by Aira Jae Etheridge
Journal of Human Lactation (JHL) would like to congratulate Nathan Nickel, MPH, PhD on his new role as Associate Editor of the journal. Dr. Nickel now shares this position with Donna Chapman, PhD, RD.
Before taking on this new role, he worked on JHL’s Editorial Review Board, which required active participation in the peer-review process, reviewing articles for scientific content and identifying emerging contributions in the field of human lactation.
Dr. Nickel received his undergraduate degree from Southern Adventist University, his Masters of Public Health in Community Health Sciences from the University of California, Los Angeles, and his doctorate in Maternal and Child Health Policy from the University of North Carolina (UNC), Chapel Hill. He is currently a Research Scientist at the Manitoba Center for Health Policy, where he worked closely with Dr. Patricia Martens. In fact, Dr. Martens was his postdoc adviser on research examining child health inequities in Manitoba. They also worked together on a study looking at the healthcare costs associated with smoking in Manitoba. Dr. Nickel teaches a course on statistical methods for doctoral students and biostatistics for medical students. When he is not teaching, he finds time to conduct independent breastfeeding research.
One little known fact about Dr. Nickel is that he that he began his career as a pastor and chaplain. He says his biggest challenge was shifting his mentality from comforting others during challenging times to developing approaches to address public health-related issues.
When asked how he began his career in Public Health, Dr. Nickel shared this interesting story.
“In 2001, I was teaching English to high school students in a small rural town in northern Mongolia, Sant Suum, with a population of around 1,200. The town had been hit hard during the transition to a market economy in the early 1990s. About one-third of families living in Sant faced food insecurity. While I was there, I connected with a Mongolian non-governmental organization working in the area, Mongolian Outreach Services.
I partnered with them to develop a microeconomic agriculture project focused on reducing food insecurity among these families using a multipronged approach. At the end of the first year, families had increased food diversity and security. Doing this project, I learned about the importance of conducting community-based needs assessments and designing projects with an eye towards sustainability after the funding has ended.
This experience was the most important, because it was my first exposure to health interventions focused on improving family nutrition. I learned a lot doing this project, but I also realized that I had a lot more to learn. It was during this project that I decided to pursue graduate training in public health; I wanted to become more effective at improving population and public health and realized that I needed a broader skill set to accomplish this. My work as a health policy research scientist is really an extension of the lessons I learned while engaged in this project: sustainable strategies that improve public and population health.”
While reflecting on his time at UNC, Dr. Nickel appreciates the rigorous work conducted with Dr. Miriam Labbok, MD, MPH, FACPM, FABM, IBCLC and Emily Taylor, MPH, CD (DONA), LCCE. It was during this time that he learned the importance of thoroughly explaining study design strategies and properly conducting various study design methods. It was also during this time that he developed a passion for helping other researchers conduct good science and motivate them to implement new approaches.
JHL is delighted to have Dr. Nickel on board as Associate Editor.
Aira Jae Etheridge is a student at Boston University School of Public Health in Maternal and Child Health, MPH Candidate, a JHL student intern, and CHAMPS Regional Coordinator for The Breastfeeding Center at Boston Medical Center.