RD Close-Up: Ana D’Escrivan, RDN, LD, CDE, H-E-B Contract Dietitian
By RDBA Executive Director, Annette Maggi, MS, RDN, LD, FAND
Please describe your role at H-E-B.
I am a bilingual retail contract dietitian with the H-E-B Nutrition Services department. I provide nutrition education and nutrition counseling to H-E-B customers and partners. While I mostly see patients in a 1-1 setting, we do offer group nutrition education opportunities as well. These include grocery tours, cooking demos, webinars, etc. I see patients ages two and up and for a variety of nutrition-related health conditions.
What's the story behind your experience in retail and how you came to work at H-E-B?
Several years ago, I was working as clinical dietitian (inpatient and outpatient) and a university professor in my native country, Venezuela. Before migrating from Venezuela, I developed a simple initiative that aimed to provide nutrition education at the retail settings. The name of this project was “SUPER Saludable” and was created with the purpose of helping supermarket customers make better, more informed decisions that could positively impact their eating behaviors. Due to the political unrest in Venezuela, my family and I decided to migrate to the U.S. as I was able to obtain a professional visa as talented worker. My project was cut short consequently. In order to become a registered dietitian in the U.S., I had to earn my degree and sit for the exam. It was during my time at the university when I met Andie Gonzalez, the first and only H-E-B dietitian in the Rio Grande Valley region at the time. Andie had invited our class to assist with some community-based nutrition education activities. In this work, I could see the extraordinary impact she was having on H-E-B customers. I knew I wanted to pursue this path soon.
Education is in my DNA. Throughout my career, I have remained passionate about nutrition, communication, and the idea of inspiring change at the point of purchase or selection. My heart for people helped me realize the value of educating in a supermarket setting early on. When H-E-B Nutrition Services decided to expand their services in the Rio Grande Valley, I saw that the aspirations I had worked toward in my home country were developing in my new home. Having experienced some of the department’s work under Andie’s guidance, I jumped at the opportunity to branch into retail dietetics.
What has been the biggest challenge for you as a dietitian working in the retail industry?
Understanding the “business” side of retail dietetics. With more than 20 years of experience working as clinical dietitian, I never truly witnessed the work of a dietitian in retail setting. In fact, at the very beginning I thought that retail dietitians were tasked with promoting products without considering the nutritional benefits for consumers. As you can imagine, my perspective at the time was solely clinical-based. I was not yet aware or understanding of the tremendous responsibility that a retail dietitian has in providing patients with the right product recommendations needed to facilitate compliance with nutritional indications. Retail dietitians have so much to consider when engaging with patients and costumers. We truly use every aspect of our education in guiding patients through their health and wellness journeys while also respecting and understanding the entrepreneurial nature of our positions.
What is one thing you wish you had known before starting in retail?
I would have liked to be better versed in marketing and selling strategies, as well as tips for building relationships with retailers as these are areas for impact and growth for retail dietitians. It’s also important to understand the distribution chain and manufacturer insights to be able to strategically develop plans for helping consumers, H-E-B partners, and patients as they make informed decisions. I will add that I find interest in the product development aspect of retail. I strongly believe a clinical perspective can help retailers create better options that fit clinical and nutritional needs of consumers.
Has there been anything specific that help you moved forward in your role?
Absolutely! Like I mentioned, our team is always on top of what we need. We rely on each other as peers to better serve our communities. As a team, we have so many resources available to be used with our patients, clients, and partners. Our leaders are also very aware of providing the training that is needed and the feedback for us to understand what our opportunity are. I feel very privileged at H-E-B because we have a very professional team comprised of dietitians that have different levels of expertise specialties. This is a very supportive team where both experienced and new dietitians learn from each other.
Is there a program or initiative of which you are most proud? Tell us about it.
I found a potential for partnership between my two workplaces. As the full-time dietitian at the RGV ACO (Rio Grande Valley Accountable Care Organization) and a contract dietitian for H-E-B, I developed a partnership between RGV ACO and H-E-B Nutrition Services. Both organizations have put in into effect various initiatives aimed at better reaching and educating Medicare patients that live with diabetes. Among these initiatives are grocery shopping tours for geriatric patients. A great number of older adults living with diabetes in the Valley have learned how to read food labels. Many are now equipped with the knowledge to make informed decisions about their diet. Another initiative was the “Diabetes Awareness Health Fair” hosted by RGV ACO. Alongside H-E-B Nutrition Services, we developed a sort of “Diabetes-Friendly Mini Market” where participants could do a “window-shopping tour” and see a vast assortment of products suitable for patients living with diabetes. Both initiatives resulted in significant opportunities to develop closer relationships with patients and consumers.
Ana D’Escrivan is an H-E-B contract dietitian in the Border region. Originally from Venezuela, Ana graduated Summa Cum Laude with a B.S. in Nutritional Science where she dedicated more than fifteen years of extensive work as a clinical dietitian. Ana worked in a multi-disciplinary hospital and as an Associate Professor in pediatric clinical nutrition in the second largest University in Venezuela. Because of her passion for teaching, Ana also ran her own private practice and devoted many years to educating both adults and children with nutritional needs.
Ana moved with her family to the United States where she completed the Coordinated Program in Dietetics (CPD) at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) and was re-credentialed as a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) in the U.S. Ana never hesitated to do what was necessary to continue serving passionately in her new home. She strived to help improve the dietary habits of people of all ages. Her strong teaching skills and experience are evident when she educates her patients on how to start making lifestyle changes. Ana firmly believes that healthy eating is a matter of balance, and she works with her clients in helping them understand that there are no “good” and “bad” foods. By serving people from underserved Hispanic communities, she focuses on considering the social and cultural aspects of health that surround her clients to assist them in setting realistic and achievable goals.
Ana is working hard to diversify her background as a Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE) and a specialist in Gerontology. Educating and helping older adults is a new passion in her career. She continues serving as guest professor for two universities in Latin America and collaborates actively as peer reviewer of a scientific journal from the Medical Faculty of University of Zulia in Venezuela.