Graduate student project equips others to take charge of their health
by Mike Haen
As a doctoral student in the Department of Nutritional Sciences, Lexi MacMillan Uribe works to improve infant and maternal nutrition through research and education, within the Madison community and beyond. Before starting her doctoral studies at UW–Madison, MacMillan Uribe completed her Master of Science in Nutrition (Arizona State University, 2011) and later completed a dietetics internship at Michigan State University to become a Registered Dietitian.
Currently, she is completing her dissertation research on mothers’ healthy eating and exercise-related experiences, as well as methods of delivering nutrition education in family care practices. As part of her research, she plans to execute a nutrition education program for mothers, in collaboration with family medicine specialists and UW extension educators. This project, and her body of work while at Madison, reflects her passion for equipping individuals with the knowledge they need to make decisions regarding their health and healthcare.
MacMillan Uribe’s work takes her beyond campus, and into the greater Madison community. Working with Rachel Bergmans (MPH, Epidemiology Dissertator), MacMillan Uribe developed and taught community-based cooking classes within a program at Lussier Community Education Center (LCEC) and High Point Church (HPC) in Madison. Launched with the help of an Ira and Ineva Reilly Baldwin Wisconsin Idea Endowment Mini-Grant, the West Madison Community Kitchen (WMCK) program was a 5-week program that aimed to empower and engage local low-income mothers and caretakers by providing nutrition education and basic cooking skills. Another goal of the program is to build community. “Each class involves a demonstration of a recipe, a group activity, and group discussion,” MacMillan Uribe explained. “Developing the classes and leading them was something very new for me, but I always left each class energized about the work and the community we started to build.”
During her time at UW–Madison, MacMillan Uribe has been supported by invaluable mentors within her graduate program. She credits Associate Professor Beth Olsen with providing the right amount of support and guidance. MacMillan Uribe noted that, “Beth has been a great mentor in terms of allowing me to work independently on things that interest me. She doesn’t do ‘hand-holding,’ which I think can restrict some graduate students.” This autonomy has allowed for ambitious work that she hopes to continue in the future.
Currently, MacMillan Uribe is not certain about the path she intends to take after graduation. “I’m very open-minded about possibilities after the Ph.D. I’m interested in exploring academia as well as government roles. The Presidential Management Fellows program is one opportunity that excites me.” Whatever path she takes, MacMillan Uribe wants to continue spreading awareness about nutrition in order to create better health outcomes, and better lives for others.