Donna Burnett, MAEd, is a doctoral candidate in the School of Education with an anticipated graduation date of 2008. Her research is in the area of dietetics practice. She is investigating the methods that U.S. registered dietitians use to evaluate the psychosocial issues related to food- and weight-concerns of clients prior to implementing interventions.

Working as a clinical dietitian in 1980 at UAB was such a positive experience for Donna, she decided that UAB was the place to come for her graduate studies. “I thoroughly enjoyed the academic and research environment in which I worked at UAB and wanted to return.” Although Donna started graduate school back in 1986, she decided to take a break from her studies to start a family. She explains, “My first child was born in 1987, my second in 1989, and my third in 1991. I resumed graduate studies in education in 2001. Now my second-born child is a UAB student, as well! I think I broke the mold on ‘lifetime learners.’”

When asked what motivates her academics/research, Donna remarks, “The motivation for my research comes from a deep desire to understand issues and solve problems. Having studied the professional literature, for example, I know that some people struggling with food- and weight-related issues may have underlying issues, such as child abuse, etc., that have affected self-esteem, self-directed behavior, and mood status, among other things. How can health educators, dietitians, counselors, exercise physiologists, physicians, nurses, etc., work more closely together to be more effective in helping this population? What interventions work most effectively with this population? These are questions yet to be answered.”

The most rewarding UAB experiences for Donna relate to professional collaboration with professors through service learning, conference presentations, and publications. She adds that the UAB School of Education has been the greatest influence for her. “[I believe] the UAB School of Education faculty to be the best faculty in the world! Thank you to each of you.”

Donna’s long list of awards and honors include: Kappa Delta Pi Honor Society, Eta Sigma Gamma Professional Honor Society, Golden Key International Honour Society, Outstanding doctoral student for the 2006-2007 school year, and UAB mini-award for research 2007.

Donna advises other graduate students to, “Surround yourself with the best of the best in the way of faculty and of classmates. It matters. Get to know your professors and take an interest in their service projects and research. Be helpful to other students and to faculty whenever possible. Be an encourager!”

After graduation, Donna plans to continue working in the UAB Laboratory for Global Health Observation with Dr. Sarah Parcak, to teach whenever possible, and to develop my own research agenda with those who share similar interests. Her future plans include being able to use the knowledge gained through her graduate studies at UAB and elsewhere to continue to make advances in health education and promotion in whatever way she can through service, teaching, and research.

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