During the Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior (SNEB) Annual Conference in Orlando this past July, SNEB partnered with the Korean Society of Community Nutrition (KSCN) to present USF College of Public Health’s Dr. Heewon Gray with the 2019 SNEB-KSCN Professional Achievement Award.
In 2011 SNEB entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the KSCN. The relationship includes information sharing and SNEB frequently welcomes KSCN members to the annual conference, not only as attendees, but also as providers of educational content. With the reaffirmation of the MOU in 2016, a joint award program is announced honoring an SNEB member with significant professional accomplishments in the field of community nutrition relating to diversity and minority populations in the U.S.
Over the past 10 years, Gray, assistant professor of nutrition and dietetics, has been involved in various nutrition intervention projects to reduce obesity prevalence in the U.S. She has been an evaluator, data analyst and project manager for several school-based cluster randomized controlled trials in low-income neighborhoods with predominantly African American or Hispanic populations.
Gray joined the COPH in 2017 and received a small grant to do more community food assessment in low income, underserved neighborhoods.
She is active within SNEB and contributes to the society by regularly serving as an ad-hoc reviewer. Gray also frequently collaborates with leaders of the KSCN. She has served as the SNEB liaison to the KSCN for three years, working closely with leadership from both societies.
Gray also served as the assistant to the editor-in-chief of the Journal of the KSCN for two years when she was in South Korea more than 20 years ago.
“When I got the news that I was getting this award, I was really pleased,” Gray said. “It is an honor for me to receive this award because it’s personal. I have worked with the KSCN before, and then at the COPH I worked in the study of nutrition education and behavior. That connection and knowing that I contributed in the field to have my professional work recognized by those two societies is meaningful for me.”
For her future endeavors, Gray is continuing her research on the nutrition and health in vulnerable children and families.
Over the past four years, Gray has been conducting focus groups, surveys and interviews with parents of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) to examine mealtime behavior problems and nutrient intakes. She often works with minority populations as well. With a recent research grant awarded by the USF Women’s Health Collaborative, she’ll be testing the feasibility of early childhood nutrition education intervention for children with ASD.
“The COPH has really supported my research,” Gray said. “The environment here is supportive in general and I’m glad that I can continue my work here in Tampa.”
Story by Caitlin Keough, USF College of Public Health