Members in Action

Diana Licalzi Maldonado, MS, RD

Diana Licalzi Maldonado, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian with a Master’s in Nutrition Science, and is currently working towards becoming a Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE). Originally from Puerto Rico, Diana is dedicated to helping the Hispanic community meet their nutrition and health goals. She co-founded Reversing T2D, an online platform that provides nutritional guidance for individuals with pre- and type 2 diabetes. Last year, Diana also became very passionate about empowering women to have healthy pregnancies without alcohol.

After noticing a gap in the market, she co-authored the book, Drinking For Two: Nutritious Mocktails for the Mom-to-Be, where she provides women with prenatal nutrition information and over 45 non-alcoholic drink alternatives healthy for both mom and baby. Diana also has experience working as a dietitian at Boston Medical Center, InsideTracker, and UC San Diego Health. Diana is also the 2020-21 Treasurer for the Latinos and Hispanics in Dietetics and Nutrition (LAHIDAN) Member Interest Group.

Interview by Alejandra Amezola

Q: Why did you choose to become a registered dietitian (RD/RDN)?

A: Growing up in Puerto Rico, I witnessed how poor eating habits and a lack of proper nutrition education leads to many chronic illnesses, including within my own family. It was clear that there was a tremendous void around nutrition education, especially among the Latino community, and I wanted to help fill it.

Q: What field of dietetics do you work in?
A: I work in several different areas in the field of dietetics. I primarily work for a biotech company called InsideTracker where I review blood
biomarker data and nutrition recommendations with InsideTracker users. I also help brainstorm, plan, and contribute to nutrition-related content for their blog, marketing campaigns, and social channels. I also co-founded and ran Reversing T2D, an online program that helps people (especially the Latino community) learn about nutrition and exercise to help reverse pre- and type 2 diabetes.

Lastly, I also write mocktail books – I co-authored Drinking For Two: Nutritious Mocktails for the Mom-to-Be, which provides women with prenatal nutrition information and over 45 non-alcoholic drink alternatives healthy for both mom and baby. My second book Mocktail Party hits shelves on May 2021 and will feature 75 healthy, plant-based cocktail recipes.

Q: Can you talk about the work you do for LAHIDAN?
A: I work as Treasurer for LAHIDAN, where I mainly oversee and manage the organization’s finances.

Q: What are your typical daily and weekly work
tasks as an RDN?
A: Many of my daily and weekly work tasks involve research and writing. I usually write and publish one to two blogs per month for InsideTracker, so a lot of my time is dedicated to writing about nutrition- and longevity- related topics. I also spend a lot of my time working on Reversing T2D. This entails a range of tasks, including editing blog posts, managing our interns, and creating meal plans
for our members. A large part of my role for Reversing T2D is also research and development—finding ways to improve our program and expand our audience.

Q: What is your favorite part about working in dietetics?
A: One of my favorite parts about working in dietetics is teaching people about nutrition, especially plant-based nutrition! The majority
of people living in the United States, including the Hispanic community, don’t eat enough plants, yet they can have such a
powerful impact on our overall health. I thoroughly enjoy teaching people about the benefits of plants and how they impact
chronic illness. I also enjoy helping people find ways to incorporate more plants into their diets. I love how diverse the field of dietetics is. I work several different jobs in unique areas within dietetics, which always keeps things exciting and educational.

Q: What are some of your professional or career aspirations?
A: My primary professional aspiration is to eventually grow Reversing T2D to reach more people, especially Latinos. Diabetes is a
growing epidemic in the United States, and it disproportionately affects Hispanics. Hopefully, by reaching more people, we canhelp educate them about nutrition and its impact on diabetes and reduce the long-term complications associated with diabetes.

Q: Do you have any advanced education or special training?
A: I have a Master’s in Nutrition Science from Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition, and I’m currently working towards becoming a Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE).

Q: How does your work with LAHIDAN impact the Latinx community?
A: LAHIDAN empowers not only its members but all Hispanic dietitians (and future RDs) to be leaders in the field. The field of dietetics
desperately needs more Hispanic dietitians, and LAHIDAN helps foster that growth — it’s a community where everyone is welcome and supported.

