UTK Former Trainee Spotlight: Amber Ford

41863277_1627707123999886_4560250744220942336_nAmber Ford, an alumnus of the Maternal and Child Health Leadership traineeship, is a registered and licensed dietitian at the Knox County Health Department. At the University of Tennessee, Amber completed a dual Master’s program in Public Health and Public Health Nutrition, and completed the dietetic internship. As a Public Health Educator, Amber has focused on school health for the past three years.  

I completed the dual master’s program in public health and nutrition along with the dietetic internship through the University of Tennessee in December 2015. Serving as an MCH trainee was one of the biggest highlights of my time in the program, and the training and experience I received have been so valuable in my current position. I’ve worked as a Public Health Educator focused on school health at the Knox County Health Department for the past three years.

In my role, I specifically partner with Knox County Community Schools to help improve the health of students and families as it relates to nutrition and physical activity. The Community Schools initiative aims to use public schools as hubs for community resources to improve health and academic success. This involves working alongside teachers, students, and families to identify their specific needs and bringing in partners and resources to address these needs. We currently have 18 Community Schools in Knox County, and most of my work is aimed at creating and enhancing access to places for physical activity, promoting increased physical activity and physical education, creating supportive nutrition environments, and increasing access to healthy foods for students and families.

Throughout my time as a trainee, I had the opportunity to lead the cultural and linguistic competency workshops, Interactions that Make a Difference, for graduate students and frontline staff of health departments in East Tennessee. Countless times, I’ve used the skills I developed in presenting and leading trainings for diverse audiences, but I also use the cultural competency knowledge I gained on a daily basis. Our Community Schools are some of the most diverse and economically disadvantaged in our county, and the knowledge and skills provided by these trainings have improved my interactions with the students and families I serve and have helped me develop more culturally competent interventions.

Further, my time as a trainee equipped me with other skills for which I am consistently grateful. Working with a team to plan and implement the bi-annual Promoting Healthy Weight Colloquium improved my long-range planning skills, efficiency, and ability to delegate and recognize the strengths and weaknesses of others and myself. Assessment and evaluation of community needs and effectiveness of our interventions are important for sustained funding and effective utilization of limited resources, and I’m able to rely on the practices of regular evaluation and responding to evaluation outcomes used throughout my time as a trainee. All and all, I can’t say enough about how much serving as an MCH trainee impacted me and shaped the work I do. Well worth every minute!

 

UTK Former Trainee Spotlight: Megan Rodgers

IMG_2898Megan Rodgers, an alumnus of the Maternal and Child Health Leadership traineeship, is a registered and licensed dietitian at the Knox County Health Department. At the University of Tennessee, Megan obtained a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition, a Master of Science in Public Health Nutrition and completed the dietetic internship. Megan’s work at the health department focuses on planning, implementing and evaluating an afterschool program that teaches children about the importance of healthy eating and physical activity. She also strives to improve the afterschool environment through policy, systems and environmental changes that positively impact all students who attend afterschool care at these sites. Megan’s work directly engages the MCH population, which she grew to love through her time as a trainee. She is an active member of the Knoxville Area Afterschool Network and is on the Board of Directors for the Knoxville Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Leveraging a Community-Academic Partnership to Address Childhood Obesity: A poster presentation at the Tennessee Public Health Association annual meeting in Franklin, TN

At the Tennessee Public Health Association annual meeting in September 2018, I presented data from a recent plate waste study completed at three afterschool sites in the Knoxville area. Results from this study showed very high plate waste at all sites for all dinner meal components. This is of concern for many reasons, but especially because these afterschool centers serve many low-income, food insecure children.

During this study, collaboration between the Knox County Health Department and the University of Tennessee’s Departments of Nutrition and Public Health created an opportunity for graduate level students to gain hands-on experience and to apply academic training to a community setting. The value of the community-academic partnership enabled successful data collection and project execution.

On two separate occasions, a stratified random sample of dinner meals were collected at three afterschool sites. Standard dinner meals were obtained from the community kitchen that provides meals to the afterschool sites. These standard meals were used to calculate an average amount of each meal component and served as a comparison reference for participant meals collected. The amount of food wasted was astonishingly high and indicates a need for an evidence-based intervention to increase acceptability and consumption of the dinner meal at these afterschool sites. The community-academic partners will seek additional funding to plan, implement and evaluate an intervention that seeks to accomplish this goal. Collaborative partnerships are essential to addressing public health issues such as food insecurity and childhood obesity while training the future of the public health workforce.

As a registered dietitian, I am passionate about improving the health and well-being of children. The afterschool time serves as a prime platform for providing children with healthy, nutritious foods. Many of these children may not have access to healthy foods outside of the afterschool program’s doors, so we need to take this opportunity and make the most of it. Of course, we want our children to be well fed and to be successful inside and outside of the classroom. Adequate nutrition can play a key role in that.

