DMCHWD is pleased to highlight how MCH Trainees are contributing to the field. To submit a highlight, trainees should contact their program directors, and program directors should contact their project officers.
Rumi Agarwal, MPH, PhDc
Florida International University Public Health Catalyst Program
My desire to improve the lives of children with developmental disabilities began with an early experience as a teenager where I volunteered at a school for children with special needs in rural India. However, my realization of the direct impact of parent wellbeing on the lives of these children occurred to me during my time as a Maternal and Child Health trainee and scholar at Florida International University (FIU). My exposure to theory, methods and active learning in the classroom paired with practice-based experiences with families in the community helped me to better understand the lives of parents of children with developmental disabilities.
I am now a doctoral candidate in Public Health at FIU getting ready to defend my dissertation. My research focuses on the parents of children with autism and intellectual disabilities. The opportunity to work as a graduate research assistant with FIU Embrace for almost 4-years, an inclusive postsecondary program for students with intellectual disabilities, has further allowed me to understand that the needs of all family members should be addressed holistically, which includes the need for greater awareness and acceptance of individuals with autism.
I am currently completing a study funded by the Social Security Administration's Analyzing Relationships between Disability, Rehabilitation and Work (ARDRAW) Small Grant Program on financial planning behaviors among families of children with developmental disabilities. This is an important effort to expand our understanding of what families need, especially given that many of these families live in financial distress. I have also had the opportunity to publish 10 peer-reviewed studies in disability journals and presented extensively at local and national presentations. I have been a volunteer with the Special Olympics Healthy Community in Florida and March of Dimes. As I continue to pursue scholarship in this area, I am committed to pulling developmental disabilities out of the margins and into the forefront of research.
Disha Uppal, MPHc
Drexel University Dornsife School of Public Health, MCH Catalyst Program
I am currently pursuing my MPH in Global Health at Drexel University Dornsife School of Public Health, where Maternal and Child Health (MCH) themes are woven throughout the curriculum. Prior to beginning my MPH, I worked as a Supports Coordinator for adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities in Philadelphia. In 2018, I began working for the Policy and Analytics Center (PAC) at AJ Drexel Autism Institute as a Research Associate. My work at PAC ranges from building and supporting community programming initiatives to creating resources and supporting families in navigating both resources and the autism service system in Pennsylvania.
In my role at PAC, I am currently supporting the creation of an Autism Family Navigator Program in Philadelphia. In this model, a parent or caregiver of an individual on the spectrum receives a comprehensive series of trainings which prepares them to provide navigation services to other parents/caregivers of individuals on the autism spectrum. The goal of this project is to support families in navigating the Philadelphia autism service system as well as increase the number of families accessing services and promote earlier access to diagnosis and services as applicable.
The MCH program at Drexel promotes a multidisciplinary and intersectional approach to supporting children and families. Within the MCH program, I have taken Introduction to Maternal and Child Health and Global Issues in Maternal and Child Health. One key theme which I have taken from these courses is the value of the life course perspective. Often when we consider MCH issues, we think about people who are pregnant, yet these individuals have lived full lives and have had ranging contacts with the healthcare system before this point in their life. The life course approach has shaped my thinking and prompted me to consider innovative and comprehensive ways to support diverse populations within MCH, not just when their needs are within the MCH umbrella, but rather considering how to improve care throughout the life span. As both a full-time employee and part-time student, I am truly able to take my classroom experiences and knowledge directly to work being done in the community.
