My interest in public health nutrition began at the end of high school, because of an activity I was involved with as a requirement for the completion of my studies. We organized a social activity to collect food donations and other household supplies for mothers and their children that lived in Totonicapán, a rural area with one of the highest rates of chronic undernutrition in Guatemala. After this experience, I began to do some research about undernutrition, and realized that Guatemala has the second highest prevalence of stunting of linear growth of children younger than 5 years in Latin America. I began to understand the implications that maternal and child undernutrition has on health and socioeconomic status in Guatemala. At this point, it became clear that I wanted to devote my career to improve health outcomes in developing countries, including my own. While studying nutrition at university, I also became familiar with the growing problems of overweight and obesity and the double burden of malnutrition.
After obtained my nutrition degree, I worked with the Institute of Nutrition of Central America and Panama (INCAP) to develop e-learning courses on nutrition and public health emergencies. I also tutored students on a regular basis in these topics. This experienced helped me to uniquely understand strategies that are needed to improve health and nutrition in emergency situations. In addition, I did a six month internship at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), where I gathered skills on the assessment of food affordability, availability and quality. Furthermore, I have clinical experience, as I worked at Hospital Roosevelt, a public hospital in Guatemala City, where I provided nutrition therapy to adult and pediatric patients.
After these experiences, I realized that I want to be a researcher and since 2012 I have been developing research skills as a research fellow of the Cardiovascular Unit of Guatemala (UNICAR). I am currently a research trainee at the INCAP’s Comprehensive Center for the Prevention of Chronic Diseases (CIIPEC) and a visiting scholar at the Department of Epidemiology at the University of Michigan, where I am improving my data analysis skills.
I would like to pursue a doctoral degree with a focus on nutritional epidemiology in the near future, and to dedicate my career to nutrition research and food policy in order to address issues of nutrition and malnutrition in low- and- middle incomes countries and to strengthen the national research capacity in Guatemala. This is much needed to generate policy-relevant knowledge and evidence leading to chronic disease control.