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A Head Start on Research

Circumnavigator grant winner to study childhood nutrition around the world

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June 23, 2014

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By Crystal Yednak

Elizabeth Larsen’s summer travel itinerary will take her to Guatemala, Peru, Uganda, Rwanda, Cambodia and Nepal, where she will observe small but innovative community-based childhood nutrition programs in action.

Larsen’s research project, “Tackling Childhood Malnutrition: A global study of scaling up grassroots approaches to catalyze world progress,” grew out of her studies as part of the global health minor. Through Professor William Leonard’s International Public Health class, she first conducted a research project on the correlation between meat consumption and the prevalence of childhood malnutrition. Since that project, she’s continued to dig into questions about childhood nutrition.

She later traveled to Guatemala to work at a nonprofit clinic researching the effectiveness of a program that works with mothers to teach them about healthy cooking and to provide them with fortified food and vitamin supplements.

When she first arrived on Northwestern’s campus, Larsen started working with GlobeMed, a nonprofit founded by Northwestern students that partners undergraduates at 55 universities with grassroots health organizations in Africa, Asia, North America and South America. Larsen traveled to Uganda in 2013 as co-director of GlobeMed’s East Africa forum. She helped organize grassroots global health organizations from that region for a conference on best practices. With her trip funded by the Office of International Program Development, Larsen also was able to do site visits of organizations in Uganda. When determining that she wanted to become a global health minor, “the community of people invested in global health here drew me in,” she said.

The Honors Program in Medical Education student’s trip this summer, funded through a Circumnavigators Travel-Studies grant that she won, will culminate in a 50-page research paper and website where she hopes to share all her findings. “My end goal is to help move the nutrition movement along,” she said.

After graduation, she plans to pursue global health work abroad before entering the Feinberg School of Medicine. She’s found it helpful that the Center for Global Health at Feinberg works closely with the Office of International Program Development, helping to connect her with research mentors.

Having the global health minor as an undergraduate has opened up new experiences for her. “A lot of medical students don’t consider global health until they get into medical school,” she said. Now she’s planning a career through which she can continue to pursue the questions she started researching as an undergraduate.

Topics: Research