By Marcia Bosscher

Voices: Karen Hye-cheon Kim

In this regular feature at The Well, we hear the stories of women seeking to follow Christ in the university and professional worlds.

A Voice at The Well: Karen Hye-cheon Kim

Special note: Karen is one of the recipients of the Bosscher-Hammond Prize Competition encouraging the integration of faith, learning, and practice awarded at InterVarsity’s Following Christ 2008 conference.

Current position: Assistant Professor in Health Behavior and Health Education at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences

Schooling: B.S. and PhD in Nutritional Sciences from Cornell University, post-doctoral training in the Kellogg Health Scholars Program in Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Specialty: Working with faith-based communities in the creation of culturally appropriate health promotion interventions

What do you enjoy most about your study, research, or work?

I promote the health of underserved communities through encouraging healthy nutrition, physical activity, and cancer screenings. I use a collaborative research approach that emphasizes community-academic partnerships, community organization, and social justice. In my work with Christian faith communities, I merge Biblical principles with evidence-based materials and methods. I enjoy witnessing the power of Christ in changing the health and quality of life of individuals, churches, and communities, and am grateful to be part of the effort of bringing His kingdom here on earth.

How does your faith connect with your study, research, or work?

In my work with the faith-based communities in the Lower Mississippi Delta, I collaborate with pastors and church leaders to develop Bible-based materials and methods to prevent chronic disease, particularly cancer. In the science of public health, it is known what health behaviors need to be practiced to prevent disease. However, the field lacks knowledge on how to empower people to practice these behaviors. In my work with faith communities, we propose Christ as the missing piece in empowerment, and merge state of the art science of health behavior with Biblical principles. We encourage people to draw strength from God to make healthy choices for health promotion.

What would you like Christians to understand about your field? How is your field relevant to other Christians?

Healthy choices are made in a social context. It is harder for those with fewer resources to make healthy choices compared to those with greater resources. Given this reality, the poor and racial/ethnic minorities have poorer health outcomes. These disparities in health are in part due to racism, which is perpetuated by segregation. The power of God is needed in several levels of influence, ranging from the individual to the institutional. On the individual level, Christians can draw strength from God to make healthy choices. On the institutional and societal levels, Christians can be involved in the promotion of social justice.

What do you do when you aren’t studying or working? What are your interests outside of school or work?

Rock climbing was a surprising joy to me. I thought it was all about brute strength, but it entails balance, creativity, and complete trust in your partner. It also gives you great looking muscles!

What is the latest book you’ve read for pleasure, or what book would you like to recommend? What did you like about it?

Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light — The Private Writings of the Saint of Calcutta is a book of Mother Teresa’s diary entries. The book gave me a different perspective of suffering and taught me how to embrace it.

What else would you like us to know about you?

I am recently engaged at the age of 31. It was well worth the wait!

About the Interviewee

Karen is an Associate Professor at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. She received her PhD from Cornell University and was a W.K. Kellogg Community Based Health Scholar at the University of North Carolina School at Chapel Hill Gillings School of Global Public Health. Her research interests are in minority health, translational research, community-based participatory research, and psychosocial aspects of health. She uses a community-based participatory approach to translate evidence-based behavioral interventions so they are appropriate for underserved groups.

About the Interviewer

Marcia Bosscher is the former editor of The Well and now an associate with InterVarsity's Faculty Ministry. Having been married to a professor and sharing life with grad students and faculty in a campus church, she has a deep interest and care for those in the academy. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin, with a golden-retriever mix and a diverse array of lodgers and travelers.