Life after graduation is a little scary – we get it. We’re bringing you the stories of nutrition graduates who have taken the path less trodden to show the exciting possibilities available to graduates in our field. Want more? Check out a previous interview.
If you’re passionate about helping people in need and making a real difference in the world, perhaps you might consider working in the humanitarian and development sectors as an international public health nutritionist. Anne Provo currently does just that, as a consultant for the World Bank, providing financial and technical support to developing countries in areas including health, nutrition and food security. Anne was kind enough to spare some of her valuable time to share her story.
Hi Anne, thanks for taking the time to talk to us! So what made you decide to study nutrition?
I went into university intending to study medicine. I quickly decided that public health was much more suited to my inclination towards systems thinking and solutions. Over time, I developed an interest in food systems and maternal and child health – nutrition can serve as the bridge between the two.
Let’s talk uni and internships – which ones did you undertake?
All of my studies have been in the United States. I completed a Bachelor of Science in Health Policy and Management from Providence College. In my undergraduate studies, I had internships with the maternal and child health departments in the municipal health department in my hometown and a NGO working in a similar space. I also spent a summer in Kenya through the School for Field Studies to undertake public health field research.
I then went to complete my masters at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. I have a Master of Science in Public Health in International Health with a concentration on human nutrition. My internship during the MSPH was in Kenya to conduct a school-based food security and nutrition survey with a local NGO partner.
Once you graduated, what happened next? Talk us through the programs and projects you’ve worked on in the field since graduating.
I started consulting with the World Bank after finishing at Hopkins. My main responsibilities have been related to the preparation of analytical work to support the World Bank’s nutrition engagement at global, regional, and country levels. I’ve been involved in efforts to strengthen our institutional commitment to nutrition, including analytical work and writing to develop regional nutrition strategies as well as working on the content and logistics for an internal capacity building workshop for nutrition; analyzing data on health facility readiness to deliver essential nutrition services in Lao People’s Democratic Republic; literature review and writing for knowledge products related to the double burden of malnutrition in the East Asia Pacific Region; conducting stakeholder interviews, secondary data analysis, policy analysis, and donor mapping for a nutrition assessment and gap analysis in Timor-Leste; and collecting data and performing analyses to support the costing, prioritisation and financing of nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive interventions.
What makes you passionate about your work?
I love public health nutrition because it’s about improving systems and working at a massive scale. The more you dig into the underlying determinants of undernutrition, the more you realise nutrition really is just one piece of the puzzle. There’s space for collaborative work with brilliant folks working on gender, sustainability, poverty, inclusive development, fragility, local development – the list goes on and on. I’ve always had a passion for social justice and it resonates with me that the work of public health nutrition is focused on the changes that are necessary to ensure that vulnerable people can gain access to optimum nutrition – not as an end itself, but as a means for helping people live healthier and more productive lives.
What have been some of the most valuable experiences you have gained so far in your career?
As a nutritionist, working at the World Bank may not necessarily jump into your mind when you think about your dream job! However, for me it has been a transforming experience to work in an environment where I’m not surrounded by others with the same disciplinary training (I may have to sign up for an economics course one of these days!). It forces me to think more critically about the implicit assumptions in how I view my field and how I can translate knowledge and evidence into language and arguments that speak to economists, Ministries of Finance, and agriculturalists.
What advice would you give your nutrition student self?
Figure out what’s most important to you in an internship or placement and pursue those options. I’d always try to steer towards placements where you get the sense that your supervisor is willing to mentor. I mean you’re there to learn, right?! Earlier in your education it might be more important to build a specific skill or gain experience in a given country or region, and the organisation you intern with might be less important. As you move further into your education (and the impending panic of the post-graduation job search) think about how you can use your internship to network your way into a job.
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