Amber Deckard, MPH, CPH, Keep It Movin’ Project Director, Rush University Medical Hospital

How did your interest in health equity begin?

When I started college as a nutrition major, one of my first labs had a quote painted on the wall by Hippocrates: “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.” Food is something that brings us all together, despite our differences. Food can be healing, represents our culture, and is often tied to memories. Ensuring equitable access to safe, affordable, healthy food is something I fell in love with during college. It was at the heart of my volunteering and research, and the thing that launched me into the world of public health and the fight for health equity.

During my undergraduate thesis project, I examined how an individual’s knowledge of dietary fatty acids impacted their blood lipid levels. Through this project I began to learn how education and various social determinants play a significant role in health. During graduate school, I had the opportunity to work with the Fort Worth school district and mayor’s office on a community initiative called FitWorth to encourage families to stay active. I completed my capstone with this program and examined how physical education policies impacted a student’s physical activity levels. It was in these moments all the dots connected for me: education, social determinants of health, policy, and health equity.  

Though I’m still early in my career, I believe this work is where I’m meant to be. I’m thankful to be working with C3EN and the Keep It Movin’ team at Rush University Medical Center, and I’m excited to continue to learn from and serve the community through research. 

What are your current research projects?

I’m the project director for the Keep It Movin’ research program – a church-based intervention to improve physical functioning in African American adults throughout the Chicagoland area. I also assist with the Abundant Living program, a church-based initiative to improve blood pressure in African Americans.

What are you most proud of in your career?

A few years ago, I worked with a culinary medicine program at the Moncrief Cancer Institute in Fort Worth, Texas. This program was designed for individuals receiving treatment and was centered around my favorite quote by Hippocrates “Let food be thy medicine.” The class was filled with lessons and cooking exercises around each food group and was centered around creating budget-friendly meals and understanding food labels. The people I cooked with– laughed at burnt pasta with–debated who’s chopping skills were the best with–these people changed my life and made me realize that community-based research and programming is my passion.

Do you have any fun facts?

I grew up in a small town in North Texas called Blue Ridge, population 821. I’m proud of my Texas roots, and you’ll catch my accent and overuse of y’all in meetings! I moved here almost two years ago and fell in love with the city–not the winters though! I love traveling, all sports, being outdoors, baking, and being a tourist in Chicago!