Q: In an ideal world, what would the role of RDs in the Latinx community look like?
A: In an ideal world, all Latino communities would have access to the proper nutrition care and treatment they deserve, including access
to dietitians. Furthermore, more opportunities would be given to Hispanic dietitians, making it easier for them to enter the field.

Q: What interested you in becoming a member of LAHIDAN?
A: I love being part of a community! I also feel very passionate about connecting with more Latinos in the nutrition space, so joining LAHIDAN was the perfect fit.

Julie Plasencia, PhD, RDN, LD


Dr. Julie Plasencia is a registered dietitian and assistant professor in the Department of Dietetics and Human Nutrition at the University of Kentucky with a joint appointment at the College of Dentistry - Diagnosis Wellness and Prevention Clinic. She did her undergraduate studies in International Business Administration and Chemistry at Alma College. She then completed her Master's and PhD in Human Nutrition at Michigan State University. Her research interests are in investigating how culture influences dietary behaviors in Mexican Americans with diet-related chronic diseases. Before her academic career, she worked as a clinical and community dietitian in diabetes education with Hispanics/Latinos in Las Vegas, Nevada. Her path toward a career in academia was not conventional, and her practical experience in the area led to her interests in research and education.

As a grant recipient of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars program, she is part of a team comprised of five clinicians working on a primordial prevention initiative with an elementary school. She was also awarded a Research and Extension Experiences for Undergraduates (REEU) grant by the USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture to offer an experiential learning experience to undergraduates. Students will be gaining valuable clinical experience and completing a research project to provide nutrition-focused disease prevention education to prepare students for careers in nutrition and dietetics.

Interview by Alejandra Amezola

Q: Why did you choose to become a registered
dietitian (RD/RDN)?
A: I grew up with a father who was very disciplined about his meals and taking his type 2 diabetes medicine. As I got older, I was curious why he did this. When I discovered that dietetics was a career and that I could learn how food was related to diabetes management, I chose dietetics. I wanted to be able to help others, like my father. And once I became a dietitian, I often shared my father's story of success. Through his disciplined behaviors, he delayed many diabetes complications and avoided others that had taken his brothers' lives early. Dietetics turned out to be the career I was searching for, one I did not know was possible when I was young, but I am privileged to be a part of today.

Q: What are your typical daily and weekly work tasks as an RDN?
A: I no longer have typical days! I discovered early on as a dietitian that I liked the variety in my work. I am a researcher and educator, and my days are different. They can involve teaching dietetics courses, working with graduate students and other collaborators on research projects, writing, and many other higher education tasks. My favorite part of my job is that I use science, imagination, and creativity to answer questions to complex problems related to diet.

Q: What field of dietetics do you work in?
A: I work in research and education. It is a privilege to shape young minds and integrate findings from my research into my teaching. My work varies by project. One example is the project associated with the Clinical Scholars Program through the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. I am the nutrition expert in our team made up of a dentist, a psychologist, two nurse practitioners, and myself, a registered dietitian. Our project's goal is to improve the health of children of elementary school age in a rural Appalachian community that is facing many health equity issues. We are building a curriculum for elementary school children on illness and injury prevention, oral health, physical activity nutrition, mental health, and tobacco prevention.

Q: Can you talk about the work you do as a dietitian?
A: My work varies by project. One example is the project associated with the Clinical Scholars Program through the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. I am the nutrition expert in our team made up of a dentist, a psychologist, two nurse practitioners, and myself, a registered dietitian. Our project's goal is to improve the health of children of elementary school age in a rural Appalachian community that is facing many health equity issues. We are building a curriculum for elementary school children on illness and injury prevention, oral health, physical activity nutrition, mental health, and tobacco prevention.

