UC Davis Alumna, Liliana Prado-Nava RD, CLE, Site Manager at Merced County Community Action Agency Women Infants and Children (WIC) Nutrition program, leads local nutrition colleagues and works directly with clients as a Registered Dietitian (RD). She has an impressive personal story and is recognized for the positive impact that she is making to the field of maternal and child nutrition. The California WIC Association recently honored Liliana with the 2021 Phyllis Bramson Advocacy Award for her strong volunteer advocacy efforts and work within her community.
Liliana hasn’t always considered herself an advocate, but when she started doing volunteer advocacy through the California WIC Association she saw how it helps frontline WIC staff provide better resources and services. In addition to her work as a WIC Ambassador, Liliana has been involved locally with faith-based community organizing, promoting health insurance for undocumented people and working on immigration forums, and serving as a statewide political party delegate.
Liliana moved with her family to the U. S. from Michoacán, Mexico, when she was eight. While growing up with a keen interest in food and medicine, she had never heard of a Registered Dietitian until her nutrition class at Merced College. She wanted to pursue a pharmacy career and chose a nutrition science major when she transferred to UC Davis because it would qualify for pharmacy school applications. However, in her first quarter, she changed her major to clinical nutrition and redirected her career goals to dietetics. Liliana remembers, “My mom went to WIC with my younger siblings, and when I was studying at UC Davis, WIC seemed like a place I would like to work.” Liliana credits one of her professors, Dr. Jane Heinig, who teaches Community Nutrition, with inspiring her to pursue a career in public health with WIC.
She graduated from UC Davis in 2009 to begin her professional journey. Wanting to stay in the California Central Valley, Liliana was hired at the Merced County Community Action Agency WIC Nutrition program six months after graduation. With strong support from the WIC Director, Liliana completed a long-distance dietetic internship while working part time for WIC, enabling her to become a RD. “WIC has provided me so many opportunities and experiences to grow as an RD that I would not have been able to find anywhere else. That’s why I’m still here!”
The WIC program offers a great opportunity for RDs to provide nutrition counseling that has a significant impact on improving the health of the people who receive WIC. The RD may follow families for up to 5 years and be able to see their client’s progress. Liliana shares her dedication to working in the community with WIC clients by explaining that RDs are able to offer nutrition information that is geared to the individual by acknowledging that their environment has such significant impact in the choices they make with their nutrition. “It is not just about telling someone to eat more veggies, but also helping them identify and seek resources to assist them if they don’t have enough money at home, or if they don’t have a stable living situation, among other things.”
Liliana’s dedication to the nutrition field and her clients, her achievements and the impact that she is making in her community are tremendous examples of the good work that UC Davis clinical nutrition alumni do. Clinical nutrition graduates have passion and expertise they can apply to many career pathways within the field of dietetics and health.