Supporting Young People with Co-occurring Diagnoses of Autism and Their Caregivers
Emily Reich, PhD and Brenda Osorio, PsyD
Leadership Education in Adolescent Health, Children's Hospital Los Angeles
The psychology post-doctoral fellows of the Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine at Children's Hospital of Los Angeles support young people with a variety of presenting concerns and intersecting identities. During our training we have gained valuable experience supporting young people with co-occurring diagnoses of autism, as well as their caregivers. We have had the opportunity to co-facilitate social skills groups for adolescents and young adults utilizing the evidence-based Seeking Safety model as well as support groups for parents and family members of individuals with developmental disabilities. In the social skills groups, trainees model communication skills and provide encouragement for clients to practice those skills with each other to build confidence in social situations. Trainees also coach the clients to utilize healthy coping skills to deal with difficult emotions. In the caregiver groups the post-doc fellows implement interventions with the aim of improving positive parenting skills, assist caregivers to more successfully support their children in addressing mental health issues, and encourage connections to appropriate community resources to address their children's goals and objectives for treatment. In addition, caregivers are taught the importance of self-care to support their own health and well-being be a model for their children. The connections built in the social skills groups have been incredibly beneficial for the young people and the caregivers who attend, especially during the time of the COVID-19 pandemic when many families are faced with isolation. It has been great to see both youth and caregivers connect with each other and provide a space to share good news, movie recommendations as well as support when things are stressful.
Time with TAG
University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK) MCH Nutrition Leadership Trainee
While working on my BS in Dietetics, I spent one summer as a research assistant in the Center for Perinatal Research at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. Part of my role as a research assistant was to administer surveys to mothers in the NICU, which allowed me the opportunity to spend my days hearing about the infant feeding challenges and successes of mothers, and learning from the dietitians and lactation consultants about how they support these families. Beyond the clinical elements of infant nutrition in the NICU, these encounters had me questioning and exploring public health messages about infant feeding. This incredible experience is what ignited my passion for maternal and child health and nutrition and ultimately led me to pursue a dual MS in Nutrition and MPH at the University of Tennessee and apply for their MCH Nutrition Education and Leadership Training Program.
Being a part of the MCH Nutrition Training Program, I have had a variety of opportunities to prepare me for a career in public health nutrition. I've worked on numerous public health nutrition projects, such the facilitating the East Tennessee Childhood Obesity Coalition and organizing the biannual Promoting Healthy Weight Colloquium , attend and present at several national conferences, including the Association of State Public Health Nutritionists' (ASPHN) annual meetings, and participate in the Peer Mentoring Network and Trainee Ambassador Group. All of these experiences, combined with the education I am receiving from UTK, have me excited and ready to embrace a career that focuses on supporting women and infants achieve their health and nutrition goals.
Drexel University's Dornsife School of Public Health MCH Catalyst Program
My interest in Maternal and Child Health (MCH) flourished when I served as a teacher in Louisiana for the two years between my undergraduate degree and my Master of Public Health (MPH) degree. I became a MCH Catalyst Program trainee in the Fall of 2018 when I became a MPH student at Drexel University's Dornsife School of Public Health. I learned a lot of valuable content and skills as an MCH trainee from the excellent programming that was offered. This increased my passion for MCH and led me run for President of the Preconception Peer Educators student group and to attend my first professional conference, the Making Lifelong Connections (MLC) annual meeting. After these experiences, I knew I wanted to further enhance my leadership and networking skills in the MCH field. I was thrilled when I was accepted to be one of the ten Trainee Ambassador Group (TAG) members for the 2020 year. I applied to be on the TAG's MLC committee because the conference had such a positive impact on my trainee experience. I wanted to be part of the planning that would motivate and inspire others. When the COVID-19 pandemic caused the conference to go virtual, fellow committee members and I had to quickly pivot to produce something engaging and informative in a new setting. I felt very fortunate to be working so closely with two amazing and talented TAG members. Because the conference was held in the first quarter of the year, my responsibilities significantly decreased after that time. I was able to pivot to the TAG's MCH Article Club committee. I've continued to attend committee meetings and posted an article for one of the monthly discussions in the MCH in ACTION National Initiative Facebook Group. The experiences and skills I developed this year working with the TAG and planning a TAG's virtual presentation for the MLC annual meeting set me up for success during my virtual fellowship this summer. It has been a wonderful experience to collaborate with other passionate MCH students and professionals and I look forward to seeing what else we can do in these last few months. I hope that we can all get together in person one day and celebrate all that we accomplished!