Q: What are some of your professional or career aspirations?
A: Each time I accomplished one of my dreams, a door opened for more possibilities to give back. My first dream was to become a registered dietitian to help others like my father with type 2 diabetes. After passing the RDN exam and working in diabetes counseling and prevention for five years, I identified a gap in the knowledge of dietitians in the area of cultural sensitivity. The lack of culturally sensitive, evidence- and research-based recommendations for ethnically diverse patients prompted me to seek an opportunity to complete a PhD. I completed my dissertation examining cultural influences in dietetics with the financial support of the Academy Foundation and Michigan State University. I subsequently obtained a position at the University of Kentucky (U.K.) to continue doing this work. While in the U.K., I secured over a million dollars from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars Program and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Food and Agriculture, to advance my research efforts. I am most proud that each of these accomplishments was achieved through mentorship from other dietitians and researchers. I have the privilege of teaching others. Each of these opportunities allows me to give back to the community and the profession. My career aspiration is that I have the opportunity to continue this kind of work.

Q: Do you have any advanced education or special training?
A: I have a doctorate degree in human nutrition with a focus on community nutrition. I also have a certification in teaching college science.

Q: How does your work impact the Latinx community?
A: Early in my career, I developed two nutrition education programs for the Hispanic community in Las Vegas, Nevada. One focused on diabetes prevention, "Más Vale Prevenir," and the other focused on healthy food preparation, "Cocinando Delicioso y Saludable." In my time at the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension, these programs combined reached nearly 1,699 adults in Clark County. Since shifting my career focus to research, I took the experiences I had in all of my work to explore the influence of culture on dietary behaviors, focusing on disparate, underserved communities, including Hispanic/Latino populations. My current work collaborates with faculty in the colleges of medicine and nursing to reduce this community's health disparities in Kentucky. I am the principal investigator on a five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Food and Agriculture. This funding supports the Bridge Scholars Program- Bridging Disease Prevention Through Nutrition Focused Education In Community Clinics that will take undergraduate students into community clinics, including Clinica Amiga, to complete two-semester-long research and extension experiences under the supervision of a clinical dietitian. This project will allow students to get involved in research projects to develop and assess nutrition education materials for Hispanics and Latinos in Kentucky while gaining clinical experiences.

Q: In an ideal world, what would the role of RDs in the Latinx community look like?
A: In an ideal world, all Latinx communities would know what RDNs do. It would be well known who the RDN is in their community, and
nutrition and dietetics expertise would be accessible by anyone who needs it.

Q: What interested you in becoming a member of LAHIDAN?
A: I was fortunate to meet one of the founders of LAHIDAN as a dietetic student, Cecilia Pozo-Fileti, around 2006. She was the first Latinx dietitian who mentored me and got me involved with LAHIDAN. When I attended my first FNCE®, I attended a reception with so many dietitians who looked like me and spoke like me! I was hooked. In 2007, I was the newsletter editor and quickly realized how much I could gain from volunteering in leadership positions. I learned how to lead meetings, identify and pursue new initiatives, teamwork, and communication skills. LAHIDAN offered these opportunities to me, and I think I gained much more from the organization than I could ever give back. My favorite aspect of being a LAHIDAN member is meeting the future and new professionals and offering mentorship. I also enjoy it whenI meet a dietetic student that does not know this group exists, and I get to introduce it to them! LAHIDAN is such an important organization. We are a group of dietitians with expertise in working with the Latinx community. Still, we have the privilege to support other dietitians who seek out our expertise so that they can provide the best care to those they serve (students, patients, clients, etc.).

Ana D’Escrivan, MS, RDN, LD, CDCES


Ana D’Escrivan, MS, RDN, LD, CDCES is an H-E-B contract dietitian in the Border region. Originally from Venezuela, Ana graduated Summa Cum Laude with a B.S. in Nutritional Science, where she dedicated more than fifteen years of extensive work as a clinical dietitian. Ana worked in a multi-disciplinary hospital and as an Associate Professor in pediatric clinical nutrition in the second largest University in Venezuela. Because of her passion for teaching, Ana also ran her private practice and devoted many years to educating adults and children with nutritional needs. Ana moved to the United States with her family, where she completed the Coordinated Program in Dietetics (CPD) at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV). Here, she was re-credentialed as a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) in the U.S. Ana never hesitated to do what was necessary to continue serving passionately in her new home and strived to help improve the dietary habits of people of all ages. Her strong teaching skills and experience are evident when she educates her patients on making lifestyle changes.

