Himmelfarb Headlines - February / March 2017

Faculty Profile - Interview with Kim Robien, Associate Professor, Milken Institute School of Public Health

Tell us a little bit about your current position or research/projects.
I am an Associate Professor in the Department of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences in the Milken Institute School of Public Health. I also direct the Public Health Nutrition MPH program. I'm an active member of the GW Food Institute and the GW Cancer Center. My research focuses on diet and obesity and chronic disease prevention, especially cancer. I'm also interested in environmental nutrition and sustainable food systems, and the extent to which exposure to food-borne chemicals may contribute to risk of obesity and chronic diseases. I am an investigator with the Iowa Women's Health Study, a prospective longitudinal cohort study of 40,000 Iowa women who were post-menopausal at the initiation of the study in 1986. The primary aims of the study are to investigate the association of dietary and other lifestyle factors with risk for cancer and other chronic diseases. I also just received a pilot grant from the Redstone Global Center for Prevention and Wellness to conduct an intervention study where, in addition to implementing a well established weight loss intervention, we will be teaching college-aged women how to decrease their exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals, especially phthalates. Phthalates, a class of endocrine disrupting industrial chemicals commonly found in personal care products and food packaging, are widely detected in the general US population. Our study will evaluate whether it is possible to decrease phthalate exposures by changing our diet and the personal care products (e.g. such as perfumes, deodorants, soaps, shampoos, and other hair products).

How did you become interested in your field?
After practicing as a clinical dietitian for more than 10 years, I realized that I wanted to work in nutrition at a broader level – preventing disease rather than treating it, and contributing research findings to support evidence-based practice. I decided to pursue a doctoral degree in Nutritional Sciences at the University of Washington, Seattle - a school where the nutrition program is housed in the School of Public Health. My coursework and research projects at the UW allowed me to explore the field of public health from many perspectives – nutrition, epidemiology, environmental health, and health services. Over the years in my doctoral program, and now more than 10 years since completing my doctoral degree, I have become increasingly devoted to the field of public health nutrition.

What has been your biggest professional challenge?
There isn't enough time in the day to do all the projects I would like to do!

What has been your most memorable moment at GW?
I've only been at GW for four years, yet I've had so many "only at GW moments"! I've had the chance to meet many important politicians and celebrities in the field of food and nutrition at various GW events. But, perhaps the thing I like most about GW is being here in the nation's capital in the middle of the "action" - where public health policy is happening!

What library resources or services have you found to be the most useful?
The librarians! I have been really amazed how the librarians seem to go above and beyond the call of duty to come and guest lecture in our classes, set up web pages with information resources on our course topics, and their willingness to meet one-on-one with our students as they work on their culminating experience projects.

Whom do you admire?
Michelle Obama. She is always so cool, calm and collected, intelligent, patient and well spoken. She's also done so much for the field of public health nutrition during her time as first lady.

How do you spend your free time? (or What do you do to relax?)
I love traveling, cooking, and photography.

What advice would you give to a new faculty member just starting at GW?
Take advantage of all that DC has to offer - make it your classroom! And get to know faculty from outside of your own division and school. You never know when opportunities for professional collaborations will develop!


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