Thursday, November 21, 2013

Fulbright Grant Sends Nutrition Alumnus to Nicaragua

As a Fulbright Scholar, Daniel Fenyvesi, MSN ('07), RD, will teach Nicaraguan students, train workers at a university health clinic, and collaborate with faculty on understanding the changing role of nutrition in a developing country.

Daniel Fenyvesi, MSN ('07), RD, sits with another volunteer at a health clinic.
Dietitian Daniel Fenyvesi, MSN ('07), RD, with another volunteer at a Nicaraguan health clinic.

Teach and Study in Nicaragua with Fenyvesi

Daniel Fenyvesi invites Bastyr students to learn about his Fulbright project and to join him in teaching and studying nutrition in Nicaragua in 2014.

Bastyr's Department of Nutrition and Exercise Science is hosting two brown bag events with Fenyvesi, titled "Nutrition-Related Work Abroad: Applying Knowledge of Latino Health in Nicaragua."

  • Noon-1 p.m. Monday, Nov. 25 (Room 286)
  • Noon-1 p.m. Tuesday, Nov 26 (Room 63)

Kenmore campus

Questions? Contact Cristen Harris at charris[at]bastyr[dot]edu

Daniel Fenyvesi, MSN ('07), RD, learned about the power of healthy cooking by looking into eyes. As a volunteer traveling in Nicaragua a decade ago, he met women with eyes cloudy from wood smoke. Years of leaning over cooking fires had left them prematurely aged. When he visited homes that had switched to solar-powered ovens, the women's eyes were clearer and brighter.

Fenyvesi returned to Nicaragua as a Bastyr University nutrition student six years ago, funded by a Student Council Venture Grant, a program that supports education through travel.

Next year he will return again, as a visiting faculty member through a grant from the Fulbright Program. As a Fulbright Scholar, Fenyvesi will teach Nicaraguan students, train workers at a university health clinic, and collaborate with faculty on understanding the changing role of nutrition in a developing country.

He also wants to include current Bastyr students and is visiting campus Nov. 25-26 to invite them to visit as teaching assistants (see details at right).

"I had an experience that inspired me," he says of his student Venture Grant. "I want to offer that to others. I want to show how preventive, holistic health care can have really big public-health impacts with low-income and working-class people."

Fenyvesi's time as a Fulbright Scholar will be a mixture of teaching and learning, which is the intent of the international exchange program founded in 1946 to "increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries." The Fulbright Program sent more than 1,000 U.S. scholars abroad last year through the U.S. State Department Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

Fenyvesi will spend nine months at Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Nicaragua in Managua, the country's oldest public university. He will teach a basic nutrition course, which will let him draw from his time in Bastyr's Master of Science in Nutrition program, he says. Right now that means finding Spanish-language books that reflect a whole-food philosophy of eating a broad variety of unprocessed foods.

In his work at the university health clinic, he also hopes to incorporate motivational interviewing, a counseling approach taught at Bastyr that focuses on helping patients find their own motivation to identify and pursue goals. He will also teach a collaborative seminar for university professors on chronic disease and obesity in Nicaragua.

"I think I'll learn as much as I teach in that," he says. "I expect it will be a really good interchange."

That class will inform his work helping the university develop curriculum toward public-health solutions.

Fenyvesi grew fascinated by Nicaragua's "nutrition transition" as part of its economic development. The nation's nutrition challenges once stemmed from food insufficiency, leading to problems such as malnourishment and vitamin A deficiency (which can cause blindness). Now it is gradually joining the developed world in struggling with diseases of excess — such as diabetes, obesity and heart disease.

The growth of fast food and sugar-laden soft drinks accelerates the shift, even as malnutrition remains a problem in some areas, Fenyvesi says.

"People often have enough calories, but they're often empty calories," he says. "Processed foods and sweetened, heavy, packaged foods can be really attractive to people coming out of a few decades of insufficiency."

Fenyvesi has continued to learn about this dynamic as a volunteer with Natural Doctors International, a naturopathic medicine non-profit with a clinic in Ometepe, Nicaragua. After speaking with Nicaraguan professors and cultural affairs officers at the U.S. embassy in Managua, Fenyvesi proposed a Fulbright project that would explore both ends of the country's nutrition challenge — insufficiency and excess.

Cristen L. Harris, PhD, RD, a core faculty member in Bastyr's Department of Nutrition and Exercise Science, says the project underscores the importance of cultural literacy in nutrition work.

"When you're providing care in a developing nation, you won't be recommending organic, grass-fed beef, or other things that may not be available," she says. "It's a whole different set of circumstances."

Since graduating from Bastyr, Fenyvesi has worked at a Latino health clinic in Oakland, California, focusing on chronic disease. He has also taught nutrition and culinary classes, worked at a weight loss retreat in Southern California, and worked as an instructor at a health spa in Tecate, Mexico. He maintains a blog, Food Sobriety, about his approach to nutrition.

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Learn more about studying nutrition at Bastyr.

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