Name: Sally S. Wong, PhD, RD, CDN, FAHA
Title: Associate Science & Medicine Advisor
Organization: American Heart Association
How did you end up here today, and what motivates you to work on issues to help our kids grow up healthier?
As a Registered Dietitian who has worked in a hospital setting and who ran my own private practice for twelve years prior to joining the American Heart Association, I have seen countless children and their parents struggling with various chronic conditions that could have been easily prevented with proper nutrition and exercise. After I completed my doctoral degree in nutrition, I wrestled with how I could best position my clinical, advocacy, and research background to make an impact in our kids’ future. When I learned about the job opening for a science and medicine advisor with Voices for Healthy Kids, I thought this was the best job that I could have ever asked for. This position is a happy marriage between research and advocacy, and having the ability to work with researchers, scientists, attorneys, and advocates all at once is probably the most unique way to help in creating a healthy environment for our kids to grow up.
How are you working to change the environment to make it healthier and create a culture of health?
I am fortunate to be able to work with an extremely knowledgeable group of researchers and experts in the childhood obesity space. My role as the Associate Science and Medicine Advisor not only provides science review and support to the Voices for Healthy Kids team, but also solicits input from researchers and academic institutions on their expertise in childhood obesity. As I work to identify the types of data and research (scientific, legal, and political) that are needed for the Voices for Healthy Kids advocacy campaigns, I also help to create platforms and determine pathways to effectively align our current research assets specific to all of our policies. By providing the science and research base to inform and shape our policy approach, I am optimistic that we are moving the needle to help create a culture of health for our next generation.
What are your biggest accomplishments in helping children achieve a healthy weight? [personal and professional]
My biggest professional accomplishments are times we get a policy win in the campaigns we support. That tells me we are yet another step closer to helping children achieve a healthy weight.
What excites you the most about showing up for work every day?
I am very blessed to work for an organization that is aligned with both my professional and personal goals. Waking up each morning and knowing that I will be working with such a dynamic team of colleagues that is so driven to help to improve the lives of our children motivates me. The fact that I know we are collectively transforming our communities to eat healthier and be more physically active is the biggest reason I enjoy every single minute of my job.
If you were starting out in your career, what would you recommend to your younger self?
I wish I could go back and tell myself to not worry so much. I used to spend a lot of time in my 20’s thinking and planning and worrying about this long list of things, and I wish I could get all that time back. Now that I am approaching 40, I need to constantly remind myself that things will always work out.
What healthy snacks did you enjoy growing up? OR What game or sport did you play growing up?
I really can’t put my finger on just the one or two healthy snacks growing up. My dad is an extremely phenomenal cook, and very creative in his culinary skills to say the least. One thing I would say is that we rarely consumed any processed or packaged food growing up, particularly given that both of my parents are so particular in having only the freshest ingredients and love preparing their dishes from scratch. I think that on its own has been an extreme blessing for both my sister and me.
Each week, our own Amy Stone speaks with a Leader to get a quick look at why he or she loves working to create healthy environments for kids. Want to take part? Visit Amy’s profile and contact her.