L. Beth Dixon
"Because of the obesity epidemic worldwide, public health nutrition is now a hot profession."
For Beth Dixon, choosing a career in nutrition and education was pretty much inevitable. "My mom's a nurse and my dad's a teacher, so I fell toward my profession naturally." She received a PhD in nutrition from Pennsylvania State University in 1994, followed by a fellowship in cardiovascular disease at the University of Minnesota. Dixon then moved to the Bay Area where she taught nutrition at San Jose State University, while working at Stanford University as a data analyst for diet and health research.
In 1999, Dixon received an MPH in epidemiology from The University of California-Berkeley as part of a fellowship in cancer prevention from the National Cancer Institute. "After that, I joined a group of nutritionists and epidemiologists at the NCI who study diet and cancer."
Dixon continues her association with the National Cancer Institute, further exploring dietary patterns and how they relate to cancer. One NCI study looks at the diet of European adults and the instances of colorectal cancer. "Overall, we found that people who ate a Western-style diet of meat and potatoes had a higher risk of this cancer."
Another NCI study will determine if people in the United States who follow the standard dietary guideline known as the Food Guide Pyramid have lowered their risk for colorectal cancer. Dixon also has a grant from the American Cancer Society to look at the diets of people who have survived cancer.
Dixon collaborates with department faculty as well. With Dr. Nestle, she co-edited Taking Sides: Clashing Views on Controversial Issues in Food and Nutrition. The book is a collection of 17 chapters that present pro and con positions on controversial issues in food and nutrition and is intended for use in graduate classes.
With Dr. Kristie Lancaster, Dixon conducts research on dietary patterns of diverse populations. "She and I would like to set up a diet assessment center where we can collect dietary data from a variety of populations in New York City. The city is such a melting pot of all sorts of people and there isn't a lot of literature on all their different dietary patterns. Data collected by such a center could provide feedback to people about the quality of their diets, and also be used for research studies on diet and health."
Several graduate students already help Dixon collect such data. "They need to get approval from The NYU Institutional Review Board to do so, so I work with them on writing the application, and help them design their questionnaire so that it's tailored to the population they're working with. Then I help analyze their data using a special diet software designed for research."
Dixon describes her students as "fun, bright, and ambitious. They're very interested in having some sort of research experience because they often end up working in medical centers with other health professionals who conduct research."
Dixon is further connected to her students in her role as Director of Public Health Nutrition, a concentration in the MPH program in Community Public Health. "Many students combine a MPH in public health nutrition with becoming a registered dietitian - also possible in the department - to address urgent issues like childhood obesity. Because of the obesity epidemic worldwide, public health nutrition is now a hot profession."