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Melissa Fuster, Ph.D., joined the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine in 2021. As an Associate Professor of public health nutrition, Dr. Fuster examines the cultural and structural factors shaping food practices and the policies implemented to improve them. Her first book, Caribeños at the Table: How Migration, Health, and Race Intersect in New York City, published in 2021 with the University of North Carolina Press, applied a multidisciplinary approach to examine underlying determinants of diet-related health inequities among Hispanic Caribbean communities, showing the need to address the structural factors that underlie the community’s access to food and high-quality healthcare. Building on this work, Dr. Fuster is currently tackling healthy food access issues via the 

Latin American Restaurants in Action (LARiA) Project, supported by the National Institutes of Health. The project applies human-centered design, combined with systems thinking and implementation science to engage restaurants in co-designing innovations to motivate healthier eating while boosting business revenue and visibility. Other areas of research include factors associated with food security and examining factors influencing diversification and cultural competence in the dietetics profession.

As a Social Entrepreneurship Professor, Dr. Fuster wants to expand the use of design thinking and social innovation in her food-based scholarship. She plans to apply the lessons learned in the LARiA Project to explore potential policy-level innovations, that can facilitate healthier food environments and improved health outcomes. Dr. Fuster intends to engage undergraduate students in the Social Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship minor in this work through research apprenticeships and bring social innovation topics to courses taught to nutrition students.

Dr. Fuster completed her Doctorate in Food Policy and Applied Nutrition at Tufts University and a post-doctoral fellowship in Food Studies at New York University. Before joining Tulane University, she was a faculty member at the City University of New York.

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