CUrrent Trainees

Arizona State University

Baylor College of Medicine

Tulane University

ERIN MORINI is a 2nd year student at Tulane University pursuing a Masters of Public Health (MPH) concentrating in Nutrition. She currently holds a degree in Nutrition with a minor in Psychology from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. While there she worked in Peer Health Education as well as in local childhood obesity prevention programs. She spent a few months after graduation working on a malnutrition research study in East Africa, where she solidified her love for international nutrition. She is a clinically trained Registered Dietetic Technician with the goal of attending Tulane’s Dietetic Internship to become a Registered Dietitian after her MPH. She is interested in maternal and child health, the impacts of diet on the environment, and food security, both domestically and internationally.

TARYN SMITH is a recent graduate of Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. She received her Master’s of Public Health- Nutrition in May. She looks forward to beginning her dietetic internship at Tulane in the fall. She is originally from Freeport, Grand Bahama, The Bahamas. She obtained her undergraduate degree from The University of Nebraska-Lincoln where she studied Nutrition, Exercise and Health Science as well as Dietetics. Through the Nutrition Leadership Training program at Tulane, Taryn has had the opportunity to become involved in several projects including, conducting research related to pre-pregnancy obesity in WIC participating women. This research led to her abstract being submitted and accepted into three national nutrition conferences to present this year. She has also taught guest lectures on the built food environment in Grand Bahama to undergraduate students at Tulane. Not to mention, all the amazing opportunities to network, build relationships and potential collaborations along the way. Taryn also spent time working within the community of New Orleans. She assisted an agricultural and youth centered community organization to help them better understand the impact their food contributions are making around the city. She was on the planning committee of the first ever student-led symposium at Xavier University focused on public health technology and innovations. Her interests lie in food and agricultural policy and how we can increase food access to vulnerable populations. Her long-term goal is to return home to work alongside the government and local organizations to encourage local growing and increase the sustainability and resilience of The Bahamas through agriculture. She loves living in New Orleans and appreciates the culture and the people so much for everything they have and will continue to teach her!

MIGUEL ANGEL LOPEZ is a second year PhD student at Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine pursuing a degree in Social, Behavioral, and Population Sciences with a concentration in Nutrition and Food Insecurity. He became a registered dietitian after receiving his bachelor’s degree in Nutritional Science from Texas Christian University (TCU), and holds a Master of Public Health in Epidemiology from Tulane University. Throughout his academic career, MiguelAngel has had the opportunity to help establish a breakfast program for low-income youth in Seville, Spain; investigate the prospective association between nontraditional biomarkers of obesity and abdominal obesity in Suzhou, China; and the relationship between the perceived nutrition environment and food insecurity in Lima, Peru. Currently, his research focuses on investigating the association between the surrounding food environment, community nutrition assistance programs, specifically The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and food insecurity. For his dissertation, MiguelAngel hopes to be able to investigate the association between acculturation and nutrition-related outcomes, including food insecurity, among US-born, and foreign-born Hispanics living in the United States. He is interested in pursuing a career focused on alleviating social inequalities in nutritional outcomes.

JACQUELINE A. FUTCH, who is originally from Miami, FL, is currently a Dietetic Intern at Tulane University’s School of Public Health & Tropical Medicine. She received her bachelor’s degree in Dietetics and Sociology from The Florida State University, and in 2019 added a Master’s in Public Health Nutrition from Tulane’s SPHTM. During her time in New Orleans, Jacqueline has worked as a research assistant for Tulane’s Prevention Research Center, served on the executive board for The Society of Young Black Public Health Professionals, and studied food insecurity and resilience in Italy. In 2018 she was contracted by The Food Trust as a nutrition educator for their Mid-South Healthy Food Initiative. Through this project, Jacqueline used innovative nutrition lessons and produce incentives to improve fruit/vegetable intake and support grocery store development in low-income communities. As Nutrition Coordinator for Second Harvest Food Bank, Jacqueline managed several child hunger initiatives while finetuning skills in program development, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation. She is now a Dietetic Intern and a member of the inaugural cohort of HRSA Maternal and Child Health Nutrition Leadership Trainees. In these roles, Jacqueline focuses research on equitable food access, obesity and chronic disease prevention, and social and environmental determinants of diet behavior. Most recently, Jacqueline has accepted a position on the executive board of the National Organization of Blacks in Dietetics and Nutrition (NOBIDAN).

