Associate Professor, Hubert Department of Global Health
Jointly Appointed, Department of Epidemiology
Affiliated Faculty in both the Nutrition and Health Sciences Doctoral Program and Master’s in Development Practice Program, Laney Graduate School
Co-Director, Emory Center of Excellence in Maternal and Child Health
Co-Director, Emory Urban Health Initiative
“I love the learning process of teaching, because you really have to learn the material well in order to teach it, and I love learning.”
Amy Webb Girard functions best when she’s busy, which is her perpetual state these days. In an attempt to tackle everything on her to-do list, she wakes at 4:15 a.m. so she can juggle each of her various roles: she’s a mother of two, a wife, an associate professor and affiliated professor across numerous departments, a researcher, the co-director of two major programs, a full-time student at Emory School of Nursing, and more.
“My mother used to keep me home from school deliberately, because she was like, ‘I need you to stay home and sleep for a day,’” she recalls. “I’ve always been like this.”
Girard’s insatiable thirst for knowledge and discovery are aspects of her personality that make her a prolific researcher, inspiring colleague, and beloved teacher.
“I love the learning process of teaching, because you really have to learn the material well in order to teach it, and I love learning,” she says.
Girard’s techniques and effectiveness as a teacher have not gone unnoticed. She received Emory University’s Crystal Apple Award for Excellence in Graduate School Education in 2012, the Hubert Department of Global Health Teaching Award in 2015, and the Association of Schools & Programs of Public Health’s Early Career Public Health Teaching Award in 2019.
All of these accolades speak to her life-long dream of wanting to become a teacher. She scratched that initial itch as a high school science teacher before heading back to school for her PhD in nutrition sciences at Emory (her dad and great-grandfather are Emory alumni too!). After, she completed a postdoc at Harvard and joined the faculty in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Toronto where she worked with food security programs and HIV populations and nutrition before joining the faculty at Rollins.
Now, she’s attending nursing school to become a nurse practitioner, so she can learn to effectively expand programs that can support people within communities and build authentic relationships with communities. She says, “I’m finding there’s this disconnect between what we do in terms of public health policy and practice, and what’s happening in people’s real lives. I’m hoping through my nursing training I’ll be able to better bridge that. So, you never stop learning or going to school—at least I don’t.”
All of Girard’s research touches upon the structural and social determinants of health with an emphasis on nutrition. She looks at factors like education, poverty, and food security, and sees how those intersect to impact nutrition and health. Currently, about half of her research is focused in East Africa and examines food-based strategies and agriculture and food security approaches to improving maternal and child nutrition. The other 50 percent is focused in Atlanta and looks at similar things, but with diet-related chronic diseases.
As co-director of the Emory Urban Health Initiative, Girard is involved with several projects that work to positively improve urban health through research, community partnerships, and education programs. One such program is Food as Medicine, which aims to provide patients and families within the Grady Health System with access to healthy, affordable food and nutrition education to empower people to actively transform their lives.
“As long as my work is empathetic—and not sympathetic, mind you—to people’s realities, and ensures that what I’m doing is responsive to that, then the outcomes will come, and the outcomes will be what they will be,” she says. “My goal is to truly listen to what communities are saying and needing and doing.”