Ana firmly believes that healthy eating is a matter of balance, and she works with her clients in helping them understand that there are no “good” and “bad” foods. By serving people from underserved Latinx communities, she focuses on considering the social and cultural aspects of health surrounding her clients to assist them in setting realistic and achievable goals. Ana is working hard to diversify her background as a Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist (CDCES) and a Gerontology specialist. Educating and helping older adults is a new passion in her career. She continues serving as a guest professor for two universities in Latin America. She collaborates actively as a peer reviewer of a scientific journal from the Medical Faculty of the University of Zulia in Venezuela. Ana is a mom of three adorable boys and has been married to an amazing Italian-Venezuelan for 21 years. Her family has been her primary support. They love to share a good meal and to travel to new destinations. Ana enjoys reading books based on true stories and spends some time on social media, sharing nutrition content with a vast Spanish-speaking community.

Interview by Alejandra Amezola

Q: Why did you choose to become a registered dietitian?
A: Becoming a registered dietitian was not my first choice when I started working in the healthcare field more than 20 years ago. I originally started studying medicine in my native country of Venezuela. However, after completing my second year of medical school, I realized that I did not see myself as a medical doctor, yet I still wanted to work in healthcare. While studying medicine, I enjoyed my biochemistry classes a lot, where I learned how the different macronutrients impact the body. This is how I decided to start the journey of becoming a registered dietitian in Venezuela. After 15 years of working as a dietitian or “nutricionista” in my country, and due to political conflicts, I moved back to the United States. Then, I went back to college and enrolled in a coordinated program in dietetics to become credentialed as a registered dietitian again, but this time in the United States. All in all, I am very passionate about the work I do as a dietitian, and I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything other than what I love.

Q: What are your typical daily and weekly work tasks as an RD?
A: I work as a registered dietitian in an outpatient setting with RGV ACO Healthcare Providers (Accountable Care Organization). As the only dietitian in this organization, I do many different things. A typical day for me includes seeing Medicare beneficiaries at two other clinics (half a day in each clinic) to provide mostly MNT and diabetes education. Also, I conduct multiple home visits, where I provide nutrition education and counseling to elderly patients. Other weekly tasks might include supervising the Medicare beneficiaries with PEG tubes and checking to see if they are receiving the right formula and meeting their calorie and protein needs. Also, I provide a lot of in-home support where I meet with home-based providers and caregivers to ensure that our patients are receiving the right nutrition care, at the right time, and without unnecessary cost. In addition to these tasks, I also provide personalized menu planning, educational handouts, leading grocery store tours, and hold diabetes education group classes. After my day at RGV ACO, I work an extra two hours with H-E-B Nutrition Services. Here, I continue to see patients via telehealth and provide medical nutrition therapy (MNT) for adult and pediatric patients.

Q: What is your favorite part about working in dietetics?
 A: My favorite part about working in dietetics is the versatility that our job provides. Our dietary interventions are an ongoing and dynamic process that allows us to share our skills and abilities with our clients and patients in various settings. What I love the most is being able to “touch” people’s hearts with my services.

Q: Can you talk about the work you do?
A: I could define my job in a few words. I would say that I do “value-based care.” By working with an Accountable Care Organization, I have learned the importance of providing the right nutrition care, at the right moment, and the correct cost. As part of the Care Coordination team, our primary goal is to meet all the patient’s needs as soon as possible, to achieve the best health outcomes. My team includes social workers, care managers, care coaches, skilled nurses, and medical providers. We focus on providing exceptional care, which helps Medicare beneficiaries decrease hospitalizations, readmissions, and unnecessary costs. When I think about giving the best level of care, that includes ensuring that my patients can benefit from my recommendations in the long-term. This may require me to conduct a home visit, educate the home-based provider and other caregivers, educate the patient at the grocery store, provide a personalized menu plan, contact the DME company that is delivering enteral support, touch-base with the nurse that is assisting my patient at the adult care center, refer my patient  to a social worker or mental health support program, or partner with a local food bank to address food insecurity. I do a plethora of things that have one thing in common: adding value to my patient’s life, providing the best care and achieving exceptional health outcomes.