BRANDI STEIN is a first year Masters of Public Health student at Tulane University. She grew up in Michigan and got her BS in dietetics from Michigan State University. She went on to complete her dietetic internship and then work as a pediatric and neonatal intensive care unit dietitian at the University of Virginia Health System. This role sparked her interest in maternal and child health, but she knew she wanted to shift her focus to community nutrition. Her professional interests include lactation and breastfeeding support, food security, and academia. Her personal interests include spending time outdoors, hanging out with her dog Lentil, and eating good food

JALEH KERMANI was born and raised in the Columbia River Gorge in White Salmon, Washington. Kermani spent the last year working in Senegal as a Health Extension Agent with the Peace Corps. A lot of her work revolved around maternal and child health. Unfortunately, in late March due to COVID-19, Peace Corps globally evacuated all of its posts. Kermani’s work in maternal and child health in Senegal sparked an interest to build upon her Bachelor of Science in Nutrition from Syracuse University. She is now a first year student at Tulane University pursuing a Masters of Public Health Nutrition. Jaleh is a Certified National Association of Sports Medicine Personal Trainer. She hopes to combine sound nutrition with exercise to create strengths that enable people to serve their community to improve their life and the lives of others.

AVNI GUPTA is originally from California, but has been in Austin for work since graduating from The University of Texas at Austin in December 2019. She completed her BS in Nutrition, Dietetics and is really excited at the prospect of completing her Master of Public Health Nutrition along with a dietetic internship through Tulane’s combined program, especially because of its emphasis in community nutrition. Anvi loves the community aspect of nutrition because of its ability to shape and mold a population’s health in a larger setting. In the past, she’s worked with two major research programs in Texas called Texas Sprouts and School Physical Activity and Nutrition (SPAN). These programs allowed her to educate children about nutrition and health, as well as gather anthropologic data and conduct dietary recalls to see if current nutrition programs are effective. The Maternal and Child Health Leadership Program offers her the opportunity to explore her passion for child nutrition, specifically in bringing about health education and awareness of nutrition to children and their families to reduce the risk of obesity and diseases as they age. Avni is most interested in learning more about designing programs and interventions to promote nutrition knowledge and overall health in populations that need it. When not busy with school or work, she loves to cook, bake, and be active, which is what inspired her love for nutrition at a young age.

KAMBER LeBLANC is originally from Edmond, Oklahoma and graduated from Oklahoma State University with a degree in Nutritional Sciences-Dietetics in May of 2020. Kamber is a first year student at Tulane University pursuing a Masters of Public Health in Nutrition. During her undergrad, Kamber helped create a nutrition program for Stillwater Public Schools that was implemented into their curriculum. She has also worked with individuals with special needs throughout her entire life and plans to focus on that community with her future work.

The University of Alabama at Birmingham

JESSICA GARCIA, MPH, LD is a nutrition trainee with the Leadership Education in Adolescent Health (LEAH) Training Program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She has been selected for the Maternal & Child Health Bureau’s Division of MCH Workforce Development Trainee Ambassador Group (TAG). TAG is designed to foster connections between trainees across the MCH Training Programs, provide trainees with leadership development opportunities, and strengthen the link between trainees and MCHB.  Within the TAG, Jessica has taken on the roles of lead social media director (SMD) and member of the 2021 TAG application committee. As lead SMD, Jessica has delighted in the opportunity to conceptualize, develop, and lead efforts to facilitate trainee connections via social media and via the social media ambassador (SMA) mentoring program. One of the most beneficial aspects of the LEAH program that she has learned is how to successfully assess, diagnose, manage and mentor patients over telehealth. Jessica is passionate about working with the adolescent population especially those encountering eating disorders. She hopes to one day open her own eating disorder practice based on an interdisciplinary approach.

