I have a strong desire to participate in positive change, stemming mainly from growing up in Puerto Rico, and its unusual first world/third world dichotomy. In much of the Caribbean, most of the foods consumed are imported. Dietary diversity comes at a high cost and is often not a matter of personal choice. I wanted to understand how similar forces work in global settings to affect nutritional status, under and overnutrition.
Upon my studies, I became fascinated by the consequences of human interaction to health, especially at the international level. I was lucky to study at Cornell University, with David Pelletier, Hector Velez, and Arch Dotson, which allowed me an interdisciplinary education in nutritional sciences, sociology and policy, to understand the underlying economic and political dimensions of health programmes.
I followed this interdisciplinary approach through my doctoral studies in the Department of Nutrition, at Harvard School of Public Health, with a focus on epidemiology and public health. During this time, I worked closely with Hannia Campos, Ana Baylin and Rafael Monge-Rojas to better inform nutrition policies regarding trans-fatty acids in Latin America and the Caribbean. We helped create dialogues with epidemiologists, food industry representatives and policy stakeholders about policy change to eliminate industrial trans-fatty acids in Latin America.
Throughout this journey, many fostered and continue to foster my passion in applied nutrition research, including David Pelletier at Cornell, Juan Rivera in Mexico, Karen Peterson, Ana Lindsay, Walter Willett at Harvard, and Amy Yaroch at the US National Cancer Institute.
The problems of malnutrition reveal an intricate synergy, between dietary intake and genetic susceptibilities, and also between personal and environmental factors. Sadly, it is well documented that these factors affect discriminatorily the most marginalised populations. Now in academia, I am interested in taking an integrative approach to the design of applied investigation to address diet and health inequalities in global settings.