I get around
I get around
In this issue we continue our regular 'I get around' series. Every month, Association members will tell stories of where they are, what they are doing, who they have met, and why they believe or hope they are doing valuable work. This month it's Isabela Sattamini, about her views and experiences as a beginner public health nutritionist in Rio de Janeiro.
Isabela Sattamini writes: As a young person with so many different possibilities ahead, it is quite difficult to choose a university course. I have always been interested in social sciences, but did not exactly know what I could do with it as a career. I ended up choosing nutrition, because of my passion for healthy food.
Now I recognise that we only get to know a field when we are inside it. The ideas I had about nutrition as a result of my course became completely different, and I only got in touch with public health nutrition during the last years of college – and immediately fell in love with it. What most amaze me are its interdisciplinary possibilities. Now, the choice between distinct areas is not a problem anymore, as we can serve ourselves from different areas of knowledge. My urge to learn more about sociology, ecology, economics, geography, politics and other disciplines was potentially satisfied.
So I chose a master's in public health and the environment, in Brazil's National School of Public Health, which is situated in the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz), in my hometown, Rio de Janeiro. There, I get to study with people from various professional vocations, for example medicine, nursing, psychology, sociology, engineering, biology and others. How rich are the discussions in class.
Fiocruz is an amazing institution, responsible for many public health professionals, publications, and policies and actions in Brazil. It is such a rich environment.
Here is an old picture of the Moorish castle of Fiocruz in Manguinhos farm. Its
history begins in 1900, when it was created to produce vaccines against plague.
Oswaldo Cruz, the founder of Fiocruz, which is named after him, began his career as a young bacteriologist responsible for the 'Sanitary Reform' that eliminated bubonic plague and yellow fever in Rio de Janeiro. Fiocruz has grown and developed during last century and this, and it now has branches elsewhere in Brazil and also in Mozambique, Africa.
Here is the castle of Fiocruz as it is now. It is within Fiocruz's wonderful campus much of which has preserved its nature as a tropical park teeming with wildlife
No, I do not study in this beautiful castle. It is the administrative office where the Director and other senior officials work. It is also the icon of the Foundation. The National School of Public Health is in a different, modern building. It is a great place to be. The atmosphere is cosy and inspiring. It is financed by the federal government, and is linked with the federal Ministry of Health, so it does not suffer so much from lack of resources as unfortunately so many institutions in Brazil do. Brazil is the place to be, to work in public health, in my opinion. Our professionals are very motivated. Some are more into academic research in the most traditional sense, some are more politicised and are activists for public causes. Everywhere I join in enthusiastic discussions about politics and policies. I could not have ended up in a better place. At this time in my life I am having the time of my life!
I am now finishing the second year of my Master's degree, and am now thinking about a doctorate. I have heard some different opinions, as I try to decide what to do next. Some think that an academic life first needs professional experience, without which it can become too limited to theoretical matters, relegating practice. On the other hand, others believe that a doctorate is fundamental, and needs to be done as soon as possible, because otherwise, after starting to work, it can be really difficult to resume studies.
I enjoyed my Master's and still do. So I believe it will be the same with a doctorate, especially if I choose one in social sciences, the old dream of mine. In Rio de Janeiro, there is a postgraduate department of the Federal Rural University, focused on 'development, agriculture and society'. This is the national Reference Centre for food security, and does some really interesting and important work. I think this may well be for me.
While deciding what academic path to take in academics, I continue with volunteer work. I am now assistant editor in the Association, getting marvellously supported and mentored by Geoffrey Cannon. It is so rewarding, as I get to exercise my English abilities, and get in touch with people from all around the world in public health nutrition, as well as playing an active part in the Association.
This year I have also been a volunteer working in support of 'Rio+20', the UN Conference for Sustainable Development, We even wrote an article together, me and Geoffrey, about our views of the conference.
Rio+20 volunteer work
The Rio+20 volunteers group. You can see me roughly in the middle at left,
pictured in the Museum of Modern Art in central Rio, during the conference
For Rio+20 there were 600 volunteers, the group I made part of was around 15 college students, most of them studying international relations, a relatively new course in Brazil. We were located at the Museum of Modern Art in Aterro do Flamengo, where we received visitors for the project 'The Future We Want', from the UN. Everybody who came by was invited to leave a message written on colourful balloon stickers, or recorded in video, telling about the future they would like to see for themselves, their children or grandchildren. It was a great opportunity to meet people involved in the environmental cause, and get to know their own activities, associations, and projects.
There were so many foreigners participating as volunteers as well. I am astonished at how many people from other countries are now choosing Rio as their home. I was glad to hear a Canadian friend saying: 'Rio is the place to be right now'. That is really lovely, considering the history of political abandonment, poverty, lack of basic public services like hospitals and schools, violence and other social problems Rio has been through for so many decades.
Not only have we hosted Rio+20, but we now have a soccer World Cup and also the next Olympics in 2014 and 2016. I feek so proud for 'cariocas' (Rio de Janeiro natives), I am faithful to the belief that we deserve a brilliant future.
Me, Wendel, Patricia and Marcelo, all volunteers. At the back behind us are
the colourful balloon stickers with messages about solutions for the future
My home town. Rio de Janeiro, the 'marvellous city', and so it is, as we now
prepare for the World Cup, Olympics and other ventures that make us proud
There were many critics of the Rio+20 conference, who were disappointed by its inconclusive final statements and lack of concrete accomplishments. I share many of these concerns myself. I find very important to reflect and have a critical view. But I cannot help being an optimist as I have always been, and I continue to see the good side of things, believing it can always get better and things can change.
Just briefly I would like also to say how great was our very own Rio2012 conference at the end of April. It was just another example of how Rio de Janeiro has such potential for receiving people from all over the world. Specifically, public health nutrition is also getting stronger and stronger in here. I even thought about advising Mayya Husseini to come look for a job here (not promising anything, though).
Brazil is mastering its old problems like poverty and hunger, with effective public policies and social commitment and participation. My thesis is on CONSEA, the National Council of Food Security, that promotes and advocates for family and cooperative farming, agro-ecological production, indigenous and traditional communities, healthy meals for schoolchildren, fairer income distribution, and other issues addressing food security, and is doing so with great success.
We in Brazil still have a long way in front of us. But I feel very satisfied to be where I am. Studying more and more, starting my doctorate anytime sooner, learning more about what we can do to change what is wrong and protect what is right, learning about healthy food, getting to know people from different countries and cultures, are some of my aims. These are the reasons that make me leap out of bed every morning. My drive.