UTK Trainee Spotlight: Marissa McElrone & Marissa Black

This blog post highlights the work of two funded MCH trainees from the University of Tennessee, Marissa McElrone and Marissa Black. McElrone (left), a funded MCH trainee since January 2016, is a PhD candidate pursing her doctoral degree in Community Nutrition. Black (right) has been a funded MCH Nutrition Leadership, Education and Training Program trainee since January 2018, and is currently pursuing a Master’s in Public Health Nutrition.  This blog post discusses their trainee experiences providing cultural and linguistic competence workshops to Tennessee Title V Personnel. 

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Interactions that Make a Difference

Interactions that Make a Difference (ITMD) is a daylong cultural and linguistic competency workshopfacilitated by University of Tennessee MCH Nutrition faculty and funded trainees. ITMD workshops target Tennessee Title V Personnel from across the state focusing on enhancing personal cultural awareness, knowledge, and skills. Workshop are designed to accommodate 12-15 participants who have direct interaction with clients and individuals receiving services at health departments.

Marissa McElrone: As a funded trainee I have had numerous opportunities to enhance my own cultural awareness, knowledge, and skills. These experiences have enriched my passion for the subject and have even evolved into a focal point in my own research. Although my own work is incredibly rewarding, facilitating ITMD workshops across the state has allowed me to impact a much larger population. Front line staff have direct contact with various MCH populations on a daily basis. By providing cultural competency training to these individuals, ITMD has the power to improve access to culturally competent health care services for Tennessee’s MCH populations.

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Marissa McElrone facilitating the ITMD workshop for Mid Cumberland Regional Office.

Marissa Black: This summer, we traveled to the Mid Cumberland Regional Office to facilitate the ITMD workshop. As this was my first time facilitating an ITMD workshop, I was incredibly nervous! However, as the day went on and our participants began to open up about their experiences, I became more comfortable as well.

As an incoming Public Health Nutrition graduate student, I participated in a similar workshop. The cultural and linguistic competence training I received helped me understand the awareness, knowledge, and skills that are necessary to work in a cross-cultural environment. It was a great experience to use the knowledge I learned as a new student to help train Title V personnel. It was also rewarding to have important conversations about sensitive topics such as racism and stereotypes that people are often too afraid to talk about.

UTK Trainee Spotlight: Marissa Black & Marissa McElrone

This blog post highlights the work of two funded MCH trainees from the University of Tennessee, Marissa Black and Marissa McElrone. Black (left) has been a funded MCH Nutrition Leadership, Education and Training Program trainee since January 2018, and is currently pursuing a Master’s in Public Health Nutrition. McElrone (right), a funded MCH trainee since January 2016, is a PhD candidate pursing her doctoral degree in Community Nutrition. This blog post discusses their involvement in a recent university-wide, public policy challenge. Black was an enrolled student on the Public Health Nutrition Policy Team, while McElrone offered teaching and mentoring as a teaching assistant for the course/challenge.

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Fresh Food for All: Improving Local MCH through Policy

The Howard Baker Center Grand Policy Challenge (HBCGPC) started in 2013, as a practical experience for University of Tennessee students to address real issues in their communities and beyond, through public policy engagement. The HBCGPC, based on the University of Pennsylvania’s Fels Institute Policy Challenge, required students to identify, research and analyze an issue, identify and engage stakeholders, critically think as a team, and develop innovative solutions through policy. The Public Health Nutrition Policy Team’s policy, Fresh Food for All, focused on improving the 2018 WIC Farmer’s Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) redemption rates in Knox County, Tennessee.

Marissa Black: Participating in the policy challenge was a rewarding experience that helped me apply the basics of policy development to an issue affecting our local MCH population. Our team consisted of students with different research interests in the fields of Public Health and Nutrition. Some members studied food insecurity, others researched gardening programs, and one member was an actual farmer who had participated in the FMNP the previous year! Having a stakeholder in our team made it easier to build connections with other stakeholders, and gave us a unique perspective on the issue.

In the beginning stages of our policy brief development, our team met with local stakeholders including WIC educators, farmers market representatives, and food policy council-members to negotiate the terms of the policy. It was exciting to bring together an inter-professional group of people with different roles in the community who were all passionate about improving the lives of WIC families. The policy challenge helped me develop skills in critical thinking, negotiation, interdisciplinary team building, and of course policy and advocacy!

Feel free to view the policy brief, video, and blog post we created for the policy challenge!

Picture1The Fresh Food for All policy group presenting at the Nutrition Education Discourse at the University of Tennessee

Marissa McElrone: During my first year of graduate school, I participated in the HBCGPC as a student enrolled in the public health nutrition policy course. My policy team’s brief entitled Feed the Garden Feed the Kids, focused on an innovative approach to incorporate urban agriculture into the USDA Summer Feeding Programs of Knoxville, Tennessee. The experience helped develop my knowledge and understanding of the policy process and how it impacts MCH populations. The experiential learning of the HBCGPC fostered critical thinking, team building, and pushed me to think of innovative ways to improve the lives of MCH populations through policy. Currently, as the teaching assistant for the public health nutrition policy course, I have the opportunity to develop and mentor other students through the same process. Not only am I strengthening the skills I fostered as an enrolled student, but I am now able to help develop others in these same leadership competencies.

