Featured MassKicker

Carmina Valle PhD

I’ve learned that many survivors face issues with isolation, fatigue, weight gain, changes to their body

Carmina Valle is another research-oriented mAss Kicker! She earned her Master’s degree in Public Health from Drexel University in 2002.  She got her PhD in Nutrition from the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill in 2012.  She is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Weight Research Program at the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill.  Dr. Valle has already received many honors and awards from the University of North Carolina, Society of Behavioral Medicine, Office of Cancer Survivorship – National Cancer Institute/National Institute of Health, and many more.  She has published articles in peer-reviewed journals about the benefits of physical activity in the young adult survivor demographic.  She also has presented at: the Biennial Cancer Survivorship Research Conference in Atlanta, GA; the Society of Behavioral Medicine 35th Annual Meeting & Scientific Sessions in Philadelphia, PA;  International Society for Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2013 Annual Conference in Ghent, Belgium; and many more.  We met Dr. Valle in Atlanta a few years ago and are honored to spend a few moments with her.

mK:  Thanks for doing this Dr. Valle! What is your relationship to tumors/cancer:
CV: I’ve been working in the field of cancer prevention and control for the last ten years, and I’m grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to work with and meet so many cancer survivors along the way. Many of my family and friends have been affected by cancer, and I’ve lost family and friends too soon from cancer. My maternal grandmother passed away from colon cancer before I ever had the chance to meet her. So I have always wondered what she was like and how I might be like her.

mK:  Why is research so important? What do you do?
CV: Research helps us understand why things work the way we do and how we can apply this knowledge to promote better health and quality of life. I am a health behavior scientist. My research focuses on developing, testing and disseminating technology-based physical activity and weight control interventions for cancer prevention and control. I have a particular interest developing health communication interventions for cancer survivors that address cancer health disparities.

mK: What motivates you?
CV: I really enjoy helping people.

mK: Who is your personal hero or are your heroes?
CV: It’s hard to say. I wouldn’t really say that I have heroes. I am definitely inspired by so many people and their actions. Having been educated at a Quaker school for 12 years, I really embrace the notion that everyone is equal and has their own gifts to share. So I guess, I would say that everyone has hero moments, and I try to be mindful of that.

mK: What makes you laugh, cry, angry?
CV: Laughing is definitely one of my favorite things to do. Wes Anderson films make me laugh. I can pretty much get choked up watching a TV commercial, so I don’t watch many of those. I get frustrated at times, and I may notice when I’m feeling anger. But I try to let it go and let it motivate me to turn that anger into something positive.

mK:  What would you say is the most interesting thing you’ve ever done?
CV:  Hmm, that’s a tough one. I hope that the most interesting thing is still yet to come. But spending the holidays in Australia last year was definitely interesting and filled with new, amazing experiences.

mK:  Based on what you’ve observed, what is the toughest challenge a survivor faces? 
CV: I’ve seen survivors face so many different challenges, and what is toughest for one person may not be so much of a challenge for another person. In my work, I’ve learned that many survivors face issues with isolation, fatigue, weight gain, changes to their body…the list goes on.

mK: Let get to know you better, what is your guilty pleasure?
CV:  I love chocolate. But I don’t feel guilty about it.

mK:  Hahaha… OK, here’s another strange question for you… What would you do if you found out you had 24 hours to live?
CV:  I would tell all the people in my life that I love them and am so grateful to have them in my life.

mK: What are you up to now?
CV: I am finishing up a postdoctoral fellowship and working to transition into a faculty position where I continue to do health behavior research.

mK: Good luck!  Health behavior after a tumor/cancer diagnosis is VERY important and often times overlooked!  Any advice for people or loved ones that get daunting diagnoses?
CV: Ask questions, get second opinions, get informed and ask for support.

mK: Tell us something about yourself that people probably didn’t know… anything.
CV: In college, I was a walk on to the varsity lacrosse team and was later elected captain my senior year.

mK: Cool!  Any parting words for all the mAss Kickers?
CV: Go out and kick some mAss!

Dr. Carmina Valle:  College lacrosse super star, family centered health behavior scientist, chocolate lover, Wes Anderson film buff, strong survivor health advocate, Australia adventurer, and driven individual.  Thanks for spending time with us Dr. Valle!  We look forward to collaborating with you on future projects!  Check out the University of North Carolina’s Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center! 

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