Josephine (Jo) Rogers AM
Josephine (Jo) Rogers AM Jo Rogers graduated from The University of Sydney in 1945 with a Bachelor of Science and completed the Certificate in Dietetics program at The Royal Prince Alfred Hospital (RPAH) in 1946.
Jo spent all of her professional life based at RPAH. She trained there as a dietitian in 1946, became Chief Dietitian in 1948 and took on the additional role of Food Service Manager in 1968. Under her guidance, the department grew from a staff of three dietitians, to the largest department in the country, with 25 dietitians and 25 technical staff. Her achievements in these roles were many, but included the creation of regional services from Royal Prince Albert Hospital (RPAH) to establish dietetic departments in many country and other metropolitan hospitals, design of the first computerised menu system in Australia and the establishment of an innovative specialist frozen special diet unit, employing food technologists in hospitals for the first time and selling products to institutions all over the Sydney area.
Public Health Nutritionist
Jo was certainly a food service pioneer, but this hardly begins to encompass what she did for nutrition in this country. Her first passion was nutrition of the general community and the creation of the Australian Nutrition Foundation (ANF) and the design of the Healthy Diet Pyramid are probably her greatest legacies in this area. Jo was the ANF in its early years ‐ conceiving the idea, lobbying for funds, establishing links with industry, writing publications ‐ and her involvement continued well after official retirement. I think Jo enjoyed the freedom of voice and action that a non‐government organisation could give her, but she also worked powerfully at the official level as well. She was an influential member of the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Food Standards and Nutrition committees over many years and was acting Chair of the ground‐breaking Nutrition Taskforce of the Better Health Commission in 1986 that produced the first quantified nutrition targets for Australians. She also worked as a member of the Dental Health Foundation, the International Year of the Child committee and several New South Wales (NSW) government committees on nutrition and food marketing.
All her life, Jo wrote about food and health. She admitted to me recently that in the early days, like most professionals of the time, she never kept any record of this work, so her publication list has many gaps. Jo was prolific not only in scientific writing, but most importantly in books for the general public as well. You and Your Food, co‐authored with Dr Fred Clements, became a best‐selling high school text that went through 6 editions over 22 years.
Jo was always a leader in the professional organisation of dietitians in this country. She served 2 terms each as President and Vice‐President of the Australian Dietetic Council (the forerunner of DA) between 1959 and 1967, was President and Vice‐President of the Dietitians Association of NSW, and for many years was Chairman of the NSW Institute of Dietitians. She also served as Chairperson of the Expert Panel in Dietetics of the Council on Overseas Professional Qualifications and was active in the Public Service Association for the improvement of industrial awards for dietitians in NSW. Jo never married, and I think we can all be grateful that so much of her abundant energy and time was given to her work in these various bodies for the benefit of all dietitians.
Teacher and Mentor
Jo was instrumental in the establishment of the Diploma in Nutrition and Dietetics at The University of Sydney and was a part‐time lecturer and member of the Board of Studies of that course from 1967 to 1989. She truly helped shape the views of a generation of NSW dietitians. Her teaching style was rarely didactic; she preferred to question and challenge her students to think for themselves, always insisting that they use their scientific training. I had the privilege of going into her department at RPAH after graduating in 1978, in a new training position in food service that Jo had created. There I found her to be endlessly encouraging and supportive; she emphasised the importance of further postgraduate training and provided me with constant opportunities to take on new challenges ‐ in teaching, management, research, and work for Dietitians Australia.
By any measure Jo was an outstanding and dedicated dietitian. Her achievements in one lifetime seem daunting to us all. But what I will remember most is Jo, the person. She had high standards and could be temperamental and demanding ‐ she did not suffer fools gladly, and could be fanatical about salt ‐ but she was also extraordinarily generous, always concerned with the wellbeing of others. Perhaps because she came from a modest background ‐ she used to work in her father’s shop as a girl ‐ she was always grounded in a realistic and practical view of the world. She understood the imperatives of business, as well as the needs and concerns of working people. She enjoyed food and cooking, the theatre and travel, but lived a simple and unostentatious life. She was good company.
Hers was a life of service. She was recognised by Dietitians Australia with Life Membership and by the nation when she was awarded membership of the Order of Australia in 1980. It seems unfair that in her retirement Jo had so few years to spend time on her own enjoyment. I know that I am not alone in feeling grateful to have had the privilege of being a friend and colleague of this irreplaceable person.
Jo passed away on 3 September 1996.
Read about other prominent members in Lectures in Honour and eulogies.