Past Director’s Letters

Fall 2014

Greetings and welcome to the Strategic Training Initiative for the Prevention of Eating Disorders. Approaching the five-year mark since we first unveiled our training mission, we are grateful for an abundance of riches. We are abundant with mentors and trainees, with nine mentors with diverse expertise and over 20 trainees and more coming on soon with new projects. Abundant in publications on our study findings written by or with our many talented trainees, with dozens now published or in press. Abundant with the support of our funders, including grants from foundations, the U.S. Maternal and Child Health Bureau, and, most importantly, passionate and generous individuals as committed to the cause as we are. And abundant with a number of visiting scholars — both well-known luminaries and emerging leaders in the field — who made the trek to Boston to share their work and learn from our new scientific insights and innovative strategies for training and advocacy.

We are always abundant in projects, all designed to give trainees opportunities to develop new skills and expertise with the guidance of STRIPED faculty and collaborating mentors. We are especially excited about a few of our recently completed projects that are charting new terrain in the field:

And here are some of our new projects underway:

  • A legal study of supplements abused for weight control and muscle building, led by STRIPED Affiliated Faculty in Health Law Jennifer Pomeranz working closely with STRIPED trainee Grant Barbosa.
  • An economic study of the costs of eating disorders to individuals, families, and society led by STRIPED Collaborating Mentor Mihail Samnaliev alongside trainee LeAnn Hyungi Noh.
  • Several new teaching cases in the works this year, following on the heels of our second teaching case, “‘Retweet Does Not Imply Endorsement’: The Logic of Cyberbullying in Schools.”

But as important as these projects are and as proud as we are of our trainees’ accomplishments, the recent passing of one of our global community’s greatest leaders and justice advocates, Nelson Mandela, reminds us that it is not a list of achievements that matters most. It is what we do to improve the lives of others and to make our world more just. In the many inspiring tributes to Mandela that I read after his passing, it was one quote that took me by surprise in how deeply it resonated with our STRIPED mission: To create a society where girls and boys alike can grow up at home in their own bodies.

An article in the Boston Globe reported: “Asked once why he favored loosely cut shirts with colorful patterns (they became his sartorial trademark), Mr. Mandela replied, ‘You must remember I was in jail for 27 years. I want to feel freedom.’” What struck me about this quote is that with all the profound issues of society that Mandela confronted every day of his life, he also recognized the profundity of simply feeling free in one’s own body. The Madiba shirts he was known for represented in the very least freedom from the physical constriction of a suit, buttoned dress shirt, and tie.

It likely was also an expression of freedom from the constraint of Western-style dress in the post-apartheid South African context. But maybe Mandela’s words can also speak to us about the right to feel free from the discrimination, stigma, and inequities that imprison — literally and figuratively — so many types of bodies: Black bodies and all bodies of color, large bodies, women’s bodies, gay bodies. Much of what we do in STRIPED is motivated by the desire to end the injustices of weight discrimination and the perverse equation of beauty with worth in our society that can be so damaging especially in the lives of girls and women. In STRIPED, we too work so that all bodies can someday feel free.

-S. Bryn Austin, ScD

Spring 2013

Greetings and welcome to the Strategic Training Initiative for the Prevention of Eating Disorders. It seems like yesterday when we launched STRIPED, fueled by hope, hard work, and the generous support of Ellen Feldberg Gordon to pursue our goal of jump starting graduate-level public health training in eating disorders prevention. It was exciting to see but, in the early days, still too untested to know if we could succeed. Now flash forward as we near the four-year mark: We are not just succeeding, we are thriving.

This year alone, we added four outstanding scholars to our team:

  • Faculty Jerel Calzo, PhD: Specializes in male eating disorders, masculinity norms, and sexual orientation health disparities.
  • Affiliated Faculty in Health Law Jennifer Pomeranz, JD, MPH: National leader in legal strategies to solve public health problems.
  • Visiting Scholar Christina Roberto, PhD: Focuses on novel policy approaches to health promotion.
  • Collaborating Mentor Davene Wright, PhD: Expert in economic and decision analysis methods for health promotion planning.

A sign of STRIPED’s growth and broadening appeal, this year we are enjoying an uptick in students from around the globe, including South Korea, China, and Chile. Also, with 10 trainees, we now have more on board than ever before, and this spring we are celebrating our second doctoral graduate.

So what’s our appeal? If I had to point to one thing, I’d say it’s our inquiry-centered training model. We don’t teach through traditional, expert-down instruction. With STRIPED — in the words of pioneering educator Donald Finkel — “It is the inquiry that teaches,” inspiring us in our common quest. Everything we do is organized first around one question: “How can we create a society where girls and boys alike can grow up at home in their own bodies?” From this flow all our follow-up questions, the ones that shape and give meaning to each of our many projects. Shared inquiry is at the heart of our STRIPED community.

-S. Bryn Austin, ScD

Fall 2011


Greetings and welcome to the Strategic Training Initiative for the Prevention of Eating Disorders. Three years since we took our first tentative steps, we now have our feet firmly on the ground. If you are new to STRIPED or a returning reader, spending a few minutes looking through our website should give you a good a sense of what we’ve been up to lately. Our mission statement should give you a sense of why we are so committed to preventing eating disorders and problems with food, weight, and appearance and to achieving equity for all girls and boys in our society.

Another crucial aspect of STRIPED is our philosophy about learning and education. After all, our raison d’être is transdisciplinary, transformative training – training our nation’s future leaders in public health and adolescent medicine also to be national leaders in public health approaches to eating disorders prevention. My own philosophy of teaching and mentoring has been deeply influenced by the work of Dr. Ellen Langer, Professor of Psychology at Harvard University. In her book The Power of Mindful Learning, Dr. Langer exhorts us to find ways to step off the rails of routinized trains of thought, to question what we “know” so that we can bring new perspectives and solutions to conditions we have reflexively assumed to be inevitable. She writes:

“How can we know if we do not ask? Why should we ask if we are certain we know? All answers come  out of the question. If we pay attention to our questions, we increase the power of mindful learning…. When we are mindful, we recognize that the way in which we tend to construct our world is only one construction among many. We might consider reconstructing this world….”

With STRIPED, we don’t know all the answers as how to prevent eating disorders and problems with food, weight and appearance. We don’t profess to. What we do know is how to think about what we know and what we need to know to. How to ask questions that will make a difference.

-S. Bryn Austin, ScD