Student Spotlight: How is Mi Lee Helping WIC Participants Have Healthy Pregnancies?

IMG_0723by Mi H. Lee

I am currently working with the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) at the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH). WIC is a government-run nutrition program that helps young families eat well and be healthy. One way they achieve this goal is by providing pregnant women with nutrition education, food vouchers, and referrals to health and social services. My project is to assess the impact of WIC in improving birth outcomes while also identifying potential risk factors (such as pre-pregnancy BMI, parity, and race/ethnicity) for small-for-gestational age and preterm births. This could potentially help identify specific needs of the Minnesota WIC population and strategies that the program can use to ensure healthy pregnancies for WIC participants.

I found out about this opportunity during my second semester from an email sent out by Program Director Wendy Hellerstedt, MPH, PhD, to all the Maternal and Child Health (MCH) students. After responding to the email and seeing if my skills and interests aligned with the project, I was invited to work with them for my field experience. I enjoyed the work so much that I am continuing to work with WIC for my master’s thesis as well. This has been a wonderful opportunity to apply the skills I have learned from my coursework to a real-world situation.

It has also been a great learning experience to work under the mentorship of Joni Geppert, MPH, RD, LN, a senior epidemiologist at MDH. Not only do I get to hone my epidemiological skills, but I also get to work on a project that can have a meaningful impact and use for a program that serves a significant proportion of Minnesota residents. I am especially grateful to the Center for Leadership Education in Maternal and Child Public Health for providing funding to help support this research. The Center has helped me to pursue my research interests and enhance my graduate education. 

Mi Lee has a background in Human Biology from Stanford University. She also served in the Peace Corps as a Community Health Facilitator in Vanuatu, where she lived in a hut with walls made of woven coconut leaves and developed a deep appreciation for Pacific sunsets. Mi hopes to complete her MPH in Spring 2016 and to someday work in applied epidemiology either in the Twin Cities or in the west coast to be closer to her family. When asked what she likes the most about the Twin Cities, she said “the sense of accomplishment one feels after surviving yet another winter and the profound hope and joy that come with spring. The people are also great!”

Looking for information on local and state birth outcomes, demographics, health risks and more? Visit MDH’s comprehensive WIC Reports & Data page.
Find out more about field experiences, including information about requirements and how you can be a preceptor like Joni!
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Photo by Michelle Gin.