Brunella Ibarrola MS, RD, CD-N
National Nutrition Month and Diversity Chair of the CT Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 2019-2020
What inspired you to become a RDN?
I’ve always had a deep love for working with people and feel most fulfilled when I am able to have a positive impact. As a student, I found myself gravitating towards the biological sciences and was particularly intrigued by metabolism and human physiology. Pursuing a career in nutrition and becoming an RD seemed like the perfect fit.
Where do you work now and where have you worked in the past?
I’ve been blessed to have had the opportunity to work in many different settings as a registered dietitian. Presently, I work for Hartford Public School’s Food & Child Nutrition Services as the Assistant Director of Nutrition Support and have been in this role for 8 years. Prior to this position I worked at Hartford Hospital for 20 years as an R.D., providing medical nutrition therapy in a variety of different ambulatory settings including high risk obstetrics, medicine, diabetes and cardiology. For 14 years, I was an adjunct instructor for at UCONN for the departments of Nutritional Sciences and Allied Health – my favorite course to teach by far was AH 204: “Conversational Spanish for the Health Professional”, which provided me an opportunity to work with people from a wide variety of backgrounds and perspectives. Earlier in my career, I worked as an ambulatory RD in Hartford’s Community Health Services located in the North End of the city, it was my first job as an RD and learned so much from both my patients and my fellow practitioners. The great thing about my present position at in Hartford Public Schools is that it has brought me full circle and I am still able to impact the same families!
What is your favorite recipe/food?
Hmm… great question! My favorite lunch or quick dinner is a salad with crisp greens (whatever I have handy from kale to romaine), a nice robust cheese like goat, blue or smoked Gouda, roasted veggies, any dried or fresh fruit like Craisins®, nuts and some roasted chicken, if I have it on hand. It’s so flavorful, I don’t even need dressing, though if I do indulge, it’s a tangy balsamic.
General tip for improving diet?
When I worked with patients the first step was always to begin where they were, guiding them a step at a time towards their health and nutrition goals. My go-to message was always increasing whole foods and high fiber foods, especially veggies ☺ along with portion control.
If stranded on island-what one food or beverage you would want an unlimited supply of?
Plenty of water (I drink a LOT of water) if it could be infused with fruits, lemons or fresh herbs like mint, that would be an added treat!
What is the best part of your job?
Shifting gears later in my career to Child Nutrition has afforded me the opportunity to learn so many new things, particularly around federal regulatory compliance. Initially, it was challenging but has become so very, very rewarding. I also absolutely love working with our wonderful team! I am privileged to work with people who are extremely dedicated and committed, at every level of the organization. You can’t beat that!
Where do you want to see the RDN/NDTR profession in 10 years?
As the profession moves ahead into the next decade, I look forward to the field of Nutrition & Dietetics becoming an even more vibrant and richly diverse profession. I truly believe that one of our biggest challenges ahead will be to become a more inclusive profession which will enhance not only our effectiveness but also the public’s view of us as a profession. I believe we are at a turning point and will need to continue to work towards increasing the diversity of our membership at every level.