University of California, Berkeley

University of California, Los Angeles

University of Minnesota

JUNIA N. de BRITO is a third-year Social/Behavioral Epidemiology doctoral student in the Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, School of Public Health, at the University of Minnesota. She is a dietitian and has a Bachelor of Science degree in Nutrition & Dietetics from UniBH, Brazil. Junia also holds a Master of Business Administration degree from Bellevue University and a Master of Public Health Nutrition degree from the University of Minnesota. Her research interests include the evaluation of diet and disease relationships in epidemiologic studies, the synergy of nutrition and physical activity in the etiology and prevention of health problems, and family relationships and child feeding strategies for the prevention of childhood obesity. Junia currently works as a research assistant in several projects both within the Epidemiology and Community Health division, and the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health in the Medical School of the University of Minnesota. She has gained valuable experience in primary data collection, data management, and quantitative and qualitative data analysis. Junia is also a Maternal and Child Nutrition Leadership Trainee since 2016. Since then, she has attended to multiple professional development opportunities, received policy training on public health advocacy, completed her summer MPH field experience at Women, Infants & Children (WIC) Program’s Office at the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), and currently manages a research project in partnership with WIC MDH and a team of five graduate students. For the future, Junia sees herself engaged in teaching and researching ways to reduce health disparities related to nutrition and physical activity in racially/ethnically diverse populations.

LAUREN PRINGLE is a first year student in the Coordinated Masters Program for a Public Health Nutrition focused MPH and dietetic internship at the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health. She graduated with a B.S. in Nutritional Sciences and a focus in Public Health Nutrition from Michigan State University. Before moving from Michigan, she worked as an undergraduate research assistant at Michigan State on a project to determine the effectiveness of the Smarter Lunchroom strategies in k-12 schools across Michigan and as a maternal and infant health intern with the Michigan Dept. of Health and Human Services to aid in the planning of their Maternal Infant Health Summit and enhance their ambassador program. As an MCH trainee, she is involved with a research project studying positive deviance in child health and nutrition. In the future, she hopes to work in a rural or underserved community with adolescents and women of child bearing age to increase their health literacy and equity, food security, and self-efficacy.

NANCY JIANG is a first year MPH/RDN student in the Public Health Nutrition Coordinated Masters Program in the School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota. She was born and raised in sunny Long Beach, California, and graduated from University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) with a B.S. in Psychobiology. As a Maternal and Child Nutrition Leadership Trainee, she is currently working on a School Nutrition Project involving Bloomington Public Health Center to improve the food service programs in various Bloomington charter schools. Her future career aspirations include working in the field of school nutrition as a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and starting a nutrition-based elective course in the curriculum or an afterschool program in at-risk schools for students to learn about healthy eating and nutrition. During her free time, she enjoys hiking, cooking and baking, watching reruns of Parks and Rec, and hanging out/arguing with her mischievous dog, Twiggy.

NATALIE NATION is a first year MPH Nutrition student in the Coordinated Masters Program at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities. She earned her bachelors degree in dietetics at St. Catherine University, where she was awarded the 2019 Nichole Miller Social Justice award for her work with the campus food shelf and in food justice advocacy on her campus. She enthusiastically dove into her public health nutrition studies at UMN and is happy to work alongside her fellow MCH trainees, where she helps to maintain the MCH trainee blog and developing a public service announcement in collaboration with the Crow River Food Council. Natalie’s interests include nutrition and health literacy and communication, public speaking and educating students, and food insecurity. She hopes to become a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and work with teens, college students, and young adults. Natalie also hosts her own nutrition podcast, Feed That Nation, which can be found on YouTube, Apple, and Spotify.

MOLLY PASS is a first year Coordinated Masters Program student in the School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota. She graduated with a B.A. from the College of St. Benedict in Minnesota with a degree in Nutrition-Dietetics and a minor in Exercise Science and Sports Studies. Within her time as an MCH trainee, she has been working on developing a public service announcement in collaboration with the Crow River Food Council to promote local food and how buying locally benefits families, communities and the economy. Another experience that she has been involved with is promoting breastfeeding-friendly workplaces in Ramsey County. Molly’s interests lie in the space of wellness, school nutrition and county public health initiatives. She is passionate about bettering the community one step at a time through collaborative effort. 

