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Parthasarathy named fifth fellow for Sharma family endowed scholarship

Nivedhitha Parthasarathy (Photo by Rachel Atterstom/UTHealth).
Nivedhitha Parthasarathy (Photo by Rachel Atterstom/UTHealth).

Houston doctoral student Nivedhitha (Nivi) Parthasarathy, MPH, has been selected as the 2021 Sharma Fellow, supported by the Shreela and Vibhu Sharma Endowed Fund for Excellence in Community Nutrition, Health & Wellness at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) School of Public Health. 

In 2017, faculty member and alumna Shreela Sharma, PhD, RDN, along with her husband, Vibhu Sharma, established the scholarship endowment. The fellowship program is administered through the Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living, part of UTHealth School of Public Health.

Fellows receive a $2,000 stipend per semester, are eligible for in-state tuition, and work with Brighter Bites, a nonprofit whose mission is to create communities of health through fresh food. Brighter Bites channels surplus produce and nutrition education materials into underserved communities with the goal of changing behavior among children and their parents to prevent obesity and achieve long-term health. The program operates in Houston, Dallas, Austin, Southwest Florida, Washington D.C., and New York City. The competitive fellowship program requires a research commitment of two semesters, at 200 hours per semester.

Parthasarathy is pursuing a doctorate in health promotion and behavioral sciences at UTHealth School of Public Health in Houston. She earned a master’s degree in public health from Manipal Academy of Higher Education in India.

“The Sharma family should be commended for their continued support for students such as Ms. Parthasarathy. This fellowship and its related work experiences will not only help support Ms. Parthasarathy’s studies, but they will also provide her with an opportunity to engage in relevant, community-based nutrition research,” says Deanna Hoelscher, PhD, RDN, director of the Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living and regional dean of UTHealth School of Public Health in Austin.

“Being an immigrant from India, I have seen and experienced how low socioeconomic status leads to food insecurity, lack of awareness regarding a healthy diet, and poor dietary behavior. I believe that modest changes in everyday lifestyle can result in significant improvement in the health of these families,” said Parthasarathy. “This drives me to work on understanding the underlying factors, including cultural, economic, and societal beliefs, that impact the dietary behavior of children and adolescents belonging to these communities.”

“As a Sharma fellow, I hope to understand, at the ground level, the social determinants that impact the dietary behavior of low-income families,” said Parthasarathy. “I will also be able to expand my public health knowledge in the field of child and adolescent nutrition.”

Shreela Sharma is a professor in the Department of Epidemiology, Human Genetics, and Environmental Sciences at UTHealth School of Public Health and works with the school’s Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living. She is co-founder of Brighter Bites, alongside Lisa Helfman. Vibhu Sharma is CEO of InnoVent Technology, an automation and digital solutions company for the manufacturing industries.

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