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Shweta Khandelwal

Shweta Khandelwal 130x180Nutrition came my way by chance. I come from the small town of Bareilly in Uttar Pradesh, one of the largest states in India, where opportunities to pursue higher studies were minimal. While preparing for my medical entrance examination, I happened to qualify for the home science entrance examination at the GB Pant University of Agriculture and Technology in Pantnagar, Uttrakhand.

Home science is a field with five subdivisions, nutrition being one of them. So from 1999 onwards I have been studying, for my bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees, and for the past five years have been teaching nutrition. Today, I can say with pride that I am in love with what I do!

After my master’s in nutrition in 2005, I came to Delhi to study for my PhD and fortunately got Srinath Reddy as my mentor. From that time on, there has been no looking back for me. He advised that I should pursue another master’s in public health, preferably from an international university, to get a more holistic vision of nutrition as a discipline and to acquire the requisite epidemiological skills which are currently absent or minimal in the nutrition curriculum in India.

That has been the turning point in my life. I started to view nutrition through a lens which had research and practice integrated. This fuelled a sense of direction and drive in me to work in the area of capacity building of public health nutrition. I realised that knowledge of subjects like epidemiology, research methods and biostatistics are crucial to understanding the problem of malnutrition and work towards alleviating it, especially in lower-income countries.

I have thus been engaged in situation analysis of the teaching and training activities in the area of public health nutrition, and working toward building a curriculum that rises beyond its focus on therapeutics and clinical dietetics and moves to include the necessary research strengthening skills. Dietetics is important, but mere diet-counselling or nutrient intake assessment, should not be the only career options or outcomes for young nutrition graduates or professionals. My broad research interests include public health and nutritional epidemiology especially investigating the role of nutrition in non-communicable diseases – cardiovascular diseases and disorders in particular.

I am currently a senior lecturer at the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), New Delhi, and a postdoctoral fellow (nutrition) at the Centre for Chronic Disease Control (CCDC). I have a doctorate in human nutrition from the University of Delhi , and a second master’s degree in public health (distance learning) from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London.

I recently returned from Emory University, Atlanta after completing my US training as a part of the NIH sponsored postdoctoral fellowship. I was evaluated as grade: A/excellent. I will pursue the remaining 18 months years at CCDC. At PHFI I am leading the online academic initiative in public health nutrition, and I am involved in curriculum development and teaching. The major areas are nutrition epidemiology, health promotion and public health nutrition).

I am fortunate to have been given many prestigious awards. These include the Young Scientist Award 2009 in experimental nutrition (Nutrition Society of India); The Dr KU Naram Award for securing first rank in the MHSc in 2004-2005 from SNDT University, Mumbai; the Dr Dhirajlal Dhanjibai Shah Memorial Prize (first prize) for the highest GPA in the foods and nutrition department in MHSc. in 2005; the Association of Scientists and Technologists (India) Bombay Chapter Prize for the first position in 2004-2005 in postgraduate department of foods and nutrition, SNDT University, Mumbai.