Q: What field of dietetics do you work in?
A: I can’t say that I only work in one field of dietetics. However, I mostly work as a clinical dietitian in the outpatient setting. I also do a lot of other community-oriented work. For instance, I provide nutrition education in a variety of group settings by participating in different activities where the community is involved, such as healthcare fairs, grocery store tours, school fairs, fundraising events, screening food insecurity in our patients and even partnering with local food banks to support them as needed. I also provide Care Coordination and Transitional Care Management to the social workers and skilled nurses that I work with at RGV ACO. Furthermore, in my job working with H-E-B, I still work as a clinical dietitian, but in a retail setting.

Q: What are some of your professional or career aspirations?
A: Well, I have achieved a lot during my last 20 years in the field. My next step is starting my private practice, where I will be doing much of what I do with RGV ACO but on my own. I will also get to work with other non-ACO medical providers that have heard about my job and have already asked to refer their patients to me. Besides this, I am on my way to becoming certified as a Gerontology specialist. I am also improving my social media skills to get better access to the “Spanish-speaking” population living in the Rio Grande Valley.

Q: Do you have any advanced education or special training?
A: Yes, I have a master’s degree in Clinical Nutrition and a master’s degree in Pediatric Clinical Nutrition. I am also a Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist (CDCES). Even with all of my professional dietetic experience in Venezuela, the CDR did not allow me to become board certified until I had worked for at least two years as a registered dietitian in the U.S., so I waited. After I passed my CDR exam in July 2017, I started working and waited two more years to sit for my CDCES exam in October of last year. I will also be taking the Gerontology Specialty exam soon.

Q: How does your work impact the Latinx community?
A: I live and work near Mexico's border area, so I do see a vast Latinx community. Even though I am not Mexican and do not necessarily share the same culture, being a Spanish-speaking dietitian has allowed me to become more involved in Latinx community-related events. My patients love to have a dietitian who can speak their native language, which is also so warm-hearted and “cariñosa.” I am a Caribbean dietitian, which means that I love to “apapachar a mis viejitos.”

Q: In an ideal world, what would the role of RDs in the Latinx community look like?
A: As we know, the Latinx community is a very underserved group in this country. Even though it seems that there are many resources available for this population, the reality is that many have limited access to them. As RDs, we should speak out to our community leaders and let them know the impact that we can have in a usually low-income, undereducated, and underserved community. We need to help amplify the voices of those that have less access to resources for them to be able to lead a healthier lifestyle. We need to represent our community and advocate for their right to receive prompt access to nutrition services and resources.

Q: What interested you in becoming a member of LAHIDAN?
A: As a good Venezuelan, I am very family-oriented. Becoming a member of LAHIDAN has allowed me to find my “professional” family who shares similar cultural views and values. I love having the opportunity to meet so many great professionals with a lot in common with me: love and passion for what we do, but overall, love and compassion to serve others.

Amaris Noguera-Bradley, MPH, RD



Amaris Noguera-Bradley, MPH, RD is a Registered Dietitian with 10 years’ experience in nutrition communications, public relations, and partnership building. She is an account lead at the global nutrition communications company Eat Well Global, where she enjoys delivering strategic counsel and executing health professional engagement activations for a variety of food-related clients. Prior to joining Eat Well Global, Amaris was a senior director at the Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA), a nonprofit founded by Former First Lady Michelle Obama. While at PHA, she brokered partnerships to transform the marketplace via verified commitments to reformulate, innovate and market healthier options. Before her time at PHA, she served on the account team at global public relations agency Porter Novelli, where she executed nutrition communications strategies for a number of food boards and brands. Amaris holds a master’s degree in public health from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a bachelor’s degree in dietetics from Florida State University. She is an active member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and serves on the Executive Committee for the Food and Culinary Professionals Dietetic Practice Group.

