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Arnold School of Public Health

I Am Public Health: Lesley Leake

November 1, 2022 | Erin Bluvas,

Lesley Leake is an Arnold School alumna, staff member and student. The Master of Public Health (MPH) in Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior (HPEB) graduate (2017) and research associate with the Center for Applied Research and Evaluation (CARE) is currently a student in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences (ENHS).

“I joined the ENHS Ph.D program to marry my personal interests in the environment and public health and to bolster the research expertise I’ve gained at CARE,” she says.

Originally from York, South Carolina, Leake earned dual bachelor degrees (biology, psychology) at the College of Charleston. As an undergraduate, her biology courses sparked an interest in the environmental health field that she would return to nearly a decade later.

I am most interested in the role that nature plays in our mental and physical wellbeing. 

-Lesley Leak, Ph.D. in Environmental Health Sciences student

After graduation, Leake spent a couple years as a program coordinator for clinical research in the pulmonary department at the Medical University of South Carolina. When she enrolled in her MPH program in 2015, she began working with CARE as a graduate assistant. This position evolved into a full-time role following her 2017 graduation.

“After finishing my MPH, I swore I would never go back to school, yet here I am!” Leake says. “That is thanks in large part to my colleague and mentor at CARE, Dr. Kelli Kenison, who took me under her wing in 2015, encouraged me to consider the ENHS Ph.D. program, and is a role model for kindness, sincerity and empathy.”

The exercise enthusiast (think: yoga, long distance running, yoga instruction) currently evaluates healthy eating and active living interventions for CARE, and she’s hoping to expand her work to environmental health projects – thanks to her doctoral training.

Leake is already gaining practical experience in this area as she recently secured funding (in collaboration with classmate Maria McClam) from New York University to evaluate the impacts of an environmental science-based farm-to-school curriculum for urban youth in Charleston, S.C. Also in Charleston, which is her home base, Leake is the midst of her first semester teaching environmental health to public health students at her alma mater.

“I am most interested in the role that nature plays in our mental and physical wellbeing,” Leake says. “In my research, I am looking at the connection between urban greenspace and health.”

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