PhD Candidate Explores Link Between Protein Intake and Health Outcomes

Photo of Ji Yun Tark with cover art that says
Ji Yun Tark, MPH, a PhD candidate in epidemiology at UTHealth Houston School of Public Health

Ji Yun Tark, MPH, a PhD candidate in epidemiology at UTHealth Houston School of Public Health, is investigating the associations between protein consumption and hypertension and cardiovascular disease (CVD). For Tark, the complex link between nutrition and health outcomes is critical for public health research.

Tark will defend her dissertation studies this April, examining the associations of protein consumption with incident hypertension and CVD in the multi-ethnic US adult population. Unlike previous research that primarily examined protein intake in general, Tark emphasizes the significance of investigating protein consumption by food source. She explains that the variations in amino acid compositions or associated nutrients in foods containing protein may lead to differing effects on health outcomes based on the source of the protein.

Tark currently works as a graduate research assistant with Associate Professor Marcia de Oliveira Otto, PhD, from the Department of Epidemiology. This role allows Tark to be involved simultaneously in three observational studies aimed at understanding the intricate relationship between nutrition and health.

As a part of Otto’s research group, Tark’s primary focus lies in investigating the patterns of low-quality diet among individuals with oropharyngeal cancer during the acute, extended, and permanent stages of cancer survivorship. This prospective study involves collecting data from MD Anderson Cancer Center and the Michael E. DeBakey Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, including patient dietary information, to examine their dietary patterns and nutritional status for further research. 

Reflecting on her academic journey, Tark recounts her pursuit of education in nutrition and public health, spanning across countries from South Korea to the U.S. Despite facing challenges such as disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she remained resilient in her quest for knowledge and contribution to public health research.  

Looking ahead, Tark aspires to continue her career as an epidemiologist, exploring diverse disease domains while focusing on nutrition-related research. Her dedication to unraveling the complexities of nutrition and its impact on health underscores the importance of ongoing research in public health.   

As she prepares to defend her dissertation, Tark remains committed to advancing scientific knowledge and contributing to improving global health outcomes.

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