Q: Why did you choose to become a registered dietitian?
A: I grew up with Colombian parents who were phenomenal cooks so food was always a big part of my life. I fell in love with food and its
connection to health at a young age when I realized that many of my peers and family friends in my hometown of Miami, Florida struggled with nutrition-related health issues or a positive relationship with food. After taking a nutrition class in high school, I was sold on finding a career that could marry my interest in science, food and health. (Unfortunately, I wasn’t successful in finding a career in food tourism, which was Plan A.)

Q: What are your typical daily and weekly work tasks as an RD?
A: As an account lead at Eat Well Global – a fully remote nutrition communications firm – my typical day includes catching up on client relevant nutrition news, video conferencing with colleagues and clients to move client projects forward, planning virtual or in-person events for health professionals, pitching new business opportunities to prospective clients, interviewing health professionals for insights projects, writing proposals or crafting reports for client deliverables, hosting team brainstorms, and/or strategizing around health professionals’ needs and challenges and how the food sector can be a solution.

Q: What field of dietetics do you work in?
A: Communications and marketing! I get to help food companies and commodity boards learn how to effectively connect with health professionals.

Q: Can you talk about the work you do with Eat Well Global?
A: At Eat Well Global, we empower global change agents in food and nutrition. In our perspective, change agents are health professionals and dietitians like you and me that play a role in fostering a healthier world. Regardless of whether you work in research, policy, food service, patient care, communications, or another area, our collective efforts create positive change in individuals and our environment. In my role at Eat Well Global, I work with my colleagues – all of who are credentialed health professionals – to help our food industry clients navigate the food and nutrition landscape through 360-degree global insights, strategic planning, and health professional engagement activations.

Q: What is your favorite part about working in dietetics?
A: I love how dynamic our field is – as science advances and evolves, so does our knowledge and how we practice. As the world changes, new and more job opportunities for dietitians in the field emerge. Who would have thought 10 years ago that there would be dietitians preparing athletes for the Olympics, running health initiatives at fast-food restaurants and convenience stores, or providing one-on-one counseling in major supermarket aisles across the country?

Q: What are some of your professional or career aspirations?
A: I’m 10 years into my career, and I still learn new things daily. Whenever that hasn’t been the case, I’ve embarked on my next chapter. My hope is that I’m always in a professional role that inspires and challenges me to always continue learning and growing.

Q: How does your work with Eat Well Global impact the Latinx community?
A: Because our core work at Eat Well Global involves engaging health professionals, we impact the Latinx community in a number of areas. Whether we’re hiring Latinx dietitian speakers as subject-matter experts for the client events we host, counseling food companies to translate materials into Spanish for Latinx audiences, or brokering media partnerships with Latinx dietitian influencers on behalf of clients, we aim more than ever to amplify credible voices in the Latinx community and other underrepresented communities within our profession.

Q: In an ideal world, what would the role of RDs in the Latinx community look like?
A: I’d love to see more Latinx dietitians in the field emerge, serving not just Latinx populations in perhaps traditional patient care settings, but impacting diverse workforces and the population at large in leadership roles at major Fortune 500 companies. Regardless of the industry, employers have to keep their workforce healthy, and a large swath of major companies touch the food and health space in some way, so there’s certainly a role that dietitians can play in each of these spaces!

Q: What interested you in becoming a member of LAHIDAN?
A: As a Latina, in my career, I’ve unfortunately grown accustomed to being the only Latina in the room – whether it was my undergrad classroom, graduate program classroom, or the office environment at nearly every job I’ve held since graduation. I joined LAHIDAN because I wanted to connect with other Latin dietitians and build my network with fellow professionals that are doing great things in our profession.

Q: Do you have any advanced education or special training?
A: I have my master’s degree in Public Health, which I pursued after undergrad because I was really interested in the power of prevention and the various levers that could be pulled at every level (individual, societal, organizational, environmental) to improve health.

Manuel Villacorta, MS, RDN