Isabella Chan is the recipient of the 2013 Peter K. New Student Research Award. A doctoral student in the USF College of Public Health, Chan’s selection was based on her winning a student research competition sponsored by the Society for Applied Anthropology (SAA).
The presentation took place at the 74th Annual Meeting for the Society for Applied Anthropology on March 18-22 in Albuquerque. Named for Peter Kong-ming New, the award honors of the late SAA president who was also a member and chair of the USF Department of Sociology.
For her award winning research titled, “Translating International Health Policies into Lived Realities: Restricted Maternal Autonomy in the Peruvian Highlands,” Chan received a cash prize of $2,000 and an engraved Baccarat crystal trophy. Additionally, her paper may be accepted for publication in the journal Human Organization.
As described in her award bio, Chan “examines maternal decision-making regarding prenatal care and childbirth in three rural Andean communities in an effort to understand how women are experiencing and negotiating the shifting landscape of maternal care practices and providers. Ultimately, this research found that women’s decision-making regarding their bodies and their babies is shaped by their socioeconomic status, gender, and ethnicity. Issues of financial and social coercion as well as ethnic and gender discrimination arose as significant factors structuring risk and constraining maternal agency.”
“Health disparities are what first drew me to public health as a discipline,” Chan said, who graduated from USF in December with dual master degrees in anthropology and public health. “As I moved through the coursework, I learned even more about health disparities and their social, political, and economic underpinnings. These non-biological forces behind poor health and disparate health outcomes, in the US and around the world, are what motivate me to continue working in public health, specifically indigenous women’s health in the Peruvian Andes.”
A native of Atlanta, Chan reflects fondly on her time in the College of Public Health. Through research opportunities, her international field experience in Peru, and a lot of encouragement from faculty, she overcame extreme shyness and more. “I was forced to explore my boundaries and find myself in new and exciting experiences.”
In addition to her global health work in the college, Chan helped establish and served as the International Projects Director for the USF chapter of Nourish International. As director, she coordinated a summer service program in Peru that worked and fundraised for the second phase of a clinic.
Ultimately, she’d like to pursue her practice and passion as a community grassroots organizer and advocate in the Peruvian Andes. In the meantime, she begins life as a global health doctoral student in the USF College of Public Health. Her dissertation research will focus on intimate partner violence in the Peruvian Andes.
“Acknowledging that many of the forces structuring health disparities are constructed allows us to also recognize that they can be deconstructed and remedied in order to improve health outcomes,” Chan said.
Story by Infiniti Mincey and photo by Natalie D. Preston, USF College of Public Health