Tashara Leak, Ph.D., R.D., Assistant Professor in the Division of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell University, Ithaca campus and Assistant Professor of Nutrition Research in Medicine in the Division of General Internal Medicine at Weill Cornell in NYC, has been awarded The Schwartz Research Fund for Women and other Underrepresented Faculty in the Life Sciences in the amount of $20,000, made possible by generous support from Joan Poyner Schwartz ’65 and Ronald H. Schwartz ’65, Chemistry majors in the College of Arts and Sciences, and pioneers in promoting the work and careers of women in the life sciences. The Schwartz Research Fund’s primary goal is to provide seed money for investment in pilot experiments that generate novel preliminary data or open a significant new line of inquiry.
Dr. Leak is a health equity researcher who conducts interventions that aim to improve dietary behaviors of culturally diverse, urban adolescents at risk for developing obesity-related chronic diseases (e.g., type 2 diabetes). Her winning project, A Telehealth Intervention to Reduce Type 2 Diabetes Risk among Adolescent Girls from Low-Income, Urban Households, was viewed by the selection committee as having an important impact on underserved communities. Prediabetes and type 2 diabetes (T2D) incidence is rising at an alarming rate among U.S. adolescents, and girls and those from low-income backgrounds are disproportionately at risk. There is a critical need for lifestyle interventions that target this high risk and underserved population. The Leak Lab will examine the preliminary efficacy and feasibility of a 12-week telehealth lifestyle intervention that includes livestream group nutrition lessons and check-in, a weekly cooking experience at home preparing a healthy meal using ingredients sent via Amazon Fresh, and livestream dance classes. Study participants will be recruited from the New York Presbyterian-Weill Cornell Medicine Pediatric Endocrinology Clinic (Manhattan, NY). The overall aim of the study is to create an evidence-based intervention to improve diet quality, physical activity, body composition, and glycemic measures in adolescents that can eventually be offered more broadly.