I come from a multicultural background: Spanish, Irish, Flemish/Belgian, and have followed the family tradition of studying medicine. Although nutrition was not at the time considered interesting enough to be taught as a separate subject, I was soon hooked on the fascinating interplay between nutrients and their metabolism.
During a course on tropical medicine in Antwerp I discovered public health nutrition, and received my first courses on nutrition and epidemiology from admirably committed professors. It was a challenge to apply what I had learned to the rural setting of Paraguay, an economically developing country undergoing rapid economic and political changes, where I had chosen to work as a volunteer rural doctor. I was very lucky and honored to work with very motivated rural health workers and especially with (grand)mothers. They helped me to conduct some rudimentary nutritional surveys and motivated me to try and convince the authorities about the need to improve child and mother nutrition without neglecting the elderly.
Although I have spent years doing quite basic laboratory and clinical research, the motivation to help improve nutrition in economically developing countries has always stayed with me. My ideal is to help communicate the scientific information that is relevant to the actors in the field, including students, health workers and policy-makers. I firmly believe that correct communication to all sectors of society leads to understanding, decreases fear and generates hope.
I have worked in Antwerp since 1982. I am currently senior researcher, in the laboratory of experimental medicine & paediatrics, faculty of medicine, University of Antwerp, Belgium. My research interests focus on bio-monitoring micronutrient status and the impact of dietary or supplementation interventions. I lecture in Biochemistry at the Plantijn College of Dietitians, associated with the University of Antwerp. I am invited Erasmus professor at the faculty of medicine and nutrition at the University Rovira I Virgili, Reus, Spain. As a team member in the project ‘Food, nutrition and health’ of the VLIR-UOS Flemish inter-university development co-operation programme with Cuenca University, Ecuador, I am involved in studying the impact of transition on adolescent obesity and chronic metabolic disease risk.