As the daughter of immigrants, Rabia Haider has witnessed firsthand how cultural differences make an impact on health. In one instance, she took her mom to an appointment, and the dietitian couldn’t counsel her on anything but an American diet.

“This experience sparked an interest in me to pursue a career where I can give back to minority populations and communities that experience wide health disparities,” says Haider, who earned a B.S. in nutritional sciences in 2021 and is pursuing a Master of Public Health degree.

Born in New York, Haider grew up in Indiana. She decided to apply to the UMass Lowell nutritional sciences program because it’s ranked one of the top 25 programs in the country. It also allowed her to live closer to her brother, who had moved to Massachusetts.

An introvert in high school, Haider gained confidence at a community college in Indianapolis, Indiana. When she transferred to UMass Lowell as a sophomore, she jumped out of her comfort zone, taking advantage of all that the university offers. She was an orientation leader, an Honors College student, a Transfer Peer Liaison for the Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA), a Pair-Up Buddy with OMA and a Shalin Liu Interprofessional Education Fellow.

“I was involved in many activities and events at UMass Lowell and know the campus and its resources like the back of my hand,” says Haider. “The university has become second nature to me and helped me grow as a person.”

While Haider knew she liked nutrition as a career, she wasn’t sure which path she enjoyed the most. The answer came to her in a community nutrition course taught by Asst. Prof. Sabrina Noel of the Biomedical and Nutritional Sciences Department.

“Dr. Noel and this course inspired me to pursue a career in a clinical-community setting, especially working with minority populations,” says Haider. “There is so much work to be done related to nutrition and health care, especially for historically overlooked populations. As a daughter of immigrants, person of color and a religious minority, I’m absolutely committed to bringing about that change.”

Haider researched other MPH programs, but she wanted the combination of public health with nutrition and dietetics that the university offers. The UMass Lowell MPH Coordinated Program in Dietetics will provide Haider with the requirements she needs to become a registered dietitian nutritionist.

Meanwhile, she continues to gain experience and knowledge in her field. She was recently awarded a scholarship that recognized her commitment to improve care in minority populations by the Boston Alliance for Diversity in Dietetics, a coalition of nutrition professionals committed to improving diversity, equity and inclusion within the field of dietetics.

“I’m looking forward to working with this organization to improve my skill set as an aspiring dietitian while being committed to bringing diversity and inclusion to the field,” says Haider.