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Christaldi Honored for Heart Health Awareness

Woman's Day magazine hosted the event, Elvis Costello headlined and the women honored - including actress Andie MacDowell, spokesperson for the American Heart Association's Go Red For Women movement, and the University's Joanne Christaldi, assistant professor of nutrition -- all wore red. The event was the 2015 Red Dress Awards, Woman's Day's annual celebration bringing awareness to heart health for women, held in February in New York City.

As an educator and advocate for women's heart health, Christaldi received the Campbell Soup Company's Healthy Heart Award. Campbell is the lead sponsor of the Red Dress Awards.

"'How did I end up here?' That's what I was thinking on the red carpet," she recalls.

You could say it was her mother's doing. Christaldi lost her to a cardiac event in April last year. She has often brought up her mother's health condition and behavior in class, so her students came to know her.

"I talk about my mom all the time in class as an example," she says, referring to her courses in medical nutrition therapy and strategies and dietetics education. "She had diabetes, which puts you at risk for heart disease. Her death changed my viewpoint. How can we get people to do the right thing [nutritionally]?" Christaldi says that, like many others with (and even without) chronic conditions, her mother didn't always make the right food choices. "From an educator's standpoint, a large part of our role is how to motivate people."

With examples like her mother, she teaches her students disease-specific nutrition for the successful prevention and management of medical conditions including heart disease, the leading cause of death in American women, annually claiming more women's lives than men's.

Christaldi's initiative to promote women's heart health led to her organizing family and friends to raise money and participate in the American Heart Association's Philadelphia Heart Walk last November to honor her mother. Less than four years ago, Christaldi took up distance running. She plans to compete in two 10-mile runs and one full marathon this year, including the Broad Street Run, and enter the lottery for the NYC marathon this fall. The most important race she'll run with her sister: April's Cherry Blossom Run in D.C., which is where they were in 2014 when her mother unexpectedly passed.

There is also now a scholarship in her mother's name for a nutrition student, which professor Jeanie Subach rallied department faculty to fund.

A registered dietitian nutritionist, Christaldi has more than seven years' experience as a clinical dietitian and spent her early career counseling patients with heart disease, diabetes and other chronic conditions. She teaches both undergraduate and graduate courses, focusing on strategies to successfully instruct individuals on the benefits of proper nutrition and how to manage chronic conditions with nutrition therapy.

She earned her doctorate in Health Promotion and Behavior and an Interdisciplinary Graduate Certificate in Qualitative Research Methods from the University of Georgia in 2008. In 2011, the Pennsylvania Dietetic Association named her Recognized Young Dietitian of the Year. She came to WCU in 2013 from Marywood University (Scranton, Pa.), where she had been assistant professor in Nutrition and Coordinated Program Director since 2008.

Christaldi is certified with the Commission on Dietetic Registration and a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the Philadelphia Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and three Dietetic Practice Groups: Hunger and Environmental Nutrition, Nutrition and Dietetic Educators, and Preceptors and Weight Management.