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Rachel Murphy

Meet SPPH REDI Leader: Rachel Murphy

In this REDI Leader spotlight, we speak with Dr. Rachel Murphy, Associate Professor and Associate Director of Research at the School of Population and Public Health.

Tell us about your background.

My mother is Japanese and my father is white. I grew up in a small, predominately white town in Ontario. I rarely had to explain my background – everyone knew who my parents were, although I just desperately wanted to blend in with my peers. When I moved away, I struggled with how to identify myself, feeling neither ‘Asian’ nor white, but also not fitting into the catch all ‘other’ category as it was often marked on forms. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve embraced my mixed identity and the ways in which it has shaped my experiences. The cultural diversity of Vancouver and UBC was one of the draws of moving and raising my children here with my partner who is also mixed (South Asian and white).

What motivates you to engage in REDI work?

I believe that REDI is central to successful scholarship and teaching. As a health researcher, the pursuit of health for all motivates my research efforts, as the world continues to struggle with health challenges and inequity.

In teaching, the pursuit of inclusion and belonging for all motivates me. Throughout my career I have been mentored by incredible women who supported my development, and provided opportunities that contributed to securing my position at SPPH. Having identity matched mentors was integral to my success. We need greater diversity to foster inclusion of the next generation of learners.

Can you share a project or research you’ve been involved in that promotes REDI?

I am a nutritional epidemiologist. Typically, the onus is placed on the individual to make informed healthy dietary choices. This oversimplifies drivers of dietary intake, particularly in structurally excluded communities that often face systemic barriers to healthy eating. My research program uses a systems-level approach to understand how we can improve dietary intake and achieve more equitable health outcomes.

One project I was involved with at UBC was the development of a community food hub on campus. Community food hubs can help address food insecurity, providing dignified access to food, and addressing intersecting issues underlying food security including affordability, mental health, food justice, equity and inclusion. The project used a Community-Based Participatory Action Research approach to develop and pilot a community food hub, including an at-cost grocery store in the CIRS building at UBC. The market continues to operate as part of other resources to meet financial and well-being support at UBC.

What role do you see yourself playing in improving REDI in population and public health?

I’m honoured to be featured as a REDI leader. I see improving REDI in SPPH and population and public health more broadly, as an ongoing process, and one in which I continue to learn from and alongside my peers and the community in SPPH.

As a faculty member, I think there are numerous ways we can affect change. For instance, purposive recruitment of trainees with a diversity of experience, embedding REDI in research, and in the classroom, and requiring REDI in the grants and proposals that we review. An ongoing commitment to learning and unlearning is also critical.

More broadly, we need a collective, collaborative approach to enact long-lasting improvements in REDI. I am excited to be part of the change in SPPH.