Our Staff

Dr. Frank Neelon

Dr. Frank Neelon began to work on the former Rice Diet Program in 1996, focusing on the clear value of the low fat, ultra-low sodium rice diet for patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus.  This has led to an understanding of how the time-curve of weight loss brought about by calorie restriction and regular exercise (“The Glide Path”) relates to the improved sugar control needed in diabetes, and guides the care of patient at the Rice Diet Healthcare Program.

Born and raised just north of Boston, Massachusetts, Dr. Neelon graduated from Boston College and Harvard Medical School and then came to Duke to intern at the Department of Medicine. He served at the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute of Mental Health before returning to Duke, where he eventually joined the faculty in the Division of Endocrinology and the Division of General Internal Medicine. He retired from the faculty in 2002.

Dr. Anne Micheaux Akwari

Originally from Rochester, New York, Dr. Akwari graduated from Sarah Lawrence College and Howard University College of Medicine.  She trained in Internal Medicine at the Mayo Clinic and Duke University, and in Hematology/Oncology with an emphasis in Hematopathology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  What followed was an unconventional career path which coalesced to bring her to the Rice Diet Healthcare Program in 2013.

Dr. Akwari joined the IBM Corporation shortly after finishing her training.  There, she began as an in-house physician and rose to senior management directing medical operations at one of IBM’s largest locations with an equal mix of administrative, manufacturing, and design engineering functions. During her time at IBM, Dr. Akwari received major corporate and division awards for medical and administrative work.  

Next, she attended Duke University School of Law, after which she litigated multi-district medical device and pharmaceutical cases with Hunton & Williams.  While practicing law, Dr. Akwari began co-teaching and coaching medical students, residents, and practicing physicians in doctor-patient communication, professionalism, and teamwork.  She created a one-day workshop recommended by the North Carolina Medical Board and attended by physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants from the mid-Atlantic region.  She continues to consult with medical organizations and individuals.

Caring for patients at RDHP, and in her private coaching, Dr. Akwari explores the obstacles facing patients who are trying reaching personal goals.  She helps them build skills that enhance motivation, engagement, problem-solving, and coping; skills that lead to healthful habits of body and mind.

John Edward Aycoth

One morning back in 1999, John Aycoth realized that at 329 pounds he had to make a drastic change in his life or would be facing very serious medical issues in the future. From January 2000 and August 2002, he started a personal journey to reverse his health status and lost 138 pounds which confirmed to him the importance of improving your healthcare and wellbeing is to all who have faced similar battles with health issues. This lead to the opportunity in 2013 to re-launch Dr. Walter Kempner’s world famous “Rice Diet” at the Rice Diet Healthcare Program

Mr. Aycoth is also the Chairman of the Rice House Healthcare Foundation which was created to fund research on Type-2 Diabetes Mellitus in partnership with Duke University Medical Center’s Division of Endocrinology, Metabolism and Nutrition and the Rice Diet Healthcare Program with Dr. Kempner’s “Rice Diet”.

A native of North Carolina who joined the U.S. Navy and graduated with honors from the U.S. Naval Cryptologic School, Corry Station in Pensacola, Florida and received a Top Secret Special Intelligence Clearance and was assigned duty to (FOSIF), the Fleet Oceanographic Surveillance Intelligence Facility at the U.S. Naval Cryptologic Station in Rota, Spain which included Temporary ship duty on the U.S.S. Guam, U.S.S. Yarnell and U.S. Bowen. Before being discharged Mr. Aycoth was awarded a Citation of Appreciation from the Commanding Officer, U.S. Naval Cryptologic Station, Rota, Spain.

In 1980 he became a State Coordinator of the Reagan for President Committee and the Reagan/Bush Campaign in Florida. After the election Mr. Aycoth moved to Washington, D.C. and launched Edward Aycoth & Co., Inc., an International Consulting firm which specialized in Government Affairs, Trade & Economic Development, Public Relations and Advertising. In 2006 the company became EAW GROUP LLC and over a span of 33 years the firms represented over 250 corporations and 28 foreign governments in both Washington and the United Nations.

Emily Padian, MPH, RD, LDN

Emily Padian’s lifelong interest in health and fitness led her to become a registered dietitian. She attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as an undergrad and graduate student and earned a Master of Public Health in Nutrition. She completed her dietetic internships by working at Piedmont Health Services, Womack Army Medical Center, and WakeMed’s Energize Program. Her professional interests include adult and pediatric weight management, along with the prevention and management of chronic diseases through diet.
At the Rice House, Emily teaches nutrition and yoga classes, provides individual nutrition counseling, and assists with menu planning. A native of Houston, she has lived in the area for the last ten years.

Judy Rivers

Judy Rivers is a Staff Assistant who was personally hired by Dr. Kempner in 1964 at the former Rice Diet Program and is in charge of all patient medical records, organizes medical tests and consultation, schedules and maintains the patient appointment calendar, coordinates and gathers medical tests and maintains medical supplies needed for the medical staff and nurses. A native of Durham and is a welcome face for all the longtime Rice House patients. 

Betsy Hamilton

Betsy Hamilton is an Administrative Assistant who began with the former Rice Diet Program in 2000 and has worked with Dr. Neelon since 1984. Betsy works in the front office and greets and registers all patients, schedule specialty appointments and studies for patients, receive and maintains account receivables and patient billing, coordinates both the nurses and kitchen staff schedules, provides liaison between patients and the programs hotel partners.
A native of North Carolina and has lived in Durham since 1971 and has been a tireless advocate in the efforts on the creation of the new Rice Diet Healthcare Program and also a welcome face for all of our patients.