I was born in Santiago, Chile into a caring and supportive environment where family and friends encouraged me from a young age to pursue my ideals. Indeed, my interest in public health and nutrition was stimulated from early infancy: my mother, a nurse, imparted in me a deep appreciation of wellness. Moreover, she encouraged me to independently seek out answers to my innumerable questions, giving me an early introduction to the joys of the scientific method!
My subsequent studies in Nutrition and Dietetics at Universidad de Chile enabled me to fine-tune my research interests. Here, I decided to focus on improving the health of entire populations across the world. Volunteering for local NGO Un Techo para Chile confronted with the shocking reality that my country lacked public health policies to address the epidemic of chronic diseases wracking society’s most deprived members. This strengthened me in my conviction that my talents would be best directed towards population-level research and change.
After graduating Universidad de Chile as a Dietician, I joined Instituto de Nutricion y Tecnologia de los Alimentos (INTA), its institute of nutrition and food technology. My four years at INTA crystallised my passion: research in public health nutrition. As field manager for CENEX, Chile’s largest-ever cost-effectiveness study of a food and physical activity programme for the elderly, my activities ranged from antropometric evaluations to dietary assessment. Since then, chronic diseases and elderly nutrition have been the focal point of my research. At INTA, I experienced first-hand the difficulties and joys of working in the field. Moreover, I was privileged to work with pioneers of nutrition in Latin America, such as Prof. Dr. Ricardo Uauy and Prof. Dr. Cecilia Albala. Their example has always been an inspiration.
I subsequently decided to enrich my skills, knowledge and experience with a more in-depth grounding in theory, enrolling in an MSc. in Public Health Nutrition at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM). Leaving my family and friends, I pursued my dream of acquiring the expertise to improve populations’ nutrition and quality of life. Suddenly, I was transforming a life-long ambition into reality!
Studying at LSHTM strengthened my command of epidemiology, statistics and public health. Moreover, I was privileged to meet fellow students from different countries, cultures and communities. These became my family away from home. Following graduation, I remained at LSHTM , as a Research Assistant in International Nutrition. Here, in a joint project with HarvestPlus, I participated in creating a database on phytate availability in foods.
Subsequently, I joined the International Association for the Study of Obesity to participate in updating its educational programme and to research obesity policies in Latin America.
Following an internship at the International Diabetes Federation an in Brussels, I took up a position at Imperial College London as Nutritional Epidemiologist for the Continuous Update Project of the World Cancer Research Found. The project aims to capture, systematically review and summarise the evidence of association between diet, nutrition, body composition on the one hand and cancer on the other. Since joining this team in early 2011, I have learned to further appreciate the centrality of evidence-based medicine and its crucial role in formulating nutrition-related policies.