Institutes of Health. He is a member of the American Pediatric Society and the Pediatric Academic Societies. He has written over 120 articles and book chapters on nutrition and brain development in the newborn and early childhood period, and is a contributing author to AAP’s Handbook on Nutrition. His research focuses on fetal/newborn nutrition, specifically the effect of iron nutrition on brain development and neurocognitive function. He lectures nationally and internationally on nutrition and the developing brain.

Michelle Guzman, RD

Shelly graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in Nutrition from the University of Nevada, Reno. Her interest in dietetics really took flight after enrolling in her first nutrition class. Her mom says she knew that dietetics was the educational course for Shelly because in her words “nobody loves vitamins.” Shelly is currently living in Seattle, WA and recently completed her dietetic internship with Bastyr University. She has a passion for maternal and child health and her initial career goal is to begin practice as a clinical dietitian.

Dana E. Johnson, MD PhD

Dr. Johnson is a Professor of Pediatrics, member of the Division of Neonatology and a faculty member in the Global Pediatrics Program at the University of Minnesota where Dr. Johnson co-founded the International Adoption Program in 1986. His research interests include the effects of early institutionalization on growth and development and the outcomes of internationally adopted children. Dr. Johnson is an invited speaker worldwide, a Senior Research Fellow in the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute and has authored over 200 scholarly works. He received the Distinguished Service Award from the Joint Council for International Children’s Services, Friend of Children Award from the North American council on Adoptable Children and the Harry Holt Award from Holt International. He is a member of the Board of Directors of JCICS and Half The Sky Foundation. He is also the father of three children including an adopted son from India.

Cindy R. Kaplan, MS

Cindy has extensive experience in qualitative and quantitative research, strategic development, and marketing. She has worked in strategic planning for Leo Burnett in Chicago; co-founded and sold WellNext, a corporate wellness consulting firm where she created new metrics for assessing individual and corporate wellness; and served as the first Marketing Director for a nutrition-driven food company, Enjoy Life Natural Brands, where she helped to launch a national brand and lead a multifaceted campaign to raise awareness of food-related health conditions. Cindy and her husband Tony adopted their son Jadyn from Kazakhstan in 2006, as a malnourished infant.

Rachael Meyerink, RD, CSP, LN

Rachael is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Specialist in Pediatric Nutrition employed with Sanford Health in Sioux Falls, SD. She currently serves as a dietitian in the Neonatal Intensive Care unit, Pediatric Inpatient and Children’s Specialty Clinic at Sanford Children’s. Rachael has had extensive experience working with children with feeding and developmental disorders as part of the Feeding Team at Sanford Children’s. Prior to being employed at Sanford Health, Rachael was employed at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. where she worked with Dr. Irene Chatoor, a pioneer in the research of feeding disorders in infants and children. She is the mother of three young children.

Paula Rabaey, MS, OTR/L

Paula is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, MN. She is currently working on her PhD in occupational therapy focusing on best practice in feeding and eating issues with young children and their families. Her clinical background includes 15 years of experience working with children with special needs primarily in early intervention. She has specialized in feeding and eating difficulties in children with a variety of diagnoses and worked with families to create a positive mealtime environment. She has participated in international service learning trips to Quito, Ecuador with OT students working with local foundations and children with special needs who have feeding difficulties. Her background as a pediatric occupational therapist includes additional expertise in the areas of seating and positioning, sensory processing, and the importance of attachment and bonding to growth and nutrition. Paula is a member of SPOON’s Medical Advisory Board.

Katja Rowell, MD

Katja Rowell, M.D. is a graduate of the University of Michigan medical school and served as a family physician in urban and rural clinics and at a university student health service. She was struck by the prevalence of disordered eating and feeding and related health problems. Rowell believes in establishing a healthy feeding relationship: that HOW children are fed is the missing piece in addressing disordered eating, childhood obesity, and damaging dieting behaviors. Dr. Rowell has developed a special interest in helping adoptive families establish healthy feeding relationships, with special considerations to attachment, growth concerns, and struggles over picky eating and weight. Informed by science, but grounded in the realities of family-life, Dr. Rowell teaches the importance and “how-to’s” of a healthy feeding relationship to parents, health care providers, family therapists, and childcare staff. She provides personalized solutions and support for families struggling with feeding via phone and house-calls! As founder of Family Feeding Dynamics, Katja also consults with corporate clients, nutrition education, and public health projects. She has provided webinars on feeding and adoption through Children’s Home Society and Family Services in Minnesota.

Mishelle Rudzinski, MA CCC-SLP

Mishelle is a pediatric speech-language pathologist specializing in the communication and feeding of children with severe disabilities. She is the CEO of, an educational website that teaches individuals with disabilities to access the computer. Mishelle adopted her daughter Bakha at age five from Kazakhstan. She became an avid believer in the importance of appropriate nutrition intervention after witnessing Bakha’s dramatic recovery from debilitating rickets within weeks of receiving vitamin supplements.

Tamara Schryver, PhD, MS, RD

Tamara is currently working as a Senior Nutrition Scientist at General Mills Bell Institute of Health and Nutrition where she manages nutrition education outreach to the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program, a federally funded food and nutrition assistance program regulated by USDA. Tamara has served as an editor and publisher for a health professional trade publication, has conducted research on the attitudes and behaviors of consumers related to food choice and nutrition, and has worked in ingredient sales representing soy and flax-based ingredients. Through the WIC program, she had the privilege to start out her career counseling women and their infants and children on healthy eating during pregnancy, lactation, infant, and child growth. Tamara received her Master’s and Doctoral degree in Nutrition at the University of Minnesota and is a registered dietitian. Tamara and her husband are also the proud parents of a daughter adopted from Ethiopia at the age of 18 months , which itself presented several feeding challenges.

Ali VanGorden, MS, RD

Ali is a Senior Nutrition Scientist within the Bell Institute of Health and Nutrition at General Mills where she provides nutrition leadership and guidance to General Mills’ Kindergarden through 12th grade school foodservice team. Prior to her work at General Mills, Ali was the dietitian and chief spokesperson on health and wellness for the Penn Traffic Company, a food retailer in the eastern United States. Ali has also held positions with the Women, Infants, and Children program. Ali received her Bachelor’s degree in nutrition management as well as her Master’s degree in health systems administration from the Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, New York.

SPOON Foundation’s Executive Board, Medical Advisory Board, and International Advisory Board are made up of a diverse group of experts from a variety of areas such as medicine, community health, and international relations.

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