My interest in public health nutrition began with commitment to address social injustices in Chile and elsewhere, and to strengthen the science base of public policy. I trained in medicine in Chile. I completed training in paediatrics and neonatology as medical specialties in Boston and New Haven 1972-75, and took a doctoral degree in nutritional biochemistry and international nutrition policy at MIT in 1975-77. These credentials and working as an assistant to Nevin Scrimshaw at that time empowered me as an agent of change.
I returned to Chile in 1977 and experienced eight years of the Pinochet dictatorship, during which time the economic and social development of the country was abruptly and forcefully changed. Health and nutrition programmes were mostly kept in place thanks to the strength of the professional and academic community. The country unified and mobilised its democratic forces reestablishing democracy in 1990. At this time I contributed to the reorientation of national food and nutrition programmes and the transformation of research and training at the Institute of Nutrition of the University of Chile (INTA) at Santiago, in order to tackle the drastic epidemiological changes the country had experienced.
I became director of INTA in 1994, serving in that post for eight years. After completing my tenure as director of INTA I became IUNS President-elect in Vienna 2001. As IUNS President with the collaboration of many we have been able to strengthen interactions with regional societies, expand nutrition capacity building efforts, increase presence of the IUNS at all levels, engage the private sector in areas of common interest placing public interest first, and advance nutrition leadership training in all regions.