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Center for Human Nutrition

Human Nutrition Alumni

The graduates of the nutrition program featured below are carrying on the Center’s mission through rigorous scientific inquiry combined with an active commitment to improving nutrition and health in populations at home and around the world. 

Cora BestCora Best, MHS, 2007
Nutrition Consultant
World Food Program
United Nations

Cora Best says the Human Nutrition program provided her with exceptional preparation for her current role as a nutrition consultant at the United Nations, in the Policy, Strategy, and Programme Support Division of the World Food Program. Her work focuses on addressing the nutritional needs of children in developing countries who benefit from the World Food Program's school-feeding assistance.

"The fundamental training in public health research methods that I received at Johns Hopkins allows me to access and critically interpret the most recent evidence on human nutrient requirements, fortification strategies, and other public nutrition topics," says Best. "I find I can support my team not only as a nutritionist, but also as a public health professional, by applying epidemiological skills and providing information on a broad range of health topics."

Best adds, "It is a tremendous asset to have trained under the faculty at Johns Hopkins, as it is comprised of expert investigators known for their important contributions to the field. Drs. Laura Caulfield and Parul Christian, two successful female scientists, are personal role models. And Dr. Richard Semba, with the School of Medicine's Department of Ophthalmology, has served as my mentor, providing me with the opportunity to collaborate on research and publications."

Katarzyna Kordas, PhD, 2003
Research Associate
Department of Environmental Health
Harvard School of Public Health, Boston

"The best thing about training in the Human Nutrition program at Johns Hopkins was the preparation it gave me to do field-based research in international settings," recalls alumna Katarzyna Kordas, PhD. "All of the graduates know how to carry out high quality research and to take an idea all the way through to its completion."

While pursuing her degree Kordas became interested in the interaction between iron and zinc deficiencies and lead exposure in children, and how these factors affect children's cognitive and behavioral function. In her current position with the Harvard School of Public Health she has continued with this line of investigation by focusing on iron and lead along with other toxicants, and she has also investigated nutrient-toxin-gene interactions.  

Because combining the fields of nutrition and toxicology is still fairly new, Kordas feels the potential to study issues relevant to populations in developing and developed countries is enormous, especially with increasing industrialization in parts of the world that remain poor. She is interested in whether undernourished individuals are more susceptible to the effects of environmental exposures than well-nourished individuals, as well as whether nutritional interventions can be helpful in preventing or treating the effects of toxicant exposures in humans.

Kordas describes the Human Nutrition faculty as "incredible and committed." "The wonderful thing is that my ties with some of the faculty continue to this day," says Kordas. "Drs. Rebecca Stoltzfus and Laura Caulfied encouraged and helped me to develop my idea on iron and zinc supplementation of lead-exposed children. Now, I still feel comfortable seeking advice and help from any of my former professors and have done so on many occasions."

Patricia Risica, DrPH, 1998
Assistant Professor of Community Health and Research
Brown University, Rhode Island

“The flexibility of the program allowed me to find the courses and mentors I needed from a variety of departments," says alumna Patricia Risica “My advisor, Ben Caballero, was an important role model who showed me how to maintain research interest and projects in both clinical and public health applications.” Risica, who specializes in obesity prevention for young children and for women during and after pregnancy, divides her time between teaching medical students about clinical nutrition, clinical studies, and community-based research and advocacy. As an officer for the Rhode Island Public Health Association, she is active with the Obesity Advocacy Workgroup that is developing a legislative agenda to improve physical activity and diet. “This work has allowed me to take my expertise into the community in a new way,” she says. “I'm hopeful that this agenda will have very tangible effects in our state.”

Francisco Rosales, MD, ScD, 1998
Assistant Professor of Nutrition and Physiology
Department of Nutrition
The Pennsylvania State University, Pennsylvania

Francisco Rosales brought a wealth of knowledge to the nutrition program at Hopkins from his work as a medical doctor at INCAP (Instituto de Nutrición de Centro América y Panamá) in Guatemala. “A lot of faculty at the School of Public Health were MDs just like me, so I didn't feel I was going into a totally different discipline. I had so many people to model after that the transition was easy.” The research work of Alfred Sommer, MD, MHS, dean emeritus of the School of Public Health, whose pioneering vitamin A research has shaped public health policy, was a major influence in Rosales’s dissertation topic. Dr. Sommer’s book, Nutritional Blindness: Xerophthalmia and Keratomalacia, inspired Francisco to further examine the relationship between inflammation and vitamin A metabolism. “If I can say I'm successful, it's because I got my degree in nutrition at Johns Hopkins,” says Rosales. “I was able to do research in an international context and make crucial contacts with people in epidemiology, biostatistics and other areas just by walking down the hall.” Using human and animal models, Rosales is currently developing new methods to assess a person's micronutrient status during infection and inflammation.

Molly Cogswell, DrPH, 1992
National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Atlanta, Georgia

“The nutrition program gave me the background I needed for my work with the CDC–to conduct nutrition assessments and think critically in evaluating nutrient requirements and infant feeding programs,” recalls alumna Molly Cogwell. “I still refer to my class notes when I design and evaluate interventions.” At the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, CDC, Cogswell develops interventions aimed at issues ranging from promoting breastfeeding to preventing obesity. She also evaluates the effectiveness of health programs, such as interventions to prevent iron deficiency. “About one in ten childbearing-aged women in the United States are iron-deficient. The rate is even higher among minorities and low-income populations,” Cogswell explains. “This issue is critical to resolve because currently many groups only recommend iron supplements for women who are anemic, yet many women end up iron-deficient during pregnancy, which may adversely impact both the mother and infant.”

Ellen Piwoz, ScD, 1992
Director, Center for Human Nutrition
Academy for Educational Development (USAID)
Washington, DC

“I have my hands in research and my feet firmly grounded in policy and programs,” says alumna Ellen Piwoz. “The nutrition program provided me with the skills needed to interpret data and use it to influence policy and program recommendations. I can't envision doing anything other than what I'm doing.” Piwoz's research on preventing mother-to-child HIV transmission in Africa informs her daily effort to communicate critical scientific information to policy makers and to develop tools that can be used by health workers and community groups who counsel people living with HIV. Especially in the policy arena, this has been a delicate process. “There has been a lot of confusion and fear around HIV and breastfeeding,” Piwoz explains, “so we have refocused attention on the search for ways to improve survival rates for infants exposed to HIV by not only avoiding infection but by supporting adequate nutrition as well.”


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