My work examines the social (systems and environments) determinants of diet and nutrition behaviors among underserved populations in the United States and Latin America, including the Caribbean, and seeks to apply this knowledge to create sustainable improvements to support healthful diet behaviors.
Trained in nutritional sciences, my approach to public health draws from the fields of epidemiology, policy, and sociology. This interdisciplinary approach is critical to address the questions of how to best support healthful nutrition behaviors, using sociology (intersectionality of poverty, race/ethnicity, gender, social capital); policy (evaluation of policies meant to reduce obesity or encourage healthful eating; translation of public health evidence into practice); public health (behavioral risk factors of health status, diet and health disparities). My methodology draws from epidemiology and quantitative sociology (cohort and case-control studies, structural equation modeling) and from anthropology and qualitative sociology (ethnography, participatory methods, qualitative approaches).
My global collaborations are rooted in the LAC region, and include an affiliated investigator position at INCIENSA in Costa Rica, a Visiting Scholar position at the National Institute of Public Health in Mexico, a School Feeding Associate with the World Food Programme in Rome, a position that required me to work in various cities in Latin America and the Caribbean, including Bolivia, Paraguay and Ecuador. Spanish is my first language and I speak French fluently.
Since I joined the tenure-track faculty of GW, I have maintained a productive publication record with over 27 peer-reviewed articles published in high impact journals. I have presented in more than 20 scientific conferences in Latin America, the Caribbean and North America, including task-force presentations, invited panels and symposia, and posters. I have received federal and private organization funds to conduct my work, including a prestigious Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grant awarded to a select group of Junior Investigators this year. Since 2014, I have managed over $2,000,000 as Principal and co-Principal Investigator in my research studies. This year, I am a Scholar of the Sumner M. Redstone Global Center for Prevention and Wellness and Scholar of the Mixed Methods Training Program for Health Sciences at the Johns Hopkins University.
I have a solid methodological and theoretical foundation to study the social determinants of dietary behaviors and health consequences in global settings and among vulnerable populations in the USA. This foundation is rooted in five years of NIH-funded pre-doctoral research fellowship to study public health nutrition, a post-doctoral Cancer Training Award Fellowship to study preventive and health promotion, and two-year Visiting Assistant Professorship at GW.
Teaching:I strive to create a learning environment that enables students to acquire the skills, knowledge, competencies, and confidence needed to make a significant contribution to the field of global public health nutrition. I have taught undergraduate and MPH-level courses. Some of these courses I created de-novo, and others, I had to restructure significantly. My mission is to prepare the next generation of global health nutrition professionals who can integrate nutrition into the core of public health practice, and emphasize the implementation and evaluation of global nutrition programs and policies.
Service: I am an affiliated faculty of the GW Food Institute, the Cisneros Hispanic Leadership Institute, and the Institute for International Economic Policy at the Elliott School of International Affairs. As part of this service, I have presented my work to students and faculty across the university, mentor students, writing for websites or blogs, and collaborating on their initiatives.
This year, I am advising over 8 students in their CE. Four of these students are from the Global Health Department, and the rest are from other departments. I started serving on a more formal role as the global nutrition advisor of the Public Health Nutrition program, housed in the Department of Exercise Science and Nutrition. Within that program, I advise all students interested in global nutrition on their practicum, course-work, and Culminating Experience. This year, I am advising MPH 4 students that capacity.
During my time at GW, I have served on a number of committees, including School of Public Health By-Laws Committee, the undergraduate public health major expansion task force, and as the Faculty Head for the School Student Affairs Advisory Board. I have participated in the SPHHS Strategic Planning Working Group on Global Health, numerous opportunities to evaluate research on Research Day, ISCOPES activities.
I serve on the Horizon Foundation/Howard Co Unsweetened National Advisory Committee and I participate on the DC Food Policy Council. I am also a member of the CDC Water Working Group and the National Drinking Water Alliance. I am a member of the New Connections Network of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation – RWJF’s signature leadership programs, aims to diversify the perspectives that inform RWJF program strategy
My professional service also includes reviewing manuscripts that have been submitted for peer-review publication in journals, including Public Health Nutrition, Journal of American Dietetics Association, and the Journal of the American Public Health Association. I have also reviewed abstracts for a number of conferences, including the annual American Society for Nutrition conference.
Professional Service – Global/International:
As an affiliated investigator of the Instituto Costarricense de Investigación y Enseñanza en Nutrición y Salud (INCIENSA), I work with nutrition investigators in Costa Rica to inform the Ministry of Health about public health, epidemiologic surveillance to inform policymaking.
My service also includes grant proposal reviews for the University of Puerto Rico and the University of Costa Rica, the GWU-USAID Global Health MiniUniversity.