Tāmaki Innovation Campus

Shedding new light on food allergies

Colleen McMilin in the Atrium of the School of Population Health at Tamaki Campus.
PhD student, Colleen McMilin, is planning to pursue a career in academia.

Colleen McMilin is hoping to generate data of both national and international significance, through her PhD thesis, that could shed new light on the epidemiology of food allergies in children.

A graduate of the Montana State University and Colorado School of Public Health, Colleen’s career has focussed on community and behavioural health. It’s a natural fit for her PhD studies in the Centre for Longitudinal Research, where she is using data collected from the Growing Up in New Zealand study to inform her thesis investigating life-course determinants of food allergy in New Zealand children; examining the prevalence and incidence of food allergy, causal factors and the population effects.

Her work includes the role of vitamin D status at birth, health disparities in childhood food allergy identification and management, and quality of life issues faced both by children diagnosed with a food allergy and their families.

Colleen’s past experiences have allowed her the opportunity to work in a variety of public health settings from promoting healthy eating and active living within schools, coordinating a community-based programme among older Latino populations, conducting cardiovascular disease perception-based work among Latino and underserved populations, and assisting with the development and analysis of metabolic research diets.

“While working as a school wellness co-ordinator in the United States, I became interested in the topic of food allergy as I often heard comments about the apparent surge in the number of children with a food allergy. To provide me with a global health perspective, I decided to pursue a PhD outside the United States and joined the Centre for Longitudinal Research at the University of Auckland in 2012.”

Colleen plans to submit her thesis in June and return to the United States to pursue a career in academia in either a postdoctoral fellowship role or as a lecturer. “My research and teaching interests lie within public health with a focus in community health, child health outcomes, nutritional epidemiology, food allergy, community-based participatory research, reducing health disparities, and implications for health policy.” 

“My passion lies in improving public health through research and helping students learn and succeed in their university studies.”

This article was first published in the March 2015 Tāmaki Update

Colleen McMilin’s guide to campus life

With so many opportunities to get involved at the University it is hard (but important) to pick just a few! Joining the Postgraduate Students’ Association has opened the door to many other service opportunities. These commitments have allowed me to gain an understanding in regards to the operational side of academia, further develop leadership skills, contribute to building a sense of community amongst postgraduate students, and experience the importance of teamwork and collaboration. I would encourage postgraduates to get involved as it is a great way to meet other postgraduates. I have really enjoyed volunteering with the LENScience programme as part of the “meet a scientist” segment as it has allowed me to share my passion for health sciences and introduce secondary students to public health.