Saint Louis University

Student Spotlight: Ph.D. student balances full-time work, family and dissertation

saint louis university school of public health

Monday, July 9, 2012

As a registered dietitian, many would not expect Amy Knoblock-Hahn, MS, MPH, RD to have a full plate in front of her.

During the day, Knoblock-Hahn, 38, works full-time at the Veterans Affairs St. Louis Healthcare System, in the evening, she is busy caring for her husband and two children and at night, she is working away on her dissertation as a doctoral student at Saint Louis University. The last week of June was particularly newsworthy as she was awarded a $10,000 scholarship by the American Dietetic Association Foundation and celebrated her 12-year wedding anniversary.

"My work as a Ph.D. student is a challenge, but I also have had a lot of support along the way," Knoblock-Hahn said.

This marks the second year that Knoblock-Hahn has received a scholarship from the ADA Foundation. The Foundation, the largest provider of dietetic scholarships, awards more than $200,000 in funding every year to students of all levels of study. The number of scholarships given varies each year as individual awards can range anywhere from $500 to $10,000.

"Raising a family and having a mortgage makes it difficult to go back for higher education and this scholarship has made it a lot easier to pay for tuition and books each semester," Knoblock-Hahn said.

Knoblock-Hahn has been very active in pursuing further education since graduating in 1995 with a Bachelor of Science in nutrition and dietetics from Wayne State University in Detroit. In 1997, she received a Master of Science in nutrition and dietetics from Wayne State University and in 2008, Knoblock-Hahn completed a Masters of Public Health with a concentration in health behavior from SLU's School of Public Health. In 2009 she went back to SLU to begin work on her Ph.D. in public health nutrition.

"I have always had an interest on the nutrition side and my calling has been toward making people healthier," Knoblock said. "Public health is always why I wanted to get into dietetics and going to SLU for public health was one of the best decisions of my life."

Knoblock-Hahn is currently in "data collection mode" as she crafts her dissertation in anticipation of a fall 2013 graduation. Her dissertation focuses on childhood obesity and the support tools needed for overweight and obese adolescents.

Part of her research is to explore the development of a tool for adolescents that can help develop a continuation of weight loss programs. In June, Knoblock-Hahn took her research a step further as she applied for the Lifestyle Interventions for Childhood Overweight and Obesity Prevention Grant through the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Foundation. If awarded, the $35,000 grant would allow her to develop prototypes of an App for mobile phones and tablets that would provide an extra tool for weight loss programs.

"A lot of my motivation comes from the fact that I can see how my dissertation would support public health work that I am doing at the VA," Knoblock-Hahn said. "I feel like I am really living and breathing public health with my work and my research."

Knoblock-Hahn has been a registered dietitian, working with patients in a variety of clinical settings, since 1997. She began at the St. Louis VA Medical Center in 2001 when she started as the Dietetic Internship Director. She is now the Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Program Manager at the VA and is very excited for the opportunities her doctoral degree will grant her.

"My degrees from SLU will really open up a lot of new opportunities and I am excited to further contribute to the field of public health and nutrition," Knoblock-Hahn said.

Jonathan Ernst

Higher purpose. Greater good.
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