TOLU AWOKOYA is a first year Coordinated Masters Program student in the School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Nutritional Science from Iowa State University.  Before moving to from Ames, he was part of the 2019 Cohort of the Iowa State Dean’s Global Agricultural Leadership Program where he worked on a project with the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization on the implications that a global shift to a plant-based diet might have on health and nutrition, focusing women and children. As an MCH trainee, he is involved in a research project studying positive deviance in child health and nutrition. He is also involved in Early Childhood Family Education in Minnesota that works to enhance the ability of all families to provide the best possible environment for their child’s learning, nutrition, and growth. In the future, Tolu wants to work in the field of global health; specifically working to improve nutrition access, education, and quality for women and children in developing countries

AMY PLEIMLING is a second year MPH student in the standard track in the School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota. Amy received her Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Minnesota and has been a practicing registered dietitian, currently specializing in obesity and weight management. She is aiming to move from her clinical practice to public health work by gaining community experience and making connections. Amy lives with her husband, three children, Macy the dog and Blue the cat in Prior Lake, MN. 

SOMADEE CHEAM is a second year MPH Nutrition student in the Coordinated Master’s Program at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities where she also received her undergraduate degree in nutrition and dietetics in 2018. Before the last year of her undergraduate studies, Somadee had the opportunity to work with the Girls and Boys Club of South Minneapolis where she began her work with MCH populations. During that summer she helped to create and implement a nutrition education intervention which had both gardening and classroom components. Currently, she continues her work in MCH by working with the Minnesota Department of Health on strategic planning for their priorities for the Title V MCH block activities. She is interested policy, environment and systems changes that promote local and sustainable food procurement by institutions to provide nutritious foods to those who need it and stimulate local food systems.

MARIANNA COLUCCI is a second year MPH Nutrition student in the Coordinated Master’s Program at the University of Minnesota. Originally from Italy, she moved to Minnesota where she received a B.A. in Nutrition and Dietetics from the College of Saint Benedict & Saint John’s University. Before becoming an MCH trainee, Marianna was a graduate research assistant in the division of Epidemiology and Community Health within the School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota. During her appointment, she collaborated on the CHAT at HOME pilot research study, which aimed at better informing childhood obesity prevention and intervention strategies. Marianna then analyzed and evaluated the study’s data as part of her master’s thesis focusing on children’s quality of life as the primary outcome of a parent-targeted obesity treatment intervention. As a trainee, she has been working on the Positive Deviance research study, conducting in-home interviews with WIC families of young children and analyzing the data using qualitative methods. The research will determine themes and subthemes in order to identify specific strategies to provide a full model of possible protective factors and inform childhood obesity prevention practices. Marianna hopes to soon become a Registered Dietitian and to continue working with the MCH population while reducing health disparities and promoting health among diverse populations.

REBECCA NAAB is a second year MPH Nutrition student in the Coordinated Master’s Program at the University of Minnesota. She received a B.A. in Environmental Sustainability from Baldwin Wallace University in her hometown of Cleveland, OH in 2010. After finishing her undergraduate education, she spent time in rural Montana as a FoodCorps volunteer where she helped develop a Farm to School program at a local school district. Following her FoodCorps experience, Rebecca joined Teach for America and worked as a middle school educator in Detroit, MI. It was through both of these experiences she learned the importance of nutrition and health education for young children and adolescents as well as how hunger affects the learning and the well-being of marginalized youth. As a trainee Rebecca has worked in conjunction with Bloomington Public Health to provide assistance and technical support at multiple charter schools in order to help advance and promote their school nutrition programs. Moving forward, she hopes to continue her work with schools to advance health education as well as cultivate new ideas about how to innovate school nutrition programs that emphasize cultural food preferences, reduce food waste, and allow children to nourish their bodies intuitively.

University of Tennessee

JULIANNE EVANS is graduate student pursing a Master of Science in Public Health Nutrition with a thesis. She graduated from the University of Dayton in May 2019 with a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics, Food and Nutrition. Julianne has had the  opportunity as an undergraduate to participate in research focusing on cooking demonstrations and food insecure populations and her work with leadership programs on campus awarded her 2019 Ohio Outstanding Dietetic Student of Year and 2019 National Student Employee of the Year. Her experience with undergraduate research and as a summer nanny drew her to the MCH Nutrition Leadership Team because she wishes to gain more knowledge and experience on programs that influence people from diverse backgrounds, especially MCH populations. Julianne is passionate about working with medically under served children and sustainable food systems. As a trainee, she hopes to continue learning how to best support medically under served mothers and children.

