Dr. Niyati Parekh, PhD, RD
CGPH Associate Professor of Public Health Nutrition
Niyati Parekh, Associate Professor of Public Health Nutrition, Niyati worked as a practicing clinical nutritionist in India prior to working in academia and public health. She was involved in several projects related to community outreach within local neighborhoods, such as establishing a breast milk bank in a Mumbai hospital and serving mothers from urban slums. Most notably, she worked as an oncology dietitian, working at the bedside of cancer patients, some living without an esophagus or stomach. While serving cancer patients, the importance of nutrition in cancer care became apparent to her. She decided to pursue a career at the intersection of biology, clinical nutrition and population science, and came to the United States for her training. She subsequently completed her doctoral degree in nutritional epidemiology.
During her eight year tenure at NYU, she has primarily focused on nutrition and chronic diseases. Particularly, she has investigated the links between diet, physical activity, obesity and cancer. Currently, she is Principal Investigator of The Cancer, Insulin Resistance, and Lifestyle (CIRCLE) Study in the multi-generational Framingham Heart Study cohort, funded by the American Cancer Society. This study exams obesity and glucose dysregulation as risk factors for developing cancer in US population.
Based on the findings from the CIRCLE study, Niyati and Dr. Paul Krebs, Co-Principal Investigator of HEAL and a faculty member at NYU School of Medicine, pursued funding a pilot study, The Healthy Eating and Living against Breast Cancer (HEAL-Breast Cancer) to provide breast cancer survivors with nutrition literacy programming. The program concludes with an Iron Chef competition in which the women get into the kitchen, and put into practice everything that they've learned. "It's not just about nutrition, it's about how to make those changes in your day to day life," said Niyati. Her community outreach extends to nutrition workshops and projects in her children's schools.
Niyati has been interested in understanding early-life risk factors of chronic diseases. Recently, Niyati served as a Visiting Scholar at Karolinska Institutet and the Linköping University, funded by County Council of Östergötland, Sweden. She collaborated with faculty and doctoral students on analyses addressing body composition and eating patterns in preschool children, who were enrolled in an mHealth intervention. This work has informed her current grant proposal in which she is preparing to study infancy and childhood-related risk factors of adult cancers.
On campus, Niyati has taught Global Nutrition, Public Health Nutrition, as well as methodology courses for which she has won teaching awards. Niyati thrives on putting nutrition into a global context for her students through study abroad experiences. Notably, she taught a course on Public Health Nutrition and Chronic Disease in Mexico. She fuels conversation around the nutrition and risk factors for chronic diseases (diabetes, heart disease) through visits to the marketplaces and local cantinas. She will be involved in teaching study abroad courses at CGPH.
Niyati's highlights at NYU have been the mentorship of doctoral students. Her first student won the "Best Dissertation Award" from 70 eligible candidates at Steinhardt, who then moved on to be employed at the Harvard School of Public Health. She occasionally enjoys cooking for her doctoral students during her downtime. "They can taste the goodness of nutrition in my food. I don't always have to teach it," she said with a warm laugh.
Dr. Parekh received her MS in Foods, Nutrition, and Clinical Dietetics in 1997 and is a credentialed Registered Dietitian from India. In 2005, she earned a PhD in Nutritional Sciences and Population Health from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Thereafter, she was awarded a 2-year Department of Defense postdoctoral fellowship at the Rutgers-Cancer Institute of New Jersey.