Time for us to meet our next Nerdy Girl! Introducing Dr. Sandra Albrecht, PhD, MPH.
Dr. Albrecht is a regular contributor here at Dear Pandemic, and is also the Editor-in-Chief at our Spanish-language sister site, Querida Pandemia.
Like several of the other NG’s, Dr. Albrecht is a researcher trained in social epidemiology. She studies the barriers that prevent people from eating in a healthy way 🍓🥬🥚 and the barriers that make it difficult to prevent and manage nutrition-related diseases like diabetes. Her particular focus is on marginalized communities in the U.S., such as immigrants.
She says that “In many ways, the work I already do is related [to the pandemic]. Healthy eating is key to the prevention of chronic diseases, which place people at high risk for more severe COVID outcomes. I hope to continue studying the ways in which the food system can be modified so that eating healthy food is the easier and affordable option. If we can make it so that Americans are healthier and less burdened by chronic illness, perhaps we might see less severe disease in the event of future outbreaks.”
Dr. Albrecht also has a newfound love for science communication 👩🏾🔬📣 and hopes “to continue helping communities and policy-makers make evidence-based decisions around health.”
Here’s what she recently told us about her work and her life.
❇️ Why did you decide to get a Ph.D.? 📜
“After I received my MPH, I worked at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for a few years doing work on HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa. But in order to be promoted to the types of jobs I wanted, I was told I needed to get a Ph.D. So off I went!” 🔝
❇️ Why did you agree to be part of the Dear Pandemic team?
“The pandemic was personal for me. When I was invited to join DP in March, my family and I were living in the epicenter of the COVID-19 surge in Queens, New York. As this was happening, my mother’s home country of Ecuador became the epicenter in Latin America. Then family members started coming down with COVID-19. 🤒 So I shifted gears and began to closely follow all the related research.
As the epidemiologist in my family, I was doing science translation on social media–in both English and Spanish. When I was invited to join DP, it seemed like a more efficient way to get the information out there to a wider audience. It was also a great way to work with many of the NG’s that I had known for a long time as friends, but had never gotten to work with before. This really has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my public health career.”
❇️ What’s the most frustrating thing about the way the pandemic has unfolded, from your point of view?
“Battling all the misinformation, especially the stuff coming from the highest levels of government.” 🗳️
❇️ What are you most proud of?
“Surviving childbirth. 🤰🏽 Less than a year before the pandemic struck, I suffered an amniotic fluid embolism (AFE) during childbirth, a very rare and unexpected event that ranks among the leading causes of maternal mortality (to learn more). My doctors said it was a miracle I survived. It was a long road to recovery, and then the pandemic hit us. Our whole household got COVID-19. 🦠
Sometimes I wonder how I’m still standing, physically and mentally, after 2 life-altering health events in less than a year, but I guess the fact that I’m still here is an achievement! I don’t sweat the small stuff anymore.”
❇️ What do you miss most from before the pandemic?
🔕 “Quiet time to myself. Working from home with a 20-month old and helping a 5-year old with remote school is… challenging.”
❇️ What you don’t miss at all:
🚇 “My 90-minute subway commute (on 3 different train lines!).”
❇️ Best way to manage stress:
🍂 “Nature – going on hikes, rock climbing, biking, walking. Exercise has always been one of the main ways I’ve managed stress.”
❇️ Hopes for the new year:
🩹 “Having my family vaccinated, so we can have our huge family gatherings again.”
❇️ Fun fact: Dr. Albrecht’s husband is the most central node in the Nerdy Girl network.
🌐 Although many of us knew one another from many contexts prior to the pandemic, almost every single one of us separately knows Mr. Albrecht somehow.
Dr. Albrecht earned her Ph.D. in Epidemiology from the University of Michigan, and her MPH from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. She is also an undergraduate alumna of the University of Pennsylvania. After her doctorate, she completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Carolina Population Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Today, she is an Assistant Professor of Epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, where she is helping to develop the Food Systems and Public Health Program. She is also an investigator with Health Data for NYC (HD4NYC) – a partnership with the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene that aims to improve health equity through applied research.
She has published in journals such as the American Journal of Public Health, Obesity, and Public Health Nutrition, and she’s been quoted in the NY Times, Market Watch, The Guardian, SELF, and Time Magazine.
You can find her on Twitter @S_AlbrechtPerez
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