My favorite place growing up was a thriving intersection in Downtown Vancouver (Canada). I loved watching the throngs of people, hearing cars and buses rush by, smelling aromatic foods of street vendors, and spying views of glistening mountaintops peeking through the skyscrapers. I'm fascinated by the entanglement of people and place in built, social, and natural environments.
During my undergraduate studies at Queen’s University, geography became an avenue to critically consider and understand the social and environmental contexts of health issues. I am interested in how where we live impacts health and wellbeing. I received my Bachelor of Arts Honors in Geography (2010) and Bachelor of Education (2011), then pursued graduate studies in order to investigate, address, and educate others about geographies of health. I received a Graduate School Fellowship to begin studies in the Department of Geography, Environment and Society at the University of Minnesota.
Upon moving to Minneapolis, I began volunteering in a local senior wellness community program. I took the opportunity to closely observe older people in my community during weekly visits, amassing a breadth of experience no longer limited to visits with my grandparents. I now noticed the woman with her walker laden with groceries struggling to cross the street in time, and began waving to the older man who sat on a shaded bench across the street. As I waded through snow drifts and navigated treacherously icy sidewalks, I reflected on the dangers posed to those less-mobile through unaccommodating environmental contexts. I listened to fears of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, including the dread of losing oneself and the ability to live independently at home. So often invisible and relegated to the margins, older adults took on a new role at the center of my research activities.
After receiving my Master's degree in 2013, I advanced to the Ph.D. to further pursue research in environmental gerontology. My dissertation research involved in-depth qualitative and geospatial methods with older adults and community service providers across the Minneapolis metropolitan area. Findings identified salient neighborhood features (including accessible housing, transportation, and services) to support diverse older adults. My resulting publications advocated for policy to support older adults who are unhoused, low-income, racial and ethnic minorities, isolated, disabled, and aging in underserved communities. I received my Ph.D. in June 2018.
I am also co-author of a popular science book examining aging and lifelong wellbeing through the environment closest in: our microbes. The Whole-Body Microbiome (2019), co-authored with my microbiologist father Dr. Brett Finlay, examines how we might harness the microbes everywhere in and around us to enhance our health and longevity.
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2016: Visiting Scholar
2014-2018: Doctor of Philosophy
2011-2013: Master of Arts
2006-2011 Bachelor of Arts Honors (2010) and Bachelor of Education (2011)