Alumni Profile: Emily A. Callahan, MPH
MPH 2008, Nutrition
Founder and Owner, EAC Health and Nutrition, LLC
Describe your current position. What is your research/focus area?
I opened my own consulting business in 2015, when my husband’s job moved us to Japan and I had to leave a job that I loved in Washington, D.C. The organization I was working for told me that I could continue to work with them as a consultant, so that’s how I got started. When my family moved back to the U.S. after two years overseas, I continued working for myself as I enjoy the variety and flexibility, especially now that we have young children.
I consult with national organizations, specializing in health and nutrition research, policy, communications, and education. Most of my work is in the areas of research evaluation and translation, science writing and editing, and content creation for health professional, consumer, academic, and policymaker audiences.
List your career highlights. Please include links to news articles or press releases, if any.
I’ve been fortunate to work closely on several efforts that have had an important impact on public health nutrition:
- Contributed to two consensus reports while on staff at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine:
- Strategies to Reduce Sodium Intake in the United States (2010): This report helped catalyze sodium reduction in the food supply, including helping to pave the way for FDA’s 2016 issuing of voluntary sodium reduction targets for the food industry.
- Accelerating Progress in Obesity Prevention: Solving the Weight of the Nation (2012): This report recommended critical steps for the nation to make progress in preventing obesity, and many of the recommendations are now being implemented. The report was also related to a four-part documentary film series and public health campaign that my colleagues and I worked on in partnership with HBO Documentary Films.
- Planned a national conference on sodium reduction (2013) when I was on staff at the American Heart Association. The conference facilitated candid dialogue and exchange of ideas, setting the stage for potential collaboration among multisector stakeholders toward population-wide sodium reduction, an important component of cardiovascular health promotion and disease prevention.
- Served as first author for a case study published in the British Medical Journal (2018) about a healthy weight policy initiative that the World Health Organization selected as one of 12 outstanding global examples of multisector collaboration. Our case study was also featured at a WHO forum in New Delhi, India in December 2018.
Why did you choose the Gillings School?
I was considering three graduate schools, all of which would allow me to earn a master’s degree while completing the required practice experience to attain my Registered Dietitian credential. UNC Gillings School was the only one that offered an MPH degree program (vs. an MS). As I read online about the School and the career opportunities it enabled, it became clear that it was the perfect fit for my interests and career aspirations. Learning that it was top-ranked among graduate schools of public health sealed the deal for me!
How did your education and degree from the Gillings School influence your career?
The nutrition program I was in required a public health internship during the final semester, and I chose to complete it in the Office of Federal Advocacy with the American Heart Association (AHA) in Washington, D.C. My mentor for the internship had connections that helped me land my first job after graduation, and several years later, she recruited me back to work for the AHA!
What are some of your favorite memories at the Gillings School?
My classmates in the nutrition program were kind, fun and passionate about public health nutrition. It was fun to get to know them in and out of the school setting. We held events for our student organization, the Nutrition Coalition, and also formed a potluck dinner group and took turns hosting themed dinners.
What are you passionate about in public health?
To make far-reaching, meaningful, sustained progress in health promotion and disease prevention, we need both education and population-level strategies such as changes in policies, systems, and environments. I’m passionate about 1) communicating science and research to inspire consumers to adopt healthier behaviors, and 2) critically evaluating and accurately translating research to inform policy and environmental changes that can help lead to healthier behaviors on a population level.
Ten years from now, where do you hope to be and what do you hope to be doing?
It’s important to be forward-thinking because it helps shape present-day decisions. A mentor asked me this question when I was considering a particular consulting project, because I needed to consider how the project might shape the trajectory of my work and impact my future goals.
Ten years from now, I hope to continue contributing to efforts to improve the healthfulness of the food supply and consumers’ food choices. I hope to be collaborating with a wider variety of people and doing more frequent public speaking. I don’t know if I’ll still be working as an independent consultant or as part of a team at an organization, but if it is the latter, I think there’s a good chance that it would be in a role that doesn’t even exist yet – the nutrition world is dynamic and new opportunities are created all the time.
What advice you would like to offer to current the Gillings School students?
Network, network, network – knowledge and competence are important, but who you know (and who knows you) goes a long way when it comes to career opportunities. It can be intimidating to be at a professional event where you don’t know many people, but it’s likely there are other attendees in the same boat. You never know what might come about from the connections you make, so smile and strike up a conversation.
What would you say to prospective students thinking about studying at the Gillings School?
You can’t go wrong with a degree from the Gillings School. In addition to being a top-ranked school of public health, it’s also located in a great place to live. For me, that was a winning combination. If you’re still on the fence, I recommend exploring the faculty’s research projects to consider how they align with your interests.
Please name topics and focus areas on which you can offer advice to current Gillings School students:
- Work-life balance (I run my own business and have two kids age 2 and under)
- Getting an internship/job in nutrition research/policy/programs in Washington, D.C.
- Understanding nutrition policy and the “food politics” and key stakeholders that influence food/nutrition policy
- Consulting/running your own consulting business (how to set it up, how to determine your rate, how to get clients, etc.)
Connect with me on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/emily-a-callahan-miller-mph-rdn-250a9a7/