My name is Isaac Miller and I have had the privilege of working with Seattle Children’s Research Institute this summer! I focus on a study called “SHIFT” (Success in Health, Impacting Families Together). SHIFT is a family based behavioral weight management program and the brainchild of researcher Brian Saelens. It is no big secret that our country as a whole has a difficult relationship with our food and, by extension, weight. At the same time, our country is also struggling with self-image, a subject with which weight is, unfortunately, intertwined. Many adults manage to overcome these challenges, however, it is much more impactful for a person to develop habits, healthy or unhealthy, when they are a child. Furthermore it is much easier for a child to develop habits when their environment promotes those habits. This is where SHIFT comes in: SHIFT gives families the tools they need to leave the trajectory they are on and live healthier lives. SHIFT also makes special effort with children and their parents to develop positive body image throughout the program. Another unique aspect of the program is that one of its goals is to transition to a peer based system rather than one run by professionals. Families that had previously gone through the program would be used to run the treatment groups instead: one of SHIFT’s main research goals currently is to determine if this is as effective as professional treatment.
My responsibilities in the field include occupying the children while their parents may be busy, making families feel comfortable and welcome at the clinic, measuring height and weight while obeying research protocol, and generally making sure that the on-boarding process is smooth and painless for families who are trying to make time in their busy schedules for yet another activity. One main reason family’s drop the program is if it is too much of a time commitment for them so anything we can do to better respect their time is important. I also manage, double check, and organize the data we collect and ensure that SHIFT complies with patient privacy regulations.
Going into this experience I was aware of some of the complicated factors that lead people to an unhealthy weight, and considered myself well educated on the subject. I was shocked to learn how much more complex the issue is, particularly how connected food other aspects of a child’s life, such as parental affection.
I would never would have been able to consider working for such an amazing organization without assistance from the Whitman summer internship grant. The freedom and security that it has given me to pursue something that I am interested in with the full extent of my passion for it is something I am incredibly thankful for.
Experiences like Isaacs’s are made possible by the Whitman Internship Grant, which provides funding for students to participate in unpaid internships at both for-profit and non-profit organizations. To learn how you could secure a Whitman Internship Grant or host a Whitman intern at your organization, click here or contact Assistant Director for Internship Programs Victoria Wolff