- Briefly, could you tell me a little bit about yourself and what you do? I am an associate professor with tenure at Boston University. My responsibilities are teaching and researching externally funded research on school-based health promotion for children as well as researching for the Framingham Heart Study about adult diet and chronic diseases. At BU I teach undergard and grad level nutrition and epidemiology courses. I also work in the community with public school districts, consulting, wellness programs and school lunch as well as after school programs.
- What drew you to the field of nutrition? A passion for food. I grew up in a big Italian family where a lot of time was spent in grandma’s kitchen. But we also had a lot of heart disease in family- my grandfather was 50 years old had his first heart attack.
- What is your favorite part about being a dietitian? Sports nutrition/eating disorders. Helping people change their lives. My two favorite areas of the field are sports nutrition and eating disorders. In the Eating disorder realm-nutrition is life changing. Athletes are so motivated and great to work with. Even as a clinical dietitian-seeing a patient who you thought would never change, change, that’s an amazing feeling.
- How rewarding do you find your job(s)? Extremely. Clinicaly the most rewarding has been working with eating disorders. I also enjoy working with students, seeing opportunities that they find within the field, help them with references to grad school and then seeing them become colleagues, as we grow the network of professionals. I am also very excited about research!
- How did you become interested in nutrition research? In undergrad I did a senior thesis which immersed me in research. I then completed my internship to become an RD and worked as a clinical dietitian until something opened in clinical research at BUMED. It was the perfect move-my clinical skills in a research position. From there I got into school of public health and started Epidemiology research. It was a natural progression.
- Have you always envisioned yourself as a professor? My father was a science teacher. As a kid I used to love going to his lab. When I was thinking about getting my doctorate- I knew I needed it to do university teaching. However I didn’t know what I wanted my doctorate in. I picked epidemiology which was one of the best decisions of my life. The perfect fit and I created a niche for myself. Most in nutrition professionals don’t have epidemiology background. And a lot of epidemiologists aren’t RDs. It has allowed me to do some really interesting things and gave me a lot of flexibility job-wise.
- I find that most dietitians are overworked. How do you find time to balance work and your home life? It’s a challenge. I do less and less that’s not paid. This is something you have to learn- while you’re flattered to be invited, all events costs you one way or another.
- How can we, as current and future dietitians, find more respect in the medical community and general population? Command it. We have to be appropriately assertive. It is always important to be well-read, up on current literature, comfortable with public speaking, have specific nutrition certifications, and find your niche. While many dietitians give free advice one way or another, people are more likely to take recommendation if they pay you. So many people giving nutrition advice, you have to respect, and that means not always telling them what they want to hear. Dietitians are well-read, and give advice based on scientific studies. There are a lot of nutrition myths that have no scientific evidence. You have to stop and say, Wait a minute-can you show me the evidence? Having a strong network is really important, as well as collaborating and referring to others.
- What is one thing you wish you could get every American to do to make our country healthier? Make the food service industry accountable. McDonalds shouldn’t be allowed to have ad campaigns that say “Eat like an Olympian.” It’s irresponsible and sends a double message. How can magazines like Family circle have covers with a tagline like “how to lose weight” and then feature a picture of a cake? This only makes people feel powerless, confused, and not empowered.
Do you think the food industry should be held more accountable for their messages and claims?