Angie Lam was one of 142 students who graduated from Loma Linda University School of Public Health on June 12. But unlike her fellow graduates, she was honored with the President’s Award for her exemplary service and willingness to always go above and beyond the call of duty.
While learning about the recognition prior to the graduation ceremony, Lam said she was very surprised, grateful and honored.
“It’s been a long journey,” Lam stated.
Coming from a background in business and accounting, Lam did a complete 180 after going from the cubicle life of finance to pursue an education that would allow her to get involved with the community and give her the sense of fulfillment she had been lacking.
“I became interested in nutrition because chronic diseases, such as diabetes and hypertension, have always plagued my family,” she said. “I wanted to learn how to manage these diseases and, ultimately, prevent them enabling individuals to live healthier more fulfilling lives.”
Fast forward and she’s at Loma Linda University, one of only two schools in California that offers a nutrition and dietetics program with a link to serving the needy. “Loma Linda is all about community and diversity,” she said, “and it’s known for health care and community involvement, especially an underserved population.”
“She never said no to any service activity,” said Ella Haddad, DrPH, MS, RD, assistant professor of nutrition and program director for the MPH program, who nominated Lam for the award. “To me, Angie has been the ideal student – an excellent scholar who enjoyed learning, submitted work on time and maintained an excellent GPA.”
When asked who was her biggest inspiration at LLU, Lam fittingly stated it was Haddad.
“She has been very inspiring,” Lam said. “Dr. Haddad goes above and beyond as a program director and always encourages her students to become involved in the community. She loves sharing her passion and knowledge for nutrition with them."
Haddad added that Lam took up student leadership positions in various entities and encouraged others to participate. “I mostly appreciated her willingness to volunteer and serve in various activities such as the Helping Hands Pantry, Operation Fit, and the Farmer’s Market evaluation project,” she stated.
Lam, who will officially receive her MPH in nutrition and dietetics at the end of the summer once she completes her clinical rotation, has focused her education on serving communities in need. She’s volunteered at the Helping Hands Pantry in San Bernardino, a nonprofit organization dedicated to feeding and providing resources of those in need.
Lam also spent much of her summer in 2015 working with kids from underserved communities during Operation Fit – a series of six week-long camps at Loma Linda University Drayson Center that teach kids how to cook and grow their own healthy food and implement regular exercise into their lifestyle and their families.
“We need to instill good habits in children so they won’t have to worry about disease when they’re older,” Lam stated. “Operation Fit was a short program, but I could see a change and that was really rewarding.”
Lam wants to continue in that same type of work with underserved communities promoting health and wellness and preventing chronic diseases. She plans to return to her hometown of San Francisco in the fall, but said, “things can always change.”
Although Lam has kept herself busy while working on her master’s, she has tried to remain physically active. “I run because it’s good for stress relief,” she said. She’s run four marathons and countless half marathons, most recently the Orange County half marathon in May. “I don’t have a lot of free time so I fit it running in where I can.”