Shelby Davies, MD
Fellow Physician, Division of Adolescent Medicine, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Leadership Education in Adolescent Health (LEAH) Program
My medical career has been shaped by the concept of social medicine, which seeks to improve health through clinical care, community outreach, research and advocacy. Providing equitable care to youth in my opinion is one of the best possible forms of social activism. Youth exist within communities marked by significant health disparities and unfortunately these disparities underlie different cultural expectations. I see it as my responsibility as an adolescent medicine provider to constantly be asking myself, what are we doing to engage all of our youth to accomplish their goals and constructively contribute to their communities and futures.
I have had the honor and privilege to participate in the CHOP Leadership Education in Adolescent Health (LEAH) Program as part of my medical fellowship training in the Division of Adolescent Medicine. The program is supported by a federal training grant from the Maternal and Child Health Bureau. In January 2020, as part of the CHOP LEAH Fellowship curriculum, all Fellows had the exciting opportunity to visit our state capitol in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania to meet with the leaders and staff of the Title V Maternal and Child Health Services Block Grant Program, administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Health. This experience introduced me to the vast array of Title V-supported services, and the ways in which the funds seek to create community, state and federal partnerships to support youth. The LEAH fellows and faculty also had an opportunity to share their own experiences and answer questions from Title V Program staff about a variety of adolescent and young adult health issues.
Learning more about Title V has helped me as a developing adolescent medicine specialist to understand how we can empower, engage and partner with each other. This partnership can be done at the community, state and federal levels through collaboration and grant support of these critical youth development projects to create the community infrastructure needed to engage our youth. With improved infrastructure, we can empower our youth from all communities to be their best selves.
University of Minnesota MCH Nutrition Trainee
Somadee Cheam, a MCH Nutrition Trainee at the University of Minnesota, worked with the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) to support the Title V needs assessment. Over a two year period, MDH partnered with communities and stakeholders to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the health and well-being of Minnesota's MCH populations. The needs assessment identified 11 priority areas.
Teams were developed to identify and implement strategies to address the 11 priority needs into a statewide strategic plan. This plan will guide work on improving MCH systems over the next 5 years. Somadee worked on six priority areas, focusing on the creation of educational materials for the strategy teams. Some of the activities she was involved in included disseminating data to strategy groups, explaining and summarizing relevant details of needs assessment priorities while highlighting disparities within the state, and strategy reviews for priority areas based on a review of literature and national standards, with an emphasis on innovative and emerging practices. In addition to the "behind the scenes" work, Somadee participated in planning meetings with one of the eleven strategy groups. These experiences were valuable in underscoring the importance of innovative strategies and community-engaged processes in understanding and addressing MCH needs of the state.
Center of Excellence in MCH Education, Science and Practice, University of Minnesota, School of Public Health
As an MCH student at the University of Minnesota, I have had the opportunity to intern with the Title V Needs Assessment team at the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) . Through this internship, I have learned invaluable lessons about data accessibility.
After the selection of Minnesota priority needs, the Title V Needs Assessment team helped facilitate strategy teams to engage community members and stakeholders in identifying strategies to address each priority need. To inform their decisions, strategy teams were given brief PowerPoints with state-level data on each priority need.
One of the projects I worked on involved creating these presentations. When making these presentations, I helped to develop "data biographies" for each data source referenced. Data biographies outline key information about a data set to help to ensure that the data is used responsibly, transparently, and ethically. Generally, data biographies list who conducted data collection, who the data belongs to, how the data were collected, where it was collected and where is it kept, how it will be used and why it was collected, how old the data is, and finally, how frequently the data are collected (Krause 2020). In our presentations at MDH, we also included the limitations of each data set.
