I recently spoke with Assistant Professor of Child Study and Human Development Sasha Fleary and fell in love with my major all over again. Not only is she an incredible lecturer (I had the chance to hear her speak as a guest lecture in one of my classes), but I also learned that she has a clinical background in pediatric psychology and conducts extensive research on children’s wellbeing and preventive health.
“My research focuses on preventive health and health disparities,” Professor Fleary told me. “The two critical periods that are very receptive to developing preventive behaviors are early childhood and adolescence. I’ve found that in these periods, individuals respond well to health habits around physical activity, nutrition, and sleep.”
When Professor Fleary started delving deeper into her research, I found myself mentally mapping out my schedule for next semester to see if I had time to work in her lab. One of the unique benefits of having the clinical background that Professor Fleary has is being able to do applied, intervention driven research.
Her latest project focuses on health literacy. The buzzword of health literacy, according to Professor Fleary, is access. “We are teaching people how to access types of health information and how to use it,” she explained. “It is shocking that things like setting up a doctor’s appointment and being an active patient [aren’t] taught in schools.”
“I am in the process of developing a health literacy intervention that I hope will be piloted in high schools,” she told me. “The goal is to have this added to the health curriculum so students will have specific health literacy training. It’s all about learning how to access and use this important information.”
As I sat rapt in our conversation, I wondered what Professor Fleary loved most about teaching at Tufts. She said, “I think that my favorite thing so far is the inquisitiveness of students. I have had students who I have never met before who make appointments with me just so we can sit and talk about my classes and about the research that I am doing.”
These students probably leave their meetings feeling just as I did when our interview ended—awestruck by the power that Professor Fleary’s research could have on the health and knowledge of students across the nation.