Hi! My name is Alexis Whellan and I am a fourth year MD/MPH student at UTMB in Galveston. I am applying to Internal Medicine residency programs right now and finishing up my Master of Public Health requirements through interning with the Nutrition Department at GCFB!
I was born and raised in Austin, Texas and grew up with my sister, 2 cats and a dog. I went to college in New York before making my way back to sunny Texas for medical school. Through the MD/MPH dual-degree program, I have been able to focus on understanding medically underserved populations in Galveston County. I’ve done a lot of work at the St. Vincent’s Student Clinic and volunteered with GCFB in a few different roles.
Over the past few months, I have been helping out on a project putting together meal kits for GCFB clients with and at risk for diabetes through a grant from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas (BCBS) titled “GCFB Fights Chronic Health Conditions: Diabetes with Nutrition Education and Rx Meal Kits”. I was interested in helping with this project because it focused on using nutrition to improve people’s health, which brings together my passion for healthcare and public health.
For the BCBS project, I helped create diabetes information materials, recipes, and put together the meal kit boxes that we are distributing. For each meal kit, we wanted to provide information about diabetes and how to manage and treat diabetes with balanced meals. We also wanted to provide nutritional information with each recipe that we developed. It is important for clients with or at risk of developing diabetes to understand how food plays a role in their health, and the recipes and information sheets I created were meant to increase awareness of this fact. We developed four recipes to provide as meal kits to people in Galveston County. I helped pack up the meal kits and assisted with creating recipe video content for people to follow along as they are making their meal kit recipe.
I was also involved with two classes that the Nutrition Department taught this Fall – one at the Texas City High School and one at the Nesler Senior Center in Texas City. At the Texas City High School, I helped the nutrition educators teach high school students about healthy eating practices and assisted with food demonstrations for the students. At the Nesler Senior Center, I edited content for a class teaching about “Reducing Added Sugars” and led a food demonstration and lecture to the senior class. At the Nesler Senior Center class, we also distributed meal kits to the participants and solicited feedback from them regarding their experience with the meal kit and information sheets. They overwhelmingly liked the meal they made and felt like the information we provided them would help them continue to make healthy food decisions.
Finally, I created surveys to objectively analyze the effectiveness of the BCBS project. Over the next year while the project is being rolled out, participants in the meal kit program and those who receive educational materials will be able to fill out the survey to provide feedback to the Nutrition Department and inform future grant projects.
While interning with the Nutrition Department, I also had the occasional opportunity to help staff the GCFB pantry. It was fun to get to know pantry staff and work with them to provide groceries to sometimes more than 300 people in one day! I also got to see a Corner Store project in San Leon. This was a completely new experience for me, and it was cool to see fresh produce provided to Galveston County residents in a convenience store. One day in November, the Nutrition Department spent the morning at Seeding Galveston, learning about urban farming and sustainability. I live on Galveston Island and had never heard of this project before, so I was excited to learn more about the different ways people are working to fight food insecurity in my own city. We also were able to participate in the first annual Internal Festival at the Children’s Museum in Galveston, where we educated families on the importance of washing produce and shared a healthy winter soup recipe with them.
Interning at GCFB has been an amazing experience. I have had the opportunity to work with some amazing staff members who are dedicated to educating Galveston County residents and fighting food insecurity in their community. I enjoyed learning how a food bank runs and all the work that goes into each project and each educational class. I know that what I have learned here over the past few months will help me be a better physician in the future, and I am so grateful to the Nutrition Department for this opportunity.