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Vital Signs

Investigator Insight

In this section, we highlight the human side of biomedical investigation, putting a few questions to a researcher at DMS-DHMC.

Lisa Sutherland, Ph.D.
Research Assistant Professor of Pediatrics

Sutherland, a nutrition scientist, studies environmental influences on childhood obesity. Her research focuses on the impact of media—such as advertising and product placement in movies—on kids' food and beverage choices. She joined the faculty in 2006.

How did you get interested in your area of research?
I have a complete fascination with pop culture. Having the opportunity to combine that with nutrition and health trends is a win-win for me.

What misconceptions do people have about your field?
Most people still think of nutrition professionals as "lunch ladies." Most of nutrition science training is actually basic science, with an emphasis on chemistry and metabolic pathways.

What's your favorite nonwork activity?
I like to cook and travel. Any combination of the two is just a bonus.

If you could travel anywhere, where would it be?
I would like to travel Africa—from Morocco to Madagascar—and while there volunteer with USAID or the Hunger Project.

What about you would surprise most people?
I am quite shy and scared to death of large crowds. You won't catch me at a mall or department store during the holidays.

Of what professional accomplishment are you most proud?
My work as one of the lead scientists on

a nutrition rating system for Hannaford supermarkets. The work started out with a very specific purpose but has ended up creating national and international discussion on flimsy nutrition and health-claim labeling standards and the need for a standardized rating system. We did what many said was impossible. I am very proud of our work.

What is the greatest frustration in your work?
How fast nutrition science continually changes and the confusion that causes for consumers.

And the greatest joy?
How fast nutrition science continually changes and the rapid advances in medicine, pharmaceuticals, and policy

because of these changes. Nutrition is still a relatively new science. Vitamin C wasn't isolated until 1928, and we didn't have a health and nutrition monitoring system in the U.S. until the late 1960s. It's bound to cause some conflict and confusion.

What historical event would you most like to have been present at in person?
The Last Supper. There's got to have been good food, wine, and conversation, right?

What websites do you use most often?
J. Crew, Ann Taylor, Nordstrom's, Pottery Barn, Williams-Sonoma . . . You see the trend.

What do you ultimately want to discover?
How to end world hunger. There is enough food produced to adequately nourish everyone in this world; the problem is inequitable distribution.

What do you admire most in other people?
Patience. I am lacking in this area but working on it constantly.

What's the hardest lesson you ever had to learn?
How to live without my mom after she died when I was 18. I am a much stronger person from the experience, though.

What is your idea of earthly happiness?
Wine and dark chocolate.

Do you have a treasured possession?
Yes. My children, Parker, 14, and Samantha, 6.

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