Member Spotlight

Q&A with Dr. Lauren Fiechtner

Dr. Lauren Fiechtner, MD, MPH

Director of Nutrition, Division of Gastroenterology and General Academic Pediatrics MassGeneral for Children 

Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School

Senior Health and Research Advisor, Greater Boston Food Bank 

Q: Tell me a bit about yourself and your background?

I’m from the Midwest originally but came to Boston University for Medical School because of their mission, “exceptional care without exception” and I was very drawn to the social justice work that they were doing in the healthcare space. Massachusetts policies are leading in different arenas. It’s been exciting to be here in Massachusetts to see how these policies improve health, but also looking to see how things could be spread nationally. I’m currently the Director of Nutrition and a Pediatric Gastroenterologist at Mass General for Children in Boston, and I’m also the Senior Health in Research Advisor at the Greater Boston Food Bank. I was lucky enough to be Deborah Haire-Jashu’s IS2 mentee the last 2 years in the fellowship and that’s how I got to work with the Washington University Team. It’s been amazing.

Q: What is the most compelling information that you found in your research to date?

I’ve been doing childhood obesity treatment interventions for the past 11 years.  We we’re lucky enough to prove our Healthy Weight Clinic model worked at improving BMI in two lower income communities in Massachusetts which was very exciting as a young researcher. It has recently been recognized as one of the eight effective pediatric weight management intervention by the American Academy of Pediatrics and Centers for Disease Control. What was sobering is when we looked at those who had food insecurity versus those who didn’t in the original randomized trial their BMI increased by 0.5 kg/m2 per year. This primed me to start working with a Greater Boston Food Bank and to start thinking about how to get healthy nutritious foods to families who are in need.

Q: Tell me about what you wish your research could solve right now. And or a burning question that your research could possibly answer in the future.

We just put out the statewide report on the food insecurity rates in Massachusetts. We found 1 in 3 households are struggling with food insecurity, and 1 in 3 children are. This is the third year we’ve done the report since COVID started. SNAP, WIC enrollments are up, and people are using food pantries more, but we know the statistics has a lot to do with the racism and the poverty cycle. I hope we can create lived expertise policy solutions to break this cycle and the chronic public health issue of food insecurity.

Q: What type of services would be most useful for your developing career?

Debra’s mentorship made a huge amount of difference to me, and I think that we often focus more on our trainees and our junior faculty but it’s mid-level career people that sometimes get forgotten. How do we support them, and not forget that they also need a different kind of support in their mid-level? Once you get a few small grants and begin to establish your research lab people assume we don’t need mentorship and support. But, we still need help in getting to the next step.

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