Sandra Gomez-Perez, PhD, RD, LDN

Assistant Professor
Department of Clinical Nutrition, College of Health Sciences
Role: Researcher, Faculty
Joined Rush in August 2016


I am an assistant professor at Rush University, College of Health Sciences in the Department of Clinical Nutrition. In this role, I teach and advise MSDI students in the Clinical Nutrition Program on obesity–related research and evidence-based clinical nutrition practice in the areas of obesity and cancer. I hold a bachelor’s and master’s degree in nutrition and a doctoral degree in human nutrition with concentrations in nutritional epidemiology from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). I’m also a clinical nutrition researcher and registered dietitian with additional training in cancer prevention and epidemiology and body composition analysis. During the three years of my doctoral program, I was a pre-doctoral fellow with the NIH R25T Cancer Education and Career Development Program at the Institute for Health Research and Policy at UIC. Prior to earning my PhD, I had a successful 16-year career at UIC as a project coordinator in nutrition and translational research in minority and underserved populations. My research interests focus on understanding the relationships among race-ethnicity, obesity, body composition, inflammation, insulin resistance and obesity–related cancers, particularly, colorectal and breast cancers (prevention, pathophysiology, recurrence, and survival).

What inspired you to get into your field?

My mother was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes during my freshman year of college. As shocking as this was for my mother and our family, it was not completely unexpected because my maternal grandmother also had type 2 diabetes. As I explored careers during this time, I came across the profession of a registered dietitian. This was the first time that I made a real–life, real–world connection between food and disease and began to understand the important role the registered dietitian plays in the treatment of people with type 2 diabetes, like my mother. From that point forward, I embarked on pursuing a bachelor’s degree in human nutrition and never looked back. The information I learned as a clinical nutrition student and, later, as a registered dietitian has informed the eating habits of my mother and has helped keep her diet controlled for over 20 years. Now, I passionately explore the role of obesity-induced inflammation and insulin resistance in disease risk. The information I learn and the research I participate in will, hopefully, contribute to the prevention and control of obesity, diabetes and cancer for people in our modern society, like my mother, who are burdened with such diseases.

What excited you about your work at Rush?

I value the friendly, welcoming, respectful, and professional work environment at Rush. I’m thrilled by the emphasis on teaching and the value that is placed on research. I’m also greatly impressed by the collaborative spirit of not only my nutrition colleagues, but also of the members of the other colleges and departments throughout Rush. I‘m passionate about what I do, and I enjoy collaborating and serving others. Furthermore, at Rush, I’m surrounded by colleagues who feel just as strongly as I do about their work. I’m proud to be a part of this team of great faculty, researchers, and clinicians.

What is your opinion of mentoring and sponsorship? Please comment about your experiences.

I’ve valued mentoring all my life because many of my long-term mentors have definitely given direction to my career path and professional decisions. I think the best mentors are those who support you but are brutally honest when it is appropriate and necessary. At Rush, I have the opportunity to add new mentors to further encourage and challenge me. The opportunities for mentoring are limitless, particularly as part of the Rush Research Mentoring Program.

Do you have tips or advice you would recommend for someone looking to enter your field of work?

Find a career path that you are passionate about. For me, it is nutrition. Take that path, but be open to learning about different areas outside of your expertise. Get involved in research and be open to collaborating with colleagues and to learning new things.

What are your hobbies? How do you like to spend your free time?

I enjoy reading, watching movies, and dancing (salsa and merengue, especially). My favorite pastime is going for extended walks, particularly in wooded areas. I also have a huge family and many dear friends that I love to spend time with. I especially delight in being a hostess and having big parties.