 

 

 

 

 

UTK Trainee Spotlight: Marissa Black

UntitledMarissa Black is a graduate student studying Public Health Nutrition at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. She has been an MCH trainee since January 2018. She will complete her Dietetic Internship in 2020 and hopes to work in pediatrics as a registered dietitian.

Every Spring and Fall semester, the Public Health Nutrition Program at the University of Tennessee hosts the Promoting Healthy Weight Colloquium. The colloquia focus on assessing, preventing, and treating obesity in the maternal and child population. This Spring’s colloquium focused on interprofessional collaborations to promote healthy weight.

This Spring was my first opportunity to help organize a colloquium as an MCH trainee, and I was invited to promote the event on live tv. One of our former MCH Nutrition Leadership trainees who has connections with the local media was able to secure a spot on the set of Live at Five at Four, a local news segment here in Knoxville, Tennessee. I was nervous when I found out I would be on tv, but after preparing a script and rehearsing over and over again, I finally felt confident enough to deliver the information.

Being on the set of a news channel was a surreal experience. I had always imagined there would be an audience, but the studio was surprisingly quiet. The camera crew and anchors were very personable and made me feel more comfortable about speaking on live tv. I now feel like a local celebrity! I’m very thankful for the opportunity I had to practice communicating on camera.

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Marissa joined former MCH Nutrition Leadership Trainee Lee Murphy on the local news

UTK Trainee Spotlight: Alexandra Alford

Alexandra is a trainee at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Alexandra has been funded by the MCH Nutrition Leadership, Education and Training Program since August 2015, and is currently completing her dietetic internship.

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Each semester at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, we plan and lead leadership workshops for the first-year students in the Public Health Nutrition program. These workshops allow students gain additional leadership skills and collaborate with their classmates to form better relationships. Since I am now a third-year student, I had the opportunity to lead some of the sessions.

Initially, I was a little worried about whether or not I was prepared, and if students would take me seriously since I was one of their peers. However, after looking at the materials provided and remembering my own experiences I was able to relax about the situation a little more. I also realized that this was a valuable experience and I needed to appreciate and delve into this opportunity.

I’ve helped with leadership workshops that ranged in topics from personality testing to organizational leadership skills. All have allowed me to learn more about my peers, but also a little more about myself. I was able to come full circle, from participating in the activities to leading them, which allowed for self-reflection in addition to the leadership and training skills that were gained. Again, these leadership workshops are beneficial for growth in the new graduate students and myself. They have helped me gain a better understanding and appreciation of my role as an MCH Nutrition trainee!

-Alexandra Alford, MCH Nutrition Trainee, University of Tennessee

UTK Trainee Spotlight: Marissa McElrone

Marissa McElroneMarissa has been a funded MCH Nutrition Leadership, Education and Training Program trainee at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville since January 2016. This blog post entails her recent appointment as an ambassador in the MCHB Trainee Ambassador Group.

MCHB’s Trainee Ambassador Group (TAG)

Starting this January 2018, I will be serving a 12-month term as a member of the Trainee Ambassador Group (TAG). Established by MCHB’s Division of MCH Workforce Development (DMCHWD) in 2015, TAG is an ongoing vehicle for working collaboratively with trainees of the MCH Training Program. TAG is composed of trainee representative from a range of DMCHWD programs including:

  • Leadership Education in Adolescent Health (LEAH)
  • Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND)
  • MCH Nutrition
  • MCH Pipeline
  • Pediatric Pulmonary Centers (PPC)
  • Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics (DBP)
  • Centers of Excellence in MCH (CoE)

 The goals of the TAG are to foster connections between trainees across the MCH Training Program, provide trainees with leadership development opportunities, and strengthen the link between trainees and MCHB.

Through the TAG, MCHB is:

  1. Strengthening the link between trainees and MCHB
  2. Increasing awareness about the importance of utilizing and engaging trainees
  3. Increasing current trainee awareness/knowledge about the full range of training programs
  4. Improving communication and collaboration among trainees within and across training programs
  5. Facilitating connections between current and former trainees
  6. Providing trainees with additional leadership development opportunities

The TAG provides trainees with the opportunity to conceptualize, develop, and lead efforts to facilitate trainee connections via activities such as a mentoring program, trainee forums, and collaborative research projects.

For information about eligibility and TAG ambassador roles and responsibilities visit the TAG informational page on the MCHB website. Also, check out this TAG introductory video the 2015 cohort created. I look forward to sharing more about my experiences on TAG as the year continues!

-Marissa McElrone, MCH Trainee, University of Tennessee, Knoxville