Through this process, I learned that being transparent about the story behind the data, and the limitations that should be considered when interpreting it, is essential for ensuring that anyone from the community–no matter how familiar with data collection and analysis–can understand the data being presented. Data biographies hold those analyzing and using the data accountable and build trust with communities (Krause 2020). This experience highlighted important lessons for me on the ethical and responsible use of data because I learned how to communicate data in a way that is accessible for everyone and how to take the time to truly understand the story behind the dataset I am using before drawing any conclusions.
- MDH Data Stories & Data Placemats Background Information
- MDH Data Stories and Placemats Toolkit (PDF)
- MDH Title V Maternal and Child Health Needs Assessment Plan (PDF)
Source: Krause, H. (2020, May 14). An Introduction to the Data Biography / We All Count. Retrieved September 22, 2020
Liz Corey, MPH
Submitted by Liz Corey, MPH (2020), a former trainee at the Center of Excellence in MCH Education, Science and Practice, University of Minnesota (UMN) School of Public Health (SPH) and a recent graduate of the UMN SPH with a major in MCH and a minor in Epidemiology. She completed undergraduate degrees in sociology and anthropology at Montana State University, then went on to work with nonprofits addressing food insecurity, mental illness, substance use, homelessness, and adolescent pregnancy primarily as a case manager. She enjoys making connections between public health and other industries to address health issues using a cross-sector and holistic approach. Liz is a Prevention Program Administrator in the Injury and Violence Prevention section at the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) where she is committed to building the capacity of current prevention programming to better serve women and families.
Throughout my nearly two years deployed to the Title V team at the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) I worked on many written projects designed to communicate findings from the Title V needs assessment to diverse groups of stakeholders. While these written products primarily focused on sharing results from needs assessment activities, they also served the purpose of describing social determinants of health and factors that have led to health inequities in the state. A centering component of all of this work was intersectionality . We conceptualized intersectionality as the interconnection between different aspects of an individual's life and systems of oppression that influence overall health.
Intersectionality was a term that I was familiar with prior to my deployment, but seeing how intersectionality informed all Title V needs assessment methods deepened my understanding of the concept. During strategic planning, I participated on a team of stakeholders that was tasked with developing three to five strategies that would improve the health and well-being of boys and young men. When I would tell other MCH colleagues about my work in this area, they were surprised that boys and young men were being prioritized but also expressed that it was a long overdue acknowledgement that the health of boys and young men has important implications for the health of women and families. It was an impactful experience to be involved from the very beginning of developing Title V strategies that recognized the impact of the complex interactions of systemic racism, poverty, and historical trauma on the health of Minnesota women and children while also cultivating a new approach to how the MDH provides funding and programming that is inclusive of the larger family and community systems.
I am taking the lessons I learned during my Title V internship about intersectionality, family systems, and the impact of trauma on health into my current role as a prevention program administrator with the MDH. In this position, I am developing connections between the injury and violence prevention and maternal and child health sections to build organizational capacity to respond with intersectionality-informed programming to improve the lives of women, children, and families.
Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine MCH Nutrition Trainees
Jacque Futch, Miguel Angel Lopez, Taryn Smith, and Erin Morini
As MCH Nutrition trainees at the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, we provided programmatic support to the Bureau of Family Health's Children's Healthy Weight Collaborative Improvement and Innovation Network (CoIIN) – Innovative Nutrition Integration (INI) project. Working directly with the Neonatal Initiatives and Title V Strategy Managers, we identified opportunities within the Bureau's current work where nutrition strategies could be implemented or expanded upon. We also worked with Bureau staff to support the integration of nutrition into the Title V Block Grant Performance measures, focusing on the health of infants, mothers, young adults, and children with special healthcare needs. We reviewed best practices and opportunities to integrate nutrition into their work focusing on different domains such as diversity, inclusion, food security, and U.S. food and nutrition policy. We were also able to develop MCH Nutrition resources for Bureau staff to consider which all received positive feedback. The Bureau of Family Health allowed us as students to exercise our professional skills and empowered us to be confident in our nutrition knowledge. We truly felt heard, respected, and trusted while being given the space to showcase our public health education and experiences we have had with the New Orleans community.
