As a first-generation Latina dietitian, my ethnicity has provided me with extraordinary opportunities. The year after graduating with a master’s in dietetics and nutrition, I joined Milk Life as their spokesperson for the Hispanic market. I continued this collaboration, along with other similar partnerships for 12 years. It was exciting, fun and it paid well. Recently I embarked on a new adventure by becoming an Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics spokesperson.
I believe that my culture and my ability to speak Spanish have been key factors in my ability to grow professionally in directions I love. This year alone has been extraordinary! I became a doctor in clinical nutrition, a fellow of the Academy and received heart-warming awards such as the greater tri-county dietitian of the year award from my peers at the South Florida Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
On a personal note, as a mother of a half-Black, half-Latino 4-year-old, I feel that he stands out and raising him represents unique challenges. But I am up for such challenges and I hope his uniqueness might help him as much as my own uniqueness has helped me.
In terms of struggles, I have faced some of the same issues many others in my culture have faced. I only have my sister living near me; thus childcare is difficult, especially if there is an unexpected change in my schedule. Financial struggles are frequent in my culture, as there is often less family support available. If my parents lived here, since they are both professionals, they could have helped me more financially during my undergraduate program and my internship. This is why I believe it is important to provide minority students and interns with more scholarship opportunities.
It was also lucky that I decided to take a year off and work with a cruise line in between completing my bachelor’s and starting my master’s degree. Otherwise, I believe I would not have had enough previous work experience to qualify for my internship since I was only able to work on campus during my undergraduate degree. I believe there are many individuals with the extraordinary potential to be a great RDN, but who may not have all of the qualifications to be competitive in the internship application process, which may partly be due to an inability to work off campus during their undergraduate studies. It is also very likely that many individuals do not apply to an internship because paying thousands of dollars in tuition, in addition to working an unpaid internship is simply not feasible for some Black individuals, Hispanic individuals and other minorities.
Finally, I want to thank all those who embrace me and my culture. The first step to increase the diversity in our profession is to give ourselves the opportunity to get to know others who are different from us.
The team behind Food & Nutrition Magazine® aims to amplify the voices of people of color and other underrepresented individuals in nutrition and dietetics and highlight the experiences of RDNs, NDTRs, dietetic interns and nutrition and dietetics students. Our goal is not only to stand in solidarity, but also help inform our readers and increase awareness about the importance of diversity in the field of nutrition and dietetics. We know it’s not enough, but we hope it’s a step in the right direction that will support meaningful conversations and a positive change in the profession.