Dietetic Career Spotlight on Marina Chaparro, Nutrichicos Children’s Nutrition Center
By SARAH KOSZYK, MA RDN on FEBRUARY 19, 2015
I met Marina Chaparro, RD, CDE, MPH, at FNCE 2014 in Atlanta and we instantly connected. Her energy, passion, and smile immediately grabbed my attention and we began to talk. I was thrilled to learn about all her successful endeavors from starting a Spanish-speaking children’s center focused on diabetes to being an Academy Spokesperson, and more. Read on to learn how Marina inspires families to improve their health and wellness and uses her media skills to get her message to the masses. – Sarah
What attracted you to the field of nutrition and dietetics?
Initially, I was very determined to study business and hospitality in college. However, in my Senior year of High School I was diagnosed with type 1 Diabetes. This flipped my world 360 degrees. My parents courageously allowed me to go study 3000 miles away from home to Boston, MA. Once in Boston, I took an introduction to nutrition class. After taking my first nutrition class, I could not stop! I was hooked and wanted to learn more. Ultimately, I think I was so drawn to human physiology and nutrition science as way to understand my own body and condition. This became my driver: leaning how to best take care of myself and understand how human bodies work. The rest is history!
Your Job Title:
– Founder Nutrichicos Children’s Nutrition Center, Miami FL
– Certified Diabetes Educator & Pediatric Clinical Dietitian at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital
– Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Company you are with now:
– Nutrichicos Children’s Nutrition Center
– Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital
A typical (or not so typical) day-in-the-work-life for you:
It all depends where I am that day. If I’m at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital, I usually see patients in the morning and afternoon and I’m in between the office and hospital. I round with the Pediatric Endocrinologist every other week to discuss newly diagnosed patients in the hospital. We have a great team and work very closely with the doctors to help children and families improve their diabetes care. This includes education, insulin changes, carbohydrate management, insulin pump teaching and more. Afternoons are usually spent addressing any patient emergencies, returning parent calls, evaluating blood glucose logs, performing pump evaluations or teaching continuous blood glucose monitoring classes.
If I am at Nutrichicos, It varies a lot. I try to respond to emails, get some writing and social media in the morning because in the afternoons I see patients. Also, I get asked to do many media assignments so that means I talk to reporters, or do phone/TV interviews eat least 1-3x week. Other times my time is spent researching the latest nutrition topics for an upcoming article or preparing a presentation. I also see patients on Saturday’s and many times it involves going to the grocery store to do a Supermarket educational visit.
How did you get your current job in dietetics?
After working in Miami Children’s Hospital I realized my passion was working with kids. There is something unique when working with kids and families, it requires a certain empathy and ability to relate to children. My specialty is in diabetes so I knew the next step was to combine my love for children’s nutrition and diabetes. I’m lucky to work with a wonderful team at doctors, educators, nurse practitioners and nurses at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital Pediatric Endocrinology Department.
Nutrichicos Children’s Nutrition Center started as a personal project. My objective was to create a place where Spanish speaking families could go to seek reliable, practical and science driven nutrition information for children in Spanish. While I was working as an outpatient pediatric dietitian in Miami, I saw a need for culturally relevant Spanish Speaking resources focused solely on children’s nutritional needs. Nutrichicos Children’s Nutrition Center is a bilingual pediatric nutrition center that aims to improve the nutritional well-being of children and adolescents. We offer diverse and personalized programs in both English and Spanish to help families meet the nutritional needs of children with diverse medical conditions. In Nutrichicos Blog, I write about a range of nutritional issues pertaining to pediatric nutrition issues; from grocery shopping with your kids, to infant colic’s, childhood obesity and emerging technology in diabetes. Many times the topics are driven by real life questions I get from mothers and families. It’s meant to be practical and informative.
What skills were you born with and what skills have you learned along the way?
Communication, education and empathy come easily to me. I come from a family of educators and Montessori teachers, so education is in my blood. I’m also an extrovert by nature and thrive when I’m surrounded by other people. I knew early in my life that I needed to “love” what I do. This for me involves helping others. I hope my work is somehow making a difference in this world.
That being said, I’ve have needed to learn the art of public speaking. I really enjoy it, but it’s been something that I’ve needed to practice and continue to do so every time. Another thing I’ve had to learn and I’m still keeping up with is social media. Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, it’s so hard to keep up. But it was crucial for me to learn this early on as I started to write my blog and communicate through social media. It still feels a little foreign but I’m evolving.
Lastly, I’ve really had to learn how to stand up for what I believe in and not be afraid to walk away. I think as dietitians, we don’t really get trained in the “business world” so many of the business skills like negotiating, pitching ideas, managing a business are not innate to our jobs. I’ve learned a lot my husband on how to be “tough” and stand up for my ideas, negotiate my salary and ultimate get the jobs that I “love” and not be afraid to walk away.
What advice do you have for others wanting to be just as successful and fulfilled as you?
Say YES to everything. Opportunities present themselves in different ways. So saying yes to new challenges and opportunities can give you a unique set of skills. You might not feel an expert in but its OK, you need to trust your capacity to adapt and learn. Getting the right foundation is key. Make sure you your science silks are well founded, as they will be needed later on.
If you could be paid for your job with something other than a paycheck, what would it be?
Traveling and great food. I love to travel and get to experience different cultures and cities. I’m a foodie at heart, so traveling and eating are my other passions. My rule or thumb when traveling is to ask the taxi divers where they eat. The smaller and unexpected the restaurant, the better. This guarantees I will get an authentic dining experience where I can taste the true flavors of the country. Thankfully, I have a bulletproof stomach, so it’s I’m up to eating any bizarre food.