Who I am?
I think this is a difficult question not only for me.
I am Camila Maciel de Oliveira, Carol and Karen’s eldest sister. We were raised in a small town, Baependi, in the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil, where we studied in a great school. My parents worked hard to make sure we went to good universities, and we made it. I am a physician, Carol is a psychologist, and Karen is a veterinary doctor. At school, Carol was the smartest, Karen was fine, and I tried to survive in a traditional school system. For me, it was a huge challenge to get good scores. I am a creative person, so I like to learn by building projects and thinking solutions, but the school system did not allow me to explore my potential to the fullest.
When I was 14, I realized that understanding how hormones influence different kinds of cells was my passion: it all sounded like magic! At that time, I decided I would be an Endocrinologist. Of course, I changed my mind a lot of times during Medical School. Actually, I spent six years in Medical School, four years in residency (two years in Internal Medicine and two years in Endocrinology), and two years developing my Ph.D. thesis in Cardiology.
I did not give up on one dream (never!): being a researcher. Having discovered my true passion, I made up my mind that, no matter what happened, I would fight to impact the lives of many people as a group by using wise strategies, and that it was not in me to take care of patients one by one in my office (despite I love it!).
In 1998, I implemented my first project in my hometown while an undergrad student. I worked with people from local communities. In particular, I visited schools and talked to children about preventing infection with worms and about diagnosing and treating conditions related to worms.
The most important project (2005) in my career also took place in my hometown. We started a cohort to study cardiovascular risk factors over time. It was my Ph.D. thesis and I am still one of the coordinators of the Baependi Heart Study. If you want to know our papers, you can click here. This project was inspired by the Framingham Heart Study.
In 2008, I became a Professor of Physiology and Biophysics at the Federal University of Juiz de Fora (UFJF). After that, I had the pleasure of working as a Professor in other Medical Schools (for example, UNIPAC, