Honorary:, PhD, MPH
I have the kind of job I have always dreamed of, which allows me to research in order to help others, mentor students and engage with the community.
As an assistant professor in the Department of Social & Behavioral Sciences, I truly love being able to collaborate with amazing colleagues and students every day. I have the kind of job I have always dreamed of, which allows me to research in order to help others, mentor students and engage with the community. My academic career has led many different and wonderful places so far in life, but I am very grateful it brought me back to West Virginia to my roots and my home in the hills.
What are your research interests and why did you choose to pursue them?
I am extremely passionate about eating disorders prevention and research, especially considering this from a primary prevention standpoint. I focus on both eating disorders and obesity prevention within this framework, understanding their shared risk factors and trying to find ways to intervene early to promote a healthy relationship with food and body from a young age.
My research was prompted by a history of lived experience and a desire to ensure that more individuals would not have to experience these disorders and the recovery process that follows. My personal background helps to fuel my professional research and keeps me interested and motivated to pursue this line of study.
I also believe that those with lived experiences are best suited to help me understand their unique experiences whether in qualitative research or in community-engaged research. To that end, I use a transformative framework in my qualitative research, understanding that knowledge operates on an unequal power balance and therefore knowledge construction should be used to help others. Much of my research is designed to be translational so that a paper is not the only end goal of research.
What is something you love about teaching?
I've spent most of my life wanting to be a teacher, primarily because of the opportunity to make a difference in a student's life. Whether it's through mentoring, giving them a different perspective on a subject, making them aware of research, connecting students with community partners or providing them with applied skills for their career, there are so many ways to impact their college or professional career. I had so many mentors and great teachers who changed the trajectory of my career for the better and it is one of my goals to be able to help students do this as well.
What is a career milestone or achievement of which you’re most proud?
One of my greatest accomplishments has been the creation of a reliable, sensitive and specific screening tool to identify women in pregnancy with an eating disorder. Some of my earlier research and other literature shows that women with an eating disorder in pregnancy are often uncomfortable disclosing this to their provider, which makes early identification and treatment a challenge.
This research project was a collaborative effort with Dr. Christa Lilly, due to her psychometric experience, obstetricians at WVU and other locations, mothers with lived experience, and multiple students. Dr. Lilly and I, along with some students, have submitted abstracts of our initial findings to conferences and plan to write a paper to disseminate our results further. We will also be moving to translation to get this screening tool into the hands of clinicians for prevention efforts. I'm especially excited about this screening tool's potential to reduce health and mental health treatment disparities in pregnant women through a standard and rapid screening measure to ensure early identification and treatment.
What's your favorite ...
- Book: Les Mis; Pride & Prejudice; The Light Between Oceans; All the Light You Cannot See; The Forgotten Garden; Evvie Drake Starts Over ... (I really can't choose a favorite)
- TV Series and/or Movie: Supernatural (TV); Bohemian Rhapsody (movie)
- Music Genre and/or Artist: Lady Gaga, Queen and really too many to count
- Place You’ve Visited: Probably St. Paul de Vence in Southern France. It is this amazing hilltop town that is almost untouched by time. Cars aren't allowed into the town and the winding cobblestone streets arc in spiral to the top of the hill. Within the town, there are art galleries every two feet filled with paintings and art from all over the world. And every so often, as you pass by a window in the walled city, you catch a glimpse of the blue Mediterranean. It feels surreal as if something from A Good Place was mistakenly allowed into the world.
- Local Restaurant: The Wine Bar
- Thing To Do When You're Not Working: In my spare time, I love spending time with my six year-old son, Nathaniel, and my fiancé, Jamie. I enjoy hiking, gardening, baking (primarily banana bread) and running. I also love to travel, but this has been put temporarily on hold with the pandemic.
Anything else you’d like your future students to know about you?
My cat, Queen (yes, named for the band), is permanently attached to me and tries to make an appearance on most Zoom calls/meetings these days.