RACHEL KLENZMAN is a dietetic intern and dual Master of Science in Public Health Nutrition and Master of Public Health student at the University of Tennessee. She has been a Maternal and Child Health Nutrition Leadership trainee since January 2019. In May 2018, she received her undergraduate degree in Dietetics from Ashland University in Ashland, OH. Rachel’s experience as a research assistant in perinatal, behavioral health, and surgical outcomes at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio sparked her passion for the MCH population. Her graduate thesis work focuses on postpartum anxiety, breastfeeding self-efficacy, and breastfeeding outcomes. Rachel hopes to use her education and training to improve health outcomes for mothers and infants.

Candace Sapp is a 1st year doctoral student at the University of Tennessee Knoxville (UTK) pursuing a degree in Nutritional Sciences with a concentration in Community Nutrition. She completed her combined master’s in clinical nutrition and dietetic internship at the University of Memphis where she worked as a graduate assistant at St Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Candace completed her master’s thesis project on the effectiveness of the Cooking Matters cooking and nutrition education program on increasing cooking self-efficacy and fruit and vegetable consumption in high school students in Memphis, TN. She has worked as a Registered Dietitian for the past three years in the greater Memphis area. Candace’s current research focuses on the implementation of nutrition interventions related to childhood obesity in minoritized. Candace also serves as a graduate assistant for Dr. Dorian McCoy, CEHHS DEI Director, on diversity, recruitment, and retention initiatives for the college.

SA’NEALDRA WIGGINS is a 4th year doctoral student at the University of Tennessee (UT) pursuing a degree in Nutritional Sciences with a concentration in Community Nutrition. She currently holds a degree in Health Education-Public Health from Middle Tennessee State University, where she discovered her love for women’s health. She dedicated her first few years at UT to completing the courses required for a career as registered dietitian (RD). Her research focuses on improving the nutrition knowledge of black women to further impact their diet quality. She is also interested in parental modeling as it pertains to the home food environment with this population. She recently completed her dietetic internship and will be taking the RD exam in 2021. Sa’Nealdra is currently a Tennessee Doctoral Scholars Fellow, which is a program funded by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission and UT’s graduate school. She is interested in working in the government sector of public health nutrition, specifically in programming for women’s health.

EMILY WOJTOWICZ received her Bachelor of Science degree in Nutrition and Dietetics from the University of Arizona. Then, she went on to complete a combined dietetic internship and Master of Science program at Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) in Cleveland, Ohio. Emily’s Master’s degree is in Community Nutrition with an emphasis on child and maternal health. After completing her dietetic internship, she worked with the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program as a high-risk dietitian, lactation consultant, and Breastfeeding Peer Counselor Program (BFPC) coordinator. Her research interests include barriers to breastfeeding, infant feeding, and human lactation.

University of Washington

KELSEY KINDERKNECHT is a 2nd year graduate student at the University of Washington School of Public Health pursuing a Master of Public Health concentrating in nutrition. She is also finishing her coordinated dietetic internship to become a registered dietitian. She received her bachelor’s degree in Health Sciences from Furman University. Prior to attending graduate school, she served as a FoodCorps member for two years, a nonprofit organization connecting low-income youth to healthy food in schools, in three public schools in New York City. This experience clearly exposed the racial and economic inequities that affect the nutritional health of children. Additionally, this experience developed her interest in teaching and she became aware of the importance of community-based participatory research within programmatic evaluation in schools to strengthen interventions, programs and policies. During her time at UW and as an MCH trainee, she helped develop and implement social and emotional learning strategies in the cafeteria space in schools and evaluated the effect of the federal policy, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, on child dietary quality for children participating in the National School Lunch Program. Kelsey hopes to use her training and education to continue to work with the MCH population to foster generations of healthy children in schools through programmatic and policy evaluation research to increase food literacy programs in schools and strengthen school food policies and procurement practices.