Q&A with Lisa Pham, MPH Candidate in Nutrition
We at Research, Innovation and Global Solutions, interviewed Lisa Pham about her professional experience before Gillings, her work as a GRA for the Med-South Lifestyle Study, her role as a UNC Good Bowls Ambassador, and why she chose Gillings.
What was your background before enrolling in the MPH program?
Coming into undergraduate at Appalachian State University, I knew I wanted to focus on nutrition but was unsure what route to take. I was introduced to the term ‘food insecurity’ in an Introduction to Public Health course by Dr. Adam Hege. I interned at different organizations, from local non-profit organizations to state-level nutrition departments, to see what kind of population and level of food insecurity I wanted to pursue. I graduated in 2020 with a BS in Public Health. During my gap year, I then served as an AmeriCorps Youth Food Security VISTA. I partner with Capital Area Food Network (CAFN) to build a Youth-Led Food Security group. I also planned and implemented the Youth Food Security Summit. My experiences have led me to further my passion for food insecurity work.
What has been your favorite aspect of your first year at Gillings?
My favorite aspect of my first year at Gillings is the amazing support system I found. These are current MPH candidates who I can call my best friends, but also amazing Gilling’s staff and faculty.
Can you tell us about your role as a Graduate Research Assistant for the UNC Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention?
I am Graduate Research Assistant for the Med-South Lifestyle Study. The program helps participants improve eating and physical activity behavior while reducing the risk for heart disease, stroke, and other chronic illnesses. It is named the Med-South Lifestyle Program is called because the eating plan is similar to a Mediterranean diet but accommodates southeastern food in the United States. My role helped develop and organize study materials, including community resource guides for health departments and federally qualified health centers participating in the next phase of the study. I also help with participant recruiting, enrolling, and collecting baseline data. In addition, I recently started qualitative coding data from the participant’s interview.
What is your role as a UNC Good Bowls Ambassador?
As an UNC Good Bowls Ambassador, I help promote the product on social and strategize on how the company can connect with UNC students. I create flyers and plan on-campus events for Good Bowls. I also have helped cooking and packing bowls for CJ’s Cupboard. Understanding the process of organization and working with Dr. Alice Ammerman and her team to provide access to healthy, good-tasting, and affordable food to all has been enlightening.
Will you tell us more about your goal of alleviating the burden of malnutrition among children in Vietnam?
My mom shaped her worldview through long talks centered around her life in Vietnam and lessons she learned as a thirteen sibling during the Vietnam War. She is the only sibling who resides in the U.S. She tells and contributes to the community and our family from the stories. For example, my mom would buy vitamins on sale and stock up to ship back to Vietnam to my cousins to disperse children in the countryside who are malnourished. Those anecdotes have taught me to develop a sense of community and a strong desire to give back to my country. I feel the privilege to have everything I need here concerning nutrition. I hope to create my own non-profit to provide vitamin-fortified food to children in Vietnam. Additionally, I have been in the U.S. for a while, and Vietnam has developed significantly. Therefore, I want to partner with organizations in Vietnam to better communicate with the community.
What does “global health” mean to you?
To me, global health is providing adequate and quality healthcare by building a sustainable infrastructure to achieve health equity for all people. It is vital to be humble and immerse myself in the cultures while taking aspects from the experience to contextualize the view of culture to encourage me to learn more about the various factors that affect health within the community.
What drew you to the Gillings School of Global Public Health?
Gillings was my top choice because the school has an outstanding education and faculty. I remember seeing Dr. Alice Ammerman during a poster presentation. I Googled her and found that one of her focuses is on food security work that day; I knew I wanted to obtain my MPH at Gillings to work alongside her, Dr. Alice Ammerman. In addition, I wanted to be surrounded by like-minded individuals who are as passionate about public health as I am.
What is your dream job?
I’m passionate about food insecurity among marginalized population. I specifically want to alleviate food insecurity among the Asian communities through proper nutrition education I believe food insecurity among Asian communities is understudied due to the Minority Myth Model, structural racism, and stereotypes. There are subgroups among the race that are neglected for when it comes to food insecurity.
Who did you see for your first concert?
Man, I feel embarrassed to answer this question, but it was Steve Aoki during my freshman year of high school.