This semester, I am fortunate enough to be working as a Gil Intern at the UNC Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders (CEED). Founded in 2003, CEED is a comprehensive eating disorder research and treatment center. CEED is world renowned for their influential contributions to the field of eating and weight disorder research, and for providing their patients with the highest standard of evidence-based care. My primary responsibilities at CEED are related to my position as coordinator of the Embody Carolina Study.
Eating disorders are highly prevalent on college campuses and, unfortunately, few students receive the treatment they need to recover. Embody Carolina, a UNC student-run training workshop, aims to address this deficit in care by tapping into an underutilized resource: college peers. By teaching students about eating disorders and ways in which they may approach and support struggling peers, Embody Carolina aims to improve the detection of, and support for, individuals with eating disorders, and increase the likelihood that they will seek appropriate professional care.
Although Embody Carolina has been well received at UNC, it is crucial to assess the usefulness of the program if it is to continue. Thus, the purpose of the Embody Carolina Study is to examine the strengths and weaknesses of the training program, and explore ways in which it may be improved. As study coordinator, I am responsible for the execution of this study. Thus far, I have been constructing necessary study materials, including recruitment, consent, and survey materials. Once we launch the study, I will then be responsible for recruiting and following-up with participants, collecting data, addressing participant questions and concerns, and generally ensuring the study runs smoothly by managing any unanticipated issues that may arise.
My experience at CEED is preparing me for my prospective career as a researcher. Broadly, my research interests center on the etiology, treatment, and prevention of eating disorders, which makes CEED the ideal worksite where I may learn more about this field of research and further focus my own interests. As coordinator of the Embody Carolina Study, I am becoming more knowledgeable about how researchers develop and test novel strategies for eating disorder prevention and intervention. I am learning about factors that must be considered when designing an intervention, both theoretical (e.g. according to prior evidence, what components should be included in the intervention?) and logistical (e.g. how should the intervention be distributed?). Further, I am becoming familiar with the ways in which the efficacy and effectiveness of such interventions are established (e.g. what outcomes would indicate the intervention is successful and how should these outcomes be measured?). I consider this experience incredibly valuable, as I hope to one day conduct similar research of my own. I am excited to continue my work with CEED and to enhance my understanding of, and ability to conduct, research, both broadly and in the field of eating disorders.
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