Nutrition and nature around Santiago, Chile

Living in Santiago and hanging out at the University of Chile, Institute of Nutrition and Food Technology over the last two months has been dope!  After working with Dr. Sheila Gahagan at UC San Diego Pediatrics, Child Development and Community Health, and corresponding with Dr. Raquel Burrows and Dr. Paulina Correa through email, I was stoked to meet them in person and work under their expert guidance.  I even got to meet Dr. Betsy Lozoff from the University of Michigan, who started this project ~25 years ago. Being a part of such a long-lived study and working with the PI’s who have been a part of it since its inception has been invaluable to my career in academic global health. This cohort really is like a family! the participants, now in their early-mid 20’s, have been coming in together since infancy. Many are good friends and there are even couples that have come out of this cohort!

The clinical experience I’ve gotten to participate in includes numerous neuropsychological tests, biometrics, liver ultrasounds, DEXA scans, and questionnaires ranging from nutrition habits, to drug use, and psychological evaluations. Participating in collecting the data has solidified my understanding of the analyses I have worked on here on the effects of metabolic syndrome on neurocognitive function.

I also took an evolutionary nutrition course with Dr. Burrows and many guest lecturers here.  There was only one lecture on clinical nutrition in my first year of medical school, but I realize I should be counseling all my patients on nutrition!  I’ll have a great knowledge base to bring back to the rest of my medical education and career.

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Institute of Nutrition and Food Technology, University of Chile. Santiago, Chile

Santiago is nestled right in the Andes, and there are awesome hikes to do within the city and right outside of it.  It feels a lot like California, with everybody using their weekends to get out and on the trails!  Some of the closest friends I’ve made here are the ones I met on the local cerros.

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Cerro Pochoco, Santiago, Chile
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Cerro San Cristobal, Santiago, Chile

Chile also has an efficient affordable bus system, so getting away for the weekend and exploring has been amazing.  I’ve visited all of Pablo Nerudo’s houses, soaked in the colors and street art of Valparaiso, tasted some excellent Carmenere and Sauvignon Blanc in the Casablanca valley, surfed the longest waves I’ve ever ridden in Pichilemu, experienced the Andes in Cajón del Maipo, and toured a Pisco distillery and enjoyed the stars in the mystical Valle de Elqui, all while making it to INTA on time on Monday morning!

I have one more month to go here.  I’ll keep working with the participants, crunching numbers and writing up manuscripts, and checking out some more of this beautiful country!

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Punta de Lobos, Pichilemu, Chile
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Embalse el Yeso, Cajón del Maipo, Chile

-Arjun

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