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Ashley Morisako [Hawai’i]

Ashley Morisako

Ashley Morisako

Degree sought: Master of Public Health-Native Hawaiian and Indigenous Health Track
Hometown: Honolulu, Hawai’i

What drew your interest to the CHL training program?
I was particularly interested in the CHL training program due to my personal experiences dealing with childhood obesity.  I was an obese child from an early age and really worked hard to live a healthier life with many thanks to teachers, coaches, and mostly, the Kamehameha Schools.  Through their extraneous physical education program, I was able to quickly learn the importance of exercise and a healthy lifestyle.  My first mile I ever ran/walk took 16 minutes, and I was not proud of that; something was wrong because all of my other 4th grade classmates had finished in less than ten minutes.  The Kamehameha Schools served as the foundation for me in adopting a healthier lifestyle, and I feel that the CHL training program provides me with the vehicle in which I can give back to the Native Hawaiian community by sharing my personal and academic knowledge related to childhood obesity.

What are your long-term goals?
As a health professional, decreasing the health disparities faced by Native Hawaiians would be my long-term goal.  Because my interests are in place-based learning and a return to cultural practices to decrease rates of chronic disease, another long-term goal would be to encourage a shift in schools to use more culture-based learning through gardening and the seed-to-table concept.  Upon graduation from the MPH program, I would like to continue on to become a leader for the Native Hawaiian community.  Building trusting relationships and demonstrating my passion to advocate for Native Hawaiian health through this training program allows me to start tackling these goals early in my career.

What is the most valuable thing you’ve learned thus far from the CHL program?
The most valuable thing I’ve learned so far from the CHL program is the importance of building a rapport with the community early on.  As researchers, we need to understand that the community members are people not guinea pigs that we can experiment on and forget after the results are published.  I have learned that the most effective research projects include the community members every step of the way.  Many studies have mistreated community members in this fashion and have left a bitter taste in their mouths.  Through cultural competency training and hands on experiences provided by the CHL program, I will always keep these lessons in my mind when conducting community-based research.

Any words of wisdom for future CHL trainees?
For any future CHL trainees, make sure that you are taking part in this program for the right reasons.  There are such great opportunities that the CHL training program has to offer us, but if childhood obesity in your community is not your primary area of interest, the program may not be suitable for you.  We touch on a multitude of interrelated factors of childhood obesity, all of which are connected on multiple levels, which is extremely important to understanding the extent of the childhood obesity epidemic in the Pacific.  If childhood obesity is something that you are very passionate about, I can guarantee you that you will learn so much.  What is really great about this training program is that it is specific to native, underserved communities, you get to learn about the different Pacific cultures, and meet great scholars representing each jurisdiction.  This is a great opportunity to jump start your academic career and build relationships with the community as we are required to conduct a CHL project in our home jurisdictions.  We learn very beneficial tools to conducting our own research project as well as work with great mentors and advisors who have the experience and training to guide us to serve our communities in the best way possible.