Helen Brittin, Ph.D., RD, LD, FADA, CFCS
Professor Emeritus of Food and Nutrition at Texas Tech University
The Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior (SNEB) announces Helen Brittin, PhD, RD, LD, FADA, CFCS, as the first recipient of the Emeritus membership. This membership is given to those individuals that have been SNEB members for 50 years.
Dr. Brittin, an Emeritus Professor at Texas Tech University, has had an outstanding career in Nutrition and her research predominantly focused on the cultural aspects of food which was a very unexplored subject area when she started her career. She worked and collaborated in this area which resulted in more than 100 journal publications that continue to be cited to date. Other research areas that Dr. Brittin focused on included investigations into the influence of iron content in cookware and later on she began assessing the iron aspects across different cultural foods in the U.S including with Chinese, Arabs, Thais, and Indians. In addition to this, Dr. Brittin wrote the book ‘Food and Culture around the World’ and this ties in with her research and her many years of travelling around the world. She has travelled to all the different continents of the world except Antarctica. “I always had innate interest in people from different cultures and different parts of the world and this grew with working in the lab as a graduate student, where I interacted with other students from countries like Greece and China”, she said.
While reflecting on some of the challenges she faced as a female researcher, Dr. Brittin explained that the balance of having a family with the responsibility of being a wife and mother as well as having an active career of teaching and research was particularly challenging. “More so because research is hardly an 8-hour a day job, not if you want to publish and travel to present your research at conferences”, she said. Another challenge for her that came with the early 80’s was with adapting to the new technology. Dr. Brittin notes that back then they had to go and scribble down material from journals in the library, however with the copy machines and computers this greatly eased her work.
This growth and advancement in technology continues to date, “technology has helped with connectivity and aligning people with shared professional interest” she mentioned. It is because of this connectivity in the world now that she was able to join numerous professional organizations and travel for conferences to the US, Europe, and other parts of the world. Dr. Brittin goes on to explain how SNEB serves an important function of connecting Nutrition education professionals in the world.
Dr. Brittin joined SNEB 50 years ago immediately after its conception in the late 1960s. She first learnt about the society from her mentor at that time, Dr. Mina Lamb, who was head of the department of Food and Nutrition at Texas Tech University. Since then, Dr. Brittin has remained a loyal member of SNEB, which she attributes to its unique focus on nutrition education that is not seen in any other organization. In addition, Dr. Brittin mentioned that “reading the journal helped her stay up-to-date with research and new strategies that were implemented in the area of nutrition education.” She also holds memberships with the Association of Dietetics and Nutrition (AND) and the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences(AAFCS).
As an active member of SNEB since 1971, Dr. Brittin has attended SNEB conferences, where she has presented research papers, and contributed to the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior (JNEB). Dr. Brittin’s most fond memory was attending her first annual SNE conference (later changed to SNEB), in September 1971. This national conference was special, given that it was her very first time presenting a research paper professionally. “It was also the first time I listened to presentations of other research projects and observed how colleagues presented their research at a national conference,” she said. In addition, she remembers one of the most recent conferences held in California where all charter members, including herself, were invited and she had a great time networking and socializing with the others.
As a longtime member of SNEB, Dr. Brittin shares that reading the JNEB helped shape her career as a researcher because the publications are of very high-quality. In addition, she mentions that publications within JNEB served as helpful examples for her and her students when developing research projects or preparing research manuscripts.
Embodying her nature as a nutrition educator, Dr. Brittin offers these words for upcoming nutrition educators:
“As early career professional nutrition educators it is important to build relationships in your career and stay in contact with your mentors. Also join professional associations like SNEB that are directly related to your career interests and make sure to keep those memberships active”, she said.
Phrashiah Githinji, PhD. Student, Texas Tech University, SNEB Student Member
Dr. Ana Moyeda-Carabaza, SNEB Member