As a student with majors in Biology and Nutrition Science, I have developed an interest in the intersection of the two disciplines, and how they affect the overall health and wellbeing of individuals. This summer, I sought to learn how access to an adequate nutrition (or lack thereof) affects body mass index: a common predictor of many diet-related conditions such as diabetes type II and cardiovascular disease. To do this, I conducted a survey that collected food security status (as measured as by the US Department of Agriculture) and self-reported height and weight measurements. I approached 201 people in the waiting room of Sayre Health Center (5900 Walnut St), of which 150 agreed to participate in and completed my survey. I then used purposive sampling methods among the participants I surveyed to recruit individuals for comprehensive interviews that asked individuals about their eating behaviors, food decisions, and their food environments.
While completing this project better informed me of the health needs and the current state of nutrition environments of West Philadelphia – this research experience as a whole helped to shape my life priorities and confirmed that healthcare is the field in which I want to end up following graduation. My project this summer allowed me to experientially identify the health and nutritional needs of a low-income minority population in my own community, in which there is a disproportionately inequitable financial and health burden. However, through my newly formed relationships and conversations with participants, I was encouraged and inspired by the power of focusing on the human, patient-centered perspective – and how much potential there is for productivity using this method, especially in intercultural contexts. Since coming to Penn, I knew that I wanted to be a physician; but that I wanted to actively prioritize social justice through clinical practice and qualitative research was not in my trajectory until this experience.