Houston doctoral student Fangyu Li, MS, was chosen as the 2020 Sharma Fellow, supported by the Shreela and Vibhu Sharma Endowed Fund for Excellence in Community Nutrition, Health, and 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, which was matched by university funds dollar-per-dollar through the UTHealth Game Changers initiative. The fellowship program is administered through the Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living, part of the School of Public Health.
Fellows receive a $2,000 stipend each semester, become 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 with 200 hours completed each semester.
Li is pursuing a doctorate in epidemiology at the School of Public Health. She earned a bachelor’s degree in pharmacy in China and a master’s degree in epidemiology from Tulane University.
“We are grateful to the Sharma Family for their commitment to scholars like Fangyu Li. Their generosity will allow Ms. Li to further her studies in nutritional epidemiology while gaining experience in conducting important community-based research,” said 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.
“I was naturally drawn to the public health field because of my early exposure to health implications faced by my home community,” said Li. “My home country, China, was at the epicenter of the severe acute respiratory syndrome outbreak beginning in 2002. Since then, it becomes my goal to make a significant contribution to the health of citizens in my home and now other local communities through advanced knowledge, effective management, clinical operations, and delivery of health care services.”
“With support from the Sharma fellowship, I hope to learn more about nutritional epidemiology and expand my experiences in public health nutrition research,” Li said. “I hope to explore the social determinants of health inequity among children and to better understand and design innovative solutions to address obesity and other chronic conditions in underserved communities.”
Shreela Sharma is a professor in the Department of Epidemiology, Human Genetics, and Environmental Sciences at the 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.