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Dr. Annette Besnilian is Executive Director of the Marilyn Magaram Center at California State University, Northridge (CSUN), a center of excellence for promoting health and wellness through research, education and services in food science, nutrition and dietetics. Her work focuses on preparing registered dietitian nutritionists, food and nutrition experts, and educators to serve ethnically diverse population, as well strengthening educational, community and professional partnerships. She has been a valued member of the SFCHC Board of Directors since 2019.
Dr. Besnilian is widely respected for her outstanding contributions to students, the community and her profession. At CSUN, she teaches nutrition and dietetic classes to graduate students in the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences. In addition to diabetes workshops, she oversees a nutrition and wellness clinic, research lab, peer mentoring program, food recovery network and whole-body health program for individuals diagnosed with cancer. During her 21-year tenure, she has trained and graduated over 200 dietetic interns and registered dietitians.
Dr. Besnilian is affiliated with approximately 50 community, administrative and clinical sites throughout Los Angeles County, primarily in the San Fernando Valley. However, Dr. Besnilian’s network extends past the locality of the San Fernando Valley, and she works towards the promotion of health and wellness on a national and international scale. She is especially appreciative of CSUN’s strong and lasting partnership with SFCHC through the years.
“I have seen San Fernando Community Health Center flourish and grow to serve our community,” said Dr. Besnilian. “I am thankful to be part of an organization that does such amazing work. Many of my students have volunteered, participated in the Diabetes Teaching Kitchen and even worked at San Fernando Community Health Center following graduation. They are able to take their experience and apply what they’ve learned anywhere they go.”
Dr. Besnilian is deeply passionate about using the arts and musical theatre to help improve the health of children, families and the entire community. She has collaborated with her colleague Helen Butleroff-Leahy – a registered dietitian, choreographer and former Rockette –to bring the musical production “MyPlate! The New Food Guide Musical Program” to schools on the West Coast. Butleroff-Leahy created the show to bring children and their parents a musical message about the importance of healthy eating and exercise.
“This is a fun and innovative way to teach children early in life about the importance of healthy eating and moving their bodies,” said Dr. Besnilian, who hopes to extend this health education model deeper into the community. “Our evidence-based research supports that combining nutrition and fitness education with a musical performance helps children and their parents make healthier choices.”
Dr. Besnilian is a fellow of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, a registered dietitian, a certified lactation educator and a faculty affiliate of the CSUN Institute for Community Health and Wellbeing. She holds a Bachelor of Science in family and consumer sciences and a Doctor of Education in educational leadership from CSUN, as well as a Master of Public Health in public health nutrition from the University of California, Los Angeles.
Active in numerous professional organizations, Dr. Besnilian has received many awards for excellence, service and commitment to diversity. These include the Diversity Action, Excellence in Education and Outstanding Dietetic Educator Awards from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She is also dedicated to giving back to her community through volunteering. She treasures spending time with her husband and four children, and is actively engaged in their activities and schools. She also enjoys working out and taking walks with her two dogs.