Joined USJ: 2013
Katie Martin is frustrated by a current paradox – “we promote healthy eating and exercise, but yet in government subsidies and policies, we make the wrong food cheaper and the right foods more expensive.” The results are unprecedented obesity levels and widespread subpar diets, especially in poorer communities - in a nation of abundance and vast technological know-how. The issues of poverty and nutrition are “wrap-around” issues, with one influencing the other. “We can do so much more to promote food security and access to healthy food,” she says.
A former Political Science major, Martin discovered her passion for nutrition equity and the public health implications while in college, initially focused on sustainable agriculture in third world nations. She quickly realized that significant disparities existed closer to home. A Washington, D.C. internship heightened her interest in the connections between policy, nutrition, disease and public health. That led to a master’s and Ph.D. in Nutrition Science and Policy. She helped develop two doctoral programs in Public Health at UConn, while also conducting several community–university research projects aimed at improving nutritional health. The blend of teaching and research attracted her to USJ, where she is an assistant professor. She is also directing the new Public Health undergraduate program, emphasizing the science of preventing disease and promoting health through community initiatives across populations.
That effort - with a particular emphasis on social justice - is what makes USJ’s Public Health program stand out, and why it is in Martin’s wheelhouse. One of only two such undergraduate programs in Connecticut, it builds on USJ’s strengths in related fields such as Nursing and Nutrition, providing students an opportunity for interdisciplinary learning that is virtually without peer. As the field blossoms, amid a greater societal emphasis on preventative health, USJ students will have a surprising array of career opportunities, Martin points out, and she is thrilled by the chance to help students identify the best fit for their interests and expertise.
She also looks to involve them in community-based initiatives, such as Freshplace – founded by Chrysalis Center, Foodshare and the Junior League of Hartford – a model food pantry that promotes long-term food security by addressing the underlying issues of poverty. She conducted the first longitudinal study of a food pantry program, and the results, recently published, may have striking ramifications for food donation programs nationwide. “The way we approach hunger is short-sighted. We act as if it is an emergency, and needs a band-aid. It is a chronic challenge, but we don’t treat it that way.” Through teaching, research, and community activism, Martin is determined to change that.
Ph.D., Tufts University
M.S., Tufts University
B.A., Indiana University