Western Partners in Excellence for Leadership in MCH Nutrition
Nutrition and Physical Activity Coordinator, California Department of Public Health, Maternal and Child and Adolescent Health (MCAH), Sacramento, CA
Suzanne Haydu has been a member/"trainee" of the Western Partners in Excellence for Leadership in MCH Nutrition, Nutrition Leadership Network (NLN) since its inception more than 20 years ago. Suzanne has taken leadership for the MCAH Division at the CA Department of Public Health (CDPH) to a new level. She has led numerous innovative efforts at the State to improve maternal and child health that include, but are not limited to: 1) Development and implementation of two childhood obesity Collaborative Improvement and Innovation Networks (CoIINs) in conjunction with the Association of State and Public Health Nutritionists (ASPHN); 2) Designed and managed MCAH's Nutrition & Physical Activity and CDPH's Breastfeeding & Healthy Living statewide websites including a Systems and Environmental Change Toolkit; 3) Utilization of California-specific data, to initiate, design, and guide development of numerous Nutrition & Physical Activity initiatives including the nationally recognized "Birth and Beyond, California," a hospital breastfeeding quality improvement technical assistance and training initiative. She has also led efforts to adapt the MyPlate model for nutrition education handouts specifically designed for perinatal women, adolescents, pregnant women with diabetes, children, and preconception in multiple languages and has recently completed the 2020 "Providing Breastfeeding Support: Model Hospital Policy Recommendations."
Suzanne has served as liaison for MCAH with the CDPH Director's obesity prevention efforts and to the CDPH Wellness Plan where she developed and implemented workplace wellness awards for California hospitals and local MCAH programs. Ms. Haydu is CDPH's designee to ASPHN, has served on the Board and is a Past-President of ASPHN. She was instrumental in starting ASPHN's Maternal Child Health Council, including being the first Chair.
These are just a few of Ms. Haydu's many accomplishments with Title V over the past five years. However, what is extraordinary is that despite her incredibly full schedule, she finds the time to coordinate with her local university partners to mentor young professionals in our nutrition leadership training programs by including them in the projects cited above to ensure the legacy of nutrition leadership and the positive impact on MCAH populations continues. Ms. Haydu is a model for MCAH professionals and Title V training programs.
Melissa Pflugh Prescott, PhD, RDN
Melissa Pflugh Prescott, PhD, RDN is currently Assistant Professor of School/Childhood Foods and Nutrition at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She completed her PhD in Public Health at the New York University and a postdoctoral fellowship at Colorado State University. Her research focuses on the use of policy, systems, and environmental approaches to promote child health equity and environmental stewardship in school and community settings. Melissa was awarded a Postdoctoral Fellowship from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Her past experiences also include managing a school-based obesity prevention program across seven elementary schools located in Harlem and Washington Heights, NYC and serving in the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics House of Delegates.
Participating in the MCH Nutrition Traineeship provided me the unique opportunity to learn about pressing practice issues directly from MCH dietitians and nutritionists, as well as how these practitioners were addressing these problems with evidence-based solutions. Furthermore, this opportunity allowed me to make connections with prominent MCH researchers and have access to cutting-edge professional development opportunities. The MCH Nutrition Traineeship experience was very impactful and allowed me not only grow as a researcher, but it also gave me great examples of how to mentor students and has shaped how I currently teach my Community Nutrition (FSHN 428) course.
