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Kayee Liu

In his dietetics rotation at Keck Hospital of USC, Master of Science in Nutrition, Healthspan and Longevity (MSNHL) student Kayee Liu enjoys sitting down with patients and helping them develop healthy eating plans.

“It’s fun talking to patients,” he says. “I just like talking to people.”

After graduation this May, he looks forward to continuing that work, both one-to-one as a dietitian and also expanding those conversations to a wider audience through education and filmmaking.

“I want to do something media-related as well as something clinical — a little bit of everything,” he says. “I want to get a message out.”

Liu, who studied human biology and society at UCLA before coming to the USC Leonard Davis School, first became interested in using media to share information about food and nutrition during his senior year. He took a class on making documentary films for social change, and his final project for the course examined food access and marketing to children in South Pasadena.

“I followed a family as they navigated their community,” Liu explains. “Unhealthy foods are marketed toward kids in a very in-your-face way.”

Liu has also taken photos and made a video chronicling L.A. Kitchen, a nonprofit providing culinary job training and affordable meals while fighting food waste. In addition, he’s provided in-person nutrition education both for older adults and for children from first to seventh grade through the organization API Forward Movement, which addresses community health and environmental justice issues affecting people of Asian and Pacific Islander descent. While his classes grew from just three attendees in the beginning to packed rooms now, Liu still aims to have his presentation be less lecture-like and more of a conversation, asking participants to share recipes and experiences from their own lives.

“It’s a two-way conversation. It’s not just, ‘Here’s what your nutrition should be.’ It’s a happy exchange,” he explains. “I admire the work that is more grassroots. You don’t see the impact immediately; lasting change takes time to develop.”

In the USC Leonard Davis MSNHL program, Liu has been able to connect with other people who are also passionate about sharing nutritional knowledge, even if they have different specific interests within the field. “The students in my cohort and I have a nice exchange of information; they’re some of my closest friends now,” he says.

This story originally appeared in the Spring 2019 issue of Vitality magazine with the title “Making an Impact.” Photos by Stephanie Kleinman.

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