Interview with Dr. Rubina Hakeem; Pakistan Country Representative

Interview with Dr. Rubina Hakeem, RD, FAND

IAAND Pakistan Country Representative

By Lisa Dorfman, MS, RD, CSSD, LMHC, FAND, CR Chairperson

Where does one begin to share the career highlights of an amazing three decade career woman, punctuated with being the only non US or UK citizen to have attained Fellowship status with the Academy  and RD/Fellow with the AFN UK; and the 1st non- US resident  to get the publication award  from DCE  DPG.  As the author of dozens of published papers, educator to thousands of students, it’s not surprising that her personal mission statement on her resume reads: “To share and advance my expertise to serve the humanity.”

It’s no wonder that this inspiring CR who tells me she has only accomplished 5-10% of what she could have done in the world so far, was our 2015 IAAND Service Award and 2012 CR of the Year Award recipient. I am honored to present to you our Pakistan CR Dr. Hakeem.

Meet Rubina

This humble mom to 3 boys—a Detroit doctor, a software developer and engineering student; and grandmother to 4 month old granddaughter Inaya who completed her doctoral studies in London while pregnant with her youngest, has been Professor and Head of the Department of Nutrition, Rana Liaqat Ali Khan Government College of Home Economics University of Karachi since 1983. With a three-year sabbatical to teach in Saudi Arabia, she even changed her CR status to serve as Saudi Arabia CR (and replaced the position when she returned to Pakistan,) She passionately acknowledges the contribution and support of her family specially tolerance and encouragement of her husband who is an eminent professor of plant pathology.

Rubina is a leader in several professional associations including World Public Health Association, National Association of Diabetes Educators of Pakistan, Program for the Accreditation of Nutritional Activities in Pakistan and the Pakistan Nutrition and Dietetic Society. She made significant contribution to the establishment of Pakistan Nutrition and Dietetic Society, registration of PNDS with ICDA and steered the establishment of RD test in Pakistan. She has not been closely involved with PNDS because of her broader and nutrition related pursuits but remain concerned about its sustainability as an unbiased independent professional body.

She says she feels uncomfortable at the continuation of and escalation of nutrition problems in Pakistan in spite of several nation level projects undertaken in previous 70 years. She thinks that the current situation is not so much due to lack of resources but mostly due to misuse and ignorance of professional expertise, lack of collaborations among professionals,  and absence of systems, standardized processes and surveillance.  In view of need for collaboration between various nutrition related stakeholders, she established Nutrition Foundation of Pakistan and hopes it would lead to better effectiveness of nutrition related activities in Pakistan. www.nutriton.org.pk

Her professional attention is on family, saying family shapes the world—what is discussed, consumed, communicated impacts relationships, behaviors. Poor nutrition impacts the decisions people make and vice versa.

Country Health Issues Impacted by Nutrition

Western influences, TV and internet have impacted the traditional eating habits of Pakistan people which has driven an increase in fast foods and less meals prepared and eaten at home. This influence has caused a rise in obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease although these diseases are also seen in those of normal weight. Food supplement programs are available to indigent on a provincial level. Exercise is of little importance, especially in affluent who use cars for transportation. There is less concern for organic, gluten free and supplementation seen in the Western cultures.

Opportunities & Challenges in Pakistan Dietetics

With about 1000 dietitians in Pakistan and accredited programs to educate those interested in nutrition, the field is open to anyone with degrees or major in nutrition or food science. According to Rubina, although a few employers (mostly hospitals) now recognize the importance of registration with PNDS as dietitian, there is no legal requirement for any specific credentials to serve as nutritionist or dietitian. Qualified and accredited RDNs often have to   implement nutrition-related decision take by professionals not qualified in nutrition.

What are special Pakistan traditions, foods, meal rituals you would like to share with other countries that could benefit their lifestyles.

Businessmen and affluent people give back to the community by feeding and supporting the ones who may go hungry otherwise. Families often share food with neighbors especially if something good is cooked or on festivals and special occasions.

Though wheat is the staple food and chapatti is eaten with any dal, vegetable or meat curry almost daily by most people in Pakistan, Dal-Chawal (pulses and rice cooked separately but eaten combined), is also an all-time favorite as daily meal among children and women.  Curries called salan   have thin gravy with piece of meat and vegetables in eat and is eaten with roti. Composition and consistency of salan is largely dependent on economic status of the family.

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To connect with Dr. Hakeem you can find her on Facebook at https://web.facebook.com/rubina.hakeem,   https://www.linkedin.com/in/rubina-hakeem-65839323/, https://twitter.com/RubinaHakeem