Leslie Hope Wills MA, RD, CSP, IBCLC, CNSC
L. Hope Wills MA, RD, CSP, IBCLC, CNSC, joined the UCEDD clinical nutrition staff in 1996 and has worked together with the UCLA Partners in Excellence for Leadership in MCH Nutrition program for the past ten years providing clinical training experiences for the MPH/RD students as well as guest lectures. During her tenure as a Staff Nutritionist she provided clinical services in community-based clinics for children with special health care needs. In 2005 Ms. Wills accepted the position as program director for the Dietetic Internship program. Under her direction, the program has expanded from four to six interns; adding two full time positions. She has also accepted leadership roles as a program reviewer for the Accreditation Council on Nutrition and Dietetics (2010 – 2015) and as the current chair for the NCPRO committee for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (2019-2021). Ms. Wills served as a part-time lecturer for USC in the school of preventative medicine (2007-2016) and the school of gerontology (2017-2019). She has also delivered guest lectures on pediatric nutrition at UCLA, CSUN and Pepperdine University. Ms. Wills has served on the Feeding Development Team since 2007. In 2019, Ms. Wills co-authored an invited review on feeding issues in young children with two former team members. In 2010 Ms. Wills joined the faculty of CA- LEND program at CHLA as the nutrition discipline supervisor and small group leader for Scenario Based Learning. Ms. Wills has provided a number of presentations at the local, state and national level. She served on the planning committee for Breastfeeding Summit hosted by Breastfeed LA, in 2018; and presented on the impact of infant mental health on breastfeeding. She has also presented at Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo (FNCE) for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (2016) and the American Occupational Therapy Association (2015). Over the course of her career, Ms. Wills has witnessed the impact of prenatal nutrition, breastfeeding and the feeding relationship in the lives of children. Ms Wills has focused the next part of her career on the First 1000 days of life; working toward policies and practices that ensure that every child has the best start in life.
Dena Herman, PhD, MPH, RD
Professor, California State University, Northridge; PI/Director, Partners in Excellence for Leadership in MCH Nutrition
As a former nutrition trainee of the USC Children's Hospital Los Angeles Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities program, I was fortunate to be mentored by a number of leaders in the field of Maternal and Child Health (MCH), but I am particularly thankful to Marion Taylor Baer and Anne Bradford Harris for helping me understand the true "power" of nutrition and how integral it is for ensuring that children reach their potential, especially those with special health care needs. I was also a trainee under the directorship of Dr. Baer at UCLA in the Partners in Excellence for Leadership in MCH Nutrition. Dr. Baer, also an expert in nutrition policy and programs impressed upon me the importance of making an impact on populations through policy research. I was fortunate enough to conduct my dissertation research on the impact of an economic intervention to include fruits and vegetables in the WIC food package. The outcomes showed that providing these economic incentives resulted in WIC families purchasing and using these funds to buy a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. I testified in front of Congress to this end and ultimately in 2009 a change to the WIC food package to include fruits and vegetables was made, which now affects more than six million women, infants and children a month.
For the past four years, I have served as the Director of the UCLA Partners nutrition training program and can continue the legacy of my MCH nutrition mentors. In addition to my role as training director, I have also provided technical assistance to the local Title V program for Los Angeles County Department of Public Health as a consultant and Advisory Board Member of their Reducing Obesity in Child Care Settings, Early Childhood Obesity Prevention Initiative. I work closely with the State MCAH nutrition consultant to provide TA to a number of their efforts including initiatives to reduce infant mortality, increase food security, and prevent the rise of gestational diabetes. At the national level I have contributed to the efforts of the MCH Leadership Competencies Workgroup, the Pediatric Obesity Mini CoIIN lead by the Association of Public Health Nutritionists, and the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics, Competencies Review Committee. I have also led a recent technical assistance effort funded through MCHB to advance rural MCH nutrition initiatives for childhood obesity through the application of policy, systems and environmental approaches.
In summary, I am very appreciative of the various training opportunities that I have been able to access through my career. They have enabled me to make an impact on MCH populations at the local, state and national levels and I hope to be able to continue on this path.
