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Kamila Tan, UCLA Fielding School of Public Health alumnus, has been honored with the school’s Lester Breslow Impact Fellowship
Kamila Tan, UCLA Fielding School of Public Health alumnus, has been honored with the school’s Lester Breslow Impact Fellowship for her poetry destigmatizing eating disorders and illustrating her personal journey and path to public health.
Tan (MPH, ‘20) struggled for years with eating disorders, to the point of hospitalization. Since her recovery, she has worked to educate the public about eating disorders and how to prevent young students and athletes from developing them.
At the Fielding School’s 46th Lester Breslow Distinguished Lecture on March 3, Tan spoke out about her experience, and her work as an advocate.
“It’s time to break the stigma— break down walls and destroy barriers and listen to one another,” Tan said. “Because it’s in the times when my heart was beating less than 40 beats per minute during the day, and I was so sick. And so lost. I wished someone would say: ‘There’s a way out; the lights are brighter on the other side, and Kamila—you’re going to be okay. I promise—you’re going to be okay.”
The lecture honors Dr. Lester Breslow, a former dean of the Fielding School and among the first public health experts to quantify the health benefits, risks, and associations with life expectancy of exercise, diet, sleep, and smoking.
“Kamila’s work helps de-stigmatize eating disorders and other mental illnesses, and offers hope and help to those who are struggling today, and their families,” said UCLA Fielding School of Public Health dean and distinguished professor of biostatistics Ron Brookmeyer. “Thank you so much, Kamila, for your willingness to share your journey with us, your inspiration, for increasing awareness of eating disorders, and for all you do to have a positive impact on the health and well-bring of those afflicted and at risk.”
Breslow’s lifetime of achievement is honored by the Distinguished Lecture series and the Lester Breslow Student Fellowship Fund; his widow, Devra Breslow, attended this year’s virtual event. Tan’s fellow Breslow fellowship recipients, Anna Peare and Taylor Rogers, were recognized at the event as well.
Dr. Harvey V. Fineberg, president of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and former president of the U.S. Institute of Medicine (now the National Academy of Medicine), served as the 46th Lester Breslow Distinguished Lecturer.
“We’re taught in public health to respect evidence; this was Lester Breslow’s absolute point of emphasis: we know the plural of anecdote is not evidence,” Fineberg said.
During his lecture, Fineberg, who spoke about “Truth and Trust in Public Health,” used Tan’s work as an example of how to reach the general public.
“People crave stories, they want to know about what happened to an individual, and those stories are memorable and convincing,” Fineberg said. “Imagine if Kamila (Tan) had taken her time just to recite facts about eating disorders; I think none of us would have been so gripped, engaged, and moved by what she was saying.”