Working Well – Promoting Optimal Health in Workers
Interview with Elizabeth Parker, PhD
by Ivana Alexander
Elizabeth Parker, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in the Center for Integrative Medicine, which is housed in the Department of Family & Community Medicine. Her research focuses on integrative health and nutrition interventions that improve health and chronic disease related outcomes. She has also conducted research related to workplace wellness policies and their effectiveness and optimization. In this issue, Dr. Parker discusses her current research and how she works to promote health and nutrition using innovative approaches.
On her path to health and nutrition research:
Dr. Parker’s path to health and nutrition research started very early. As a child growing up in Catonsville, MD, she internalized the healthy behaviors that were a hallmark of her upbringing, including eating fresh fruits and vegetables and eschewing sugary beverages for water and milk. She was active in sports as a child and recognized at a young age the importance of nutritional intake and physical activity in leading a healthy life. This understanding sparked an interest and passion, which led to her double majoring in Human Nutrition, Foods and Exercise and Dietetics and Exercise Health at Virginia Tech. She went on to pursue her doctorate at Virginia Tech, where she focused her efforts more specifically on healthy habits and behavior change related to beverage intake.
On her current research:
Healthy interventions to promote better health outcomes for chronic disease sufferers has been a major theme in Dr. Parker’s research and practice. She has focused on interventions with multiple populations and across the lifespan. While at the Georgetown/Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, she was an integral part of designing and studying exercise interventions to improve dietary intake and exercise habits of breast cancer survivors. Dr. Parker currently serves on a research team studying school wellness environments and multilevel obesity management interventions, which looks at health behaviors of teachers given their role in modeling productive behaviors for their students and in implementing childhood obesity interventions. Dr. Parker sees teachers and their well-being as integral to the development and encouragement of healthful practices and policies both in the classroom and beyond. This research fits with Dr. Parker’s desire to conduct research and design interventions that reduce health disparities by promoting health literacy and providing access to resources that promote healthy outcomes.
On how her research informs the work-life discussion:
Through her research and other professional experiences, Dr. Parker has become increasingly interested in non-pharmacologic interventions to improve health and overall wellbeing, including yoga and mindful eating. She views health and nutrition as bedrocks of effectively balancing work and life and reducing stress. Healthful approaches to managing job stress is an area that Dr. Parker is committed to addressing in her work., and good physical health can go a long way in helping individuals manage the demands of work and life. As Dr. Parker says, “We have one body, and we have to nourish it.”
RESEARCHER SPOTLIGHT ARCHIVE