It’s a complaint often heard from patients: Doctors know little about nutrition and treat it as an afterthought in diagnosis and treatment. No one will ever say that about Anastasiya Matveyenko, a researcher and future doctor who will spend her Fulbright year at the University of Milan studying the role dietary patterns play in long-term health.
Matveyenko was born in Belarus, where both of her parents worked in a factory. She was 11 when the family came to the U.S. and settled in Brooklyn, and in ninth grade she entered Midwood High School’s Medical Science Research Track. At the same time, she joined the Health Career Exploration Program at Coney Island Hospital, where she volunteered for the next four years in the postpartum unit and the newborn nursery.
Today, Matveyenko is planning to become a physician scientist who works on both the clinical and research sides – focusing on newborn health and conducting studies on how nutritional problems affect infants.
“Newborn health and nutrition are completely interdependent,” she observes.
At the University Milan, she’ll review the dietary records and test the blood samples of 2,000 people participating in a 20-year study. Specifically, she’ll look at pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory markers in their blood, and categorize their diets as either friendly or unfriendly to cardiovascular health.
As a graduate of Hunter’s BA/MA Program in Biological Sciences and a current student in Columbia University’s MS Program in Human Nutrition, Matveyenko has extensive experience in scientific inquiry. At Hunter she worked in Professor Diego Loayza’s microbiology laboratory for 3 ½ years, first researching telomeres, the protective caps on the edge of chromosomes linked to aging and disease, and then studying DNA damage. “Professor Loayza and his team gave me an amazing foundation, and awoke a love for basic research I didn’t know I had,” she says.
Meanwhile, Professor Julie Van Peteghem and other members of the Italian faculty at Hunter taught her all she knows about the Italian language. When Italy’s Fulbright Program required an official evaluation of her proficiency in Italian, Professor Van Peteghem provided it.