Alumni News Briefs
Nutrition alumna Elizabeth Ward ’84 appeared recently on The Dr. Oz Show, where she discussed the many potential health benefits of including mushrooms in your diet. (To watch the segment, click here.) Ms. Ward described mushrooms as “nutritional powerhouses” that are packed with vitamins, minerals and disease-fighting antioxidants.
Ms. Ward, a registered dietician, is the author of several nutrition books, including most recently MyPlate for Moms, How to Feed Yourself & Your Family Better, published by Loughlin Press. Her other works include Expect the Best, Your Guide to Healthy Eating Before, During, & After Pregnancy, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Feeding Your Baby and Toddler, The Pocket Idiot’s Guide to the New Food Pyramids, and Pregnancy Nutrition: Good Health for You and Your Baby. Ms. Ward also contributes regularly to Men's Fitness, WebMD, and USA Today, and blogs at Expect the Best.
As a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association for nearly 10 years, Ms. Ward has been featured in nearly 1,000 print and broadcast interviews. In addition to The Dr. Oz Show, she has appeared as a guest on NBC’s The Today Show twice, along with appearances on CNN and ABC World News Tonight, and has been interviewed in The Boston Globe, The New York Times, and U.S. News & World Report, among other publications.
In September, Ms. Ward received the 2011 Media Excellence Award from the American Dietetic Association at its annual meeting in San Diego. She is the recipient of the 125 Alumni to Watch Award from the University of Massachusetts, and was named Recognized Young Dietitian of the Year by the Massachusetts Dietetic Association.
When J. Cherry Sullivan, a 2005 alumna of the MPH in Community Health Education program, learned that community members experiencing chronic mental health challenges have a reduced lifespan of 25 years and 2-3 times the rate of chronic disease as the general population, she became committed to addressing this disparity.
In 2008, Sullivan – an employee of ServiceNet at the time – was awarded a three-year Blue Cross and Blue Shield Foundation Grant to direct a project that would provide a comprehensive needs assessment followed by program implementation and evaluation. During this time of assessment, Sullivan grew increasingly aware of the powerful role that stigma and discrimination play on the well-being of people living with mental health challenges. Not only do these negative associations create barriers to quality health care, but they increase the sense of social isolation felt by these community members, and often leave many of them with feelings of hopelessness.
Of the initiatives created following this initial assessment, Sullivan is most proud of a Photovoice project initiative called Picturing My Health. Photovoice is a method which combines photography with group discussion and narrative development, allowing participants to gain insight into how they conceptualize their circumstances and expectations for the future. The purpose of the Picturing My Health workshop was to increase awareness of how stigma and discrimination impact the health of people with mental health diagnoses.
The project’s main purposes were to:
The workshops were offered in both Greenfield and Northampton, MA. Each week, Photovoice participants explored concepts of stigma, internalized stereotypes, and oppression, and took photographs which they felt represented their experiences with prejudices. During the workshop, participants discussed barriers, strengths, and stereotypes and how each of these related to their health. Sullivan, along with her co-facilitator, then supported participants in writing a narrative to explain the meanings of the photographs.
“The first word that comes to mind when I think about Photovoice is fantastic,”one participant said. “It was a good exploration of myself and my own prejudice towards me. It empowered me tremendously. I no longer feel I am at the mercy of the people who are supposed to be helping me.”
Another workshop participant added, “Photovoice was the coolest thing I’ve ever done. It gave me freedom to say what I want, not be judged, not be talked down to. I never dreamed I would be able to transfer the meaning of what I saw in my pictures into words. I learned a new way to express myself, and my depression was less. We proved we’re not handicapped, we’re not less than others—we’re just like everyone else.”
Photovoice’s impact was immeasurable, according to Sullivan. “It’s not often that this group of community members – people society has pushed aside – has the opportunity to be part of a discussion that can actually give them hope about their future, what they can do and how valuable they really are rather than what they can’t do or their societal cost. This was a dramatic change in perspective for them, and for me.”
The results of the Photovoice project have been displayed publicly with agencies such as ServiceNet, Holyoke Health Center, and Cooley Dickinson Hospital. Having Photovoice visible allows the participants’ voices to permeate the broader community in venues where they typically feel disempowered. Photovoice has the capacity to challenge people’s beliefs in a non-confrontational way, thereby opening up the possibility of change in the way people think about mental health challenge and recovery. This creative and emotionally powerful art form not only empowers the people who create the photos and narrative, but also encourages every viewer to step into another’s shoes, and get a sense of what someone’s life is like. It has the potential to help people make transformative changes—it has the power to heal.
Cherry Sullivan, who earned her MPH degree in Community Health Education, currently serves as the Assistant Director for the Center for Health Promotion on the UMass Amherst campus.
Joseph Kim, MD, a 2008 alumnus of the MPH in Public Health Practice program, was promoted to President of Medical Communications Media in the summer of 2011. He was busy in the fall making his rounds on the presentation circuit, speaking on mobile health and social media in health care at the following conferences: Medicine 2.0 World Congress at Stanford, e-Patient Connections, Connected Health Symposium by Partners HealthCare, and the Baystate Health Women’s Health Conference.
Dr. Kim continues to serve as a mentor in the University of Maryland University College (UMUC) Biotechnology Professional Mentoring System.