Interview with Tatyana El-Kour, MS, RD, FAND
IAAND Jordan Country Representative
By Lisa Dorfman, MS, RD, CSSD, LMHC, FAND, CR Chairperson
Tatyana El-Kour is on a nutritional mission—helping all nations of the world to become a more nutritious, healthy, and peaceful place to live. This is how she has spent the last 18 years of career planning and practicing dietetics worldwide. Today she is a renowned global health and nutrition expert, a policy strategist, and a metabolic and nutrition support clinician whose work in national and international contexts is recognized in countries of the Middle East, and the United States.
On a personal note, Tatyana is one of the first CRs I met in person spending time at both FNCE 2016 and the ICDA Conference in Granada, Spain. I can tell you firsthand, she is brilliant and beautiful inside and out and I am humbled and proud to be a colleague of this amazing woman.
Meet Tatyana El Kour
Since she was a small child, Tatyana had a love for food. With her family’s support, she followed her passion pursuing several degrees in both in Jordan and the United States.
She possesses not one but two Bachelor of Science degrees in Nutrition & Food Technology from the University of Jordan (1999). Her second bachelor degree was in General Dietetics from Kansas State University (2001). She then pursued a combined Master of Science from Tufts University and a Dietetic Internship from Frances Stern Nutrition Center (2005). She is currently pursuing her PhD in Psychology with a concentration in Media Psychology from Fielding Graduate University in Santa Barbara, California.
While she was attending Kansas State University, she was inspired by her professor Dr. Cantor, to pursue nutrition policy and advocacy. While at Tufts University, she was also inspired to follow the strides of her advisor, Dr Dwyer, and have completed a policy rotation in Washington DC. During that time, Tatyana interned at the Academy’s office in D.C. and was appointed by the Academy president as the first student to serve on the Legislative and Public Policy Committee in 2004. After graduating from her masters, Tatyana served in various national and international leadership roles within the World Health Organization (WHO). She devoted a decade of her life strategizing ways to integrate nutrition within health systems infrastructure, prevent chronic diseases and promote health in 22 countries of the Middle East. From there, Tatyana worked as a regional nutrition advisor for the Middle East at Action Against Hunger where she also led the nutrition sector coordination for the Whole of Syria crisis. She is currently an independent global contractor with various global humanitarian organizations, a “perfect fit” she says of her role combatting malnutrition, hunger and obesity. She has expanded her reach to Africa as well with a focus on combating anemia and behavior change communication.
Recognized and awarded for her efforts, she is the 2016 recipient of the Wagenheim Endowed Scholarship for International Doctoral Students, the 2015 Friedman School Alumni Association’s Leah Horowitz Humanitarian Award from Tufts University, 2011 outstanding young member of the year from the Public Health and Community Nutrition Practice Group, the 2009 Kansas State University Outstanding Young Professional award, the 2005 Rebecca Roubenoff Award for Excellence in Clinical Nutrition and Dietetics from Tufts University, the 2005 Outstanding Dietetic Intern Award by Massachusetts Dietetic Association and the 2003 First International Nutritionist/Dietitian Award by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Foundation.
As a leader, she has held International and local country leadership roles including: Elected Secretary, Board of Public Health and Community Nutrition Practice Group, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics; ‘16 – ‘18; Appointed Member, Oversight Committee of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dietetic Practice Based Research Network; ‘15 – May ‘18; Appointed scientific abstract reviewer for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Annual Food and Nutrition Conference and Exhibition; ‘09-Present; Elected Global Member, International Union of Health Promotion and Education Board of Trustees ‘10—‘16; Appointed Board Member, Jordan Food and Nutrition Association; ‘15 – ‘16.
Country Health Issues & Trends Impacted by Nutrition
Jordan is a country rooted with deep traditional medicine and herbal practice advised for treating disease to trendy “Dr. Oz” type advice seen in the more westernized capitol city of Amman. Gluten free, Detox diets, supplements can all be found promoted via the media and alternative practitioners.
Heart disease, cancer and diabetes are the most prevalent diseases encountered in all socioeconomic levels in the country.
What are the opportunities for dietitians in Jordan?
There are about 3,000 dietitians in Jordan, members of a few associations which house the food and nutrition professions. The three associations are: 1-Agricultural Engineering Association, 2 – Jordan Food and Nutrition Society and 3- Jordan Association for Clinical Nutrition.
Sports nutritionists rarely exist, as athletes are often guided nutritionally by fitness professionals. Culinary nutritionists are typically chefs with an interest in food preparation and service.
Licensure for dietitians exists under the auspice of the Ministry of Health at the Government of Jordan, however protective measures to ensure compliance does not. Certificate type “nutritionist” programs are rampart. There are few licensed dietitian practitioners in private practice. Graduates of nutrition programs are often hired as dietetic aides in hospital settings until they have acquired significant years of experience, they can move up the career ladder in different capacities. Other graduates work in community health, food safety, public health and food production factories. More recently, new career opportunities opened up in the humanitarian field in service of population displacement and refugee movement in the region.
How Can One Attain & Maintain a License in Dietetics/Nutrition in Jordan?
Licensure requirements differ when it comes to private practice. At first, nutritionists/dietitians are licensed by the Ministry of health upon completion of a 4-year bachelor degree program and internship from a nationally accredited university. Dietitians interested in working in food and agriculture can obtain additional licensure from the Agricultural Engineers Association. Dietitians interested in opening their own private practice must have earned a minimum of 7 years of experience in a clinical setting after successful completion of their bachelor degree, or a minimum of 3 years of experience after successful completion of their master’s degree.
What are some Jordanian special dishes, cultural food habits that you would like to share?
Food is central to the Jordanian culture and Jordanians are very hospitable when it comes to food. Family is very important and mealtimes (whether breakfast, lunch, or dinner) are highly respected. Special occasions are only special when special foods are included, from famous pastries like lahem bi ajeen (minced meat pastry) to manaeesh (thyme and olive oil pastry) to baklava (special Arabic sweet with pistachios) or Roz bi haleeb (rice and milk pudding). One traditional dish is Mansaf made of lamb cooked in a sauce of fermented dried yogurt and served with rice.
What inspired you to become involved with IAAND?
Since 2005 I have been an active member, joining the board as treasurer and CR Chair. IAAND is a great group for meeting dietitians from all parts of the world from various backgrounds and interests.
To contact Tatyana, visit her website, www.tk.clinic
Or “follow” Tatyana @Twitter: @tkclinic, or @Instagram: tk.clinic
For more information about Tatyana’s book, El-Kour, T .Your Health is in Your Nutrition Book (Arabic only). National Library, 2012. ISBN 6251039000019. It’s available for purchase via amazon. Link is: https://www.amazon.com/Health-your-NutritionTatyanakour/dp/B01ARMUDCA/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1487078002&sr=8-1&keywords=Health+is+in+your+nutrition+tatyana