Shelby Panttaja

Maternal & Child Health MPH

"If you had told me when I was 17 years old and studying at a world-renowned conservatory that I'd become a health professional and a public health advocate, I'd have been shocked."

I never thought I would go to college; becoming a professional ballet dancer was always the end goal.

But the conservatory was a very competitive environment, and I saw a lot of my classmates struggling with disordered eating and distorted ideas about food, health, and nutrition. It got me thinking: how do people approach health? And how do we make sure that food is being discussed as a tool to make ourselves healthy, rather than used as a weapon against ourselves? I decided to take a different route, and enrolled in a degree program in nutrition and dietetics.

In college, I taught a nutrition class in my local refugee community, which gave me a close-up look into how resettlement affects people’s entire lives. That experience really shaped my personal mission to make better health possible for immigrant and refugee communities. Now I have a position with the Minnesota Department of Health as a refugee health worker, so I get to work with refugees here in the state. It’s a very rich and diverse community, and I’m so grateful to work with them.

 

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