For one, I think applied research is the way for me to go. I think that most of my thoughts about science contributions end up with implications for policy-as-application, probably due to my training in my PhD program, working under my PI, Wylie Burke, or my CGHE work, but that tends to be where my mind goes when I think of social and public health issues. I have less experience with direct intervention, so perhaps that is why. Regardless, I probably should embrace it and take another health policy class. That realization occurred, again, while listening to the common book mentioned yesterday, and also hearing a radio show yesterday that both lamented the lack of evidence used in policy in favor of political and emotional decisions. More on this below.
Second, I want to follow my traditional foods passion. This could be looking at nutrigenomics (to satisfy the PHG requirements), and metabolic differences among different populations, and then using that information to supplement other information about the cultural, social, emotional, spiritual importance of traditional foods. A question could be about whether/how we can better translate science for policy-making, and the influence of different types of evidence (genetic information measuring up to other information about health and cultural meaning) on policy. As in, how compelling is different type of information in various policy-making settings? And all of this stemming from the bigger question of what, if anything genomics can do for reducing health disparities.
Then I met with Dr. Kirsten Senturia this morning, who helped me think through some of these ideas. Her own story was really inspiring, and it was so helpful to have a fresh set of ears (belonging to someone who does what I want to do, eventually) listen to my story and reflect back. She gave me an important piece of advice. Whereas she generally tells people to love their project from the start, because you'll be sick of it by the end (which is a common refrain), she said that she would recommend that I not over-think it, and just do something. Great advice. We also discussed a bit on how a PhD student could do a project that is on the CBPR spectrum, but not have it be the entire project, that is, some of the project pieces could be more traditional science, without community-engagement as long as the project is still serving the community's interests.
I am now leaning toward the Moose Soup concept (sorry, I'm not going to elaborate on that now), and doing an evaluation of existing programs that enable traditional foods access in healthcare settings, a comparison across settings, or looking at three aspects of the efforts-- the genetic/physical components the lead to health of traditional foods, the cultural/social importance of these foods, and the barriers to implementing these policies more broadly. She has connections with some researchers in Public Health Nutrition, who might be very helpful for my path. I left that meeting extremely energized, with a new sense of legitimacy about my interests, skills and possible career choices. Consulting does sounds like a viable option, and something that would fit me well, and now I have a connection with someone who does that work. Very inspiring, indeed.