Nutrition Consultant, Oregon Health Authority, Portland, OR
Robin Stanton has been a member/"trainee" of the Western Partners in Excellence for Leadership in MCH Nutrition, Nutrition Leadership Network (NLN) since its inception more than 20 years ago. She completed her clinical training with the UCEDD (LEND program) at USC Childrens Hospital Los Angeles, Center for Child Development and Developmental Disabilities. Ms. Stanton is a recognized expert in Title V MCH and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) programs with a focus on building synergy across programs. Some of her accomplishments in this area include development of a lactation accommodation policy for a Cross-Agency Health Improvement Plan across Oregon, partnering with TANF for the revision of their breastfeeding policy and outreach materials to support clients entering the JOBS program, and online breastfeeding training modules to train all TANF staff.
She has monitored national and informed state surveillance systems including PRAMS, mPINC, BRFSS, and WIC data - on food and nutrition, breastfeeding, physical activity and screen time to take action on environmental change policies, programs and messaging. Ms. Stanton has provided technical expertise and assistance on food security, breastfeeding and obesity prevention, to local public health and state agencies, early care and education, community planners, non-profit agencies and policymakers and served as an expert advisor to the World Breastfeeding Trends Institute and Oregon Department of Education Child Nutrition Programs among others.
Some of her recent leadership positions include Vice Chair of the National Advisory Council on Maternal, Infant and Fetal Nutrition to USDA, where she serves as the public health nutrition representative to study the operation of the WIC and CSFP programs and make recommendations to the US Congress and President. She has also served as President of the Association of State Public Health Nutritionists (ASPHN), and Chair of their MCH Nutrition Council.Ms. Stanton's pre-professional and post-professional training, provided through MCHB have helped shape her focus as a collaborative leader, emphasizing connecting programs, people and ideas to build successful partnerships to facilitate team building to achieve public health goals.
As a nutrition trainee in the Partners in Excellence for Leadership in MCH Nutrition program at Oregon Health Sciences University, I learned about the impact of social determinants on population health and its importance for communities of color. As a Health Education Manager at the Cow Creek & Health and Wellness Center (CCH&WC), a Federally Qualified Health Center operated by the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians, I oversee programs related to diabetes, diabetes prevention, nutrition education, suicide prevention, trauma-informed care, maternal and child health, and tobacco prevention and cessation. As a registered dietitian nutritionist, I provide medical nutrition therapy to Tribal and community members of all ages at CCH and WC clinics in Canyonville and Roseburg, OR. I appreciate my experience as a trainee in this program because it has allowed me to see the value of not only serving individuals, but also serving individuals within community-based programs. I also learned about the importance of taking leadership in my field and serve as the State Policy Representative with the Oregon Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. I am a voting member of the Legislative and Public Policy Committee of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The MCH nutrition leadership training program has provided me with the fundamentals to make a difference in the communities that I work in and I am grateful for having had this experience.
One of the most valuable lessons from my time as a nutrition trainee in the Partners in Excellence for Leadership in MCH Nutrition program at the University of California, Los Angeles is the importance of thinking and acting on a systems level to influence health. Over the past several years, the training program has focused on providing guidance to trainees and Title V partners across 13 western states in integrating Policy, Systems & Environmental (PSE) change strategies into work focused on improving maternal and child health. PSE approaches focus on influencing broader systems – like built environments, organizational practices, and policies – that play significant roles in shaping individual health behaviors. With technical assistance provided by the training program, state Title V partners have integrated PSE approaches into programmatic work as well as including as components of their state strategic plans.
As a doctoral student, I am applying this systems-thinking framework to my dissertation research, which focuses on understanding the relationship between infant feeding practices and early childhood obesity among children participating in the WIC program. I hope to use my research findings to influence policies and institutional practices that will make it easier for low-income mothers to breastfeed, and that make healthy foods more accessible to families during the period when complementary foods are introduced to infants. While educating mothers and families on the significant benefits of breastfeeding and the importance of introducing healthy foods at appropriate developmental stages is undoubtedly important, it is exceptionally difficult for families to implement these recommendations without supportive environments.
I am confident that beginning my career with a systems-thinking framework will make me a more impactful MCH researcher and leader, and for that I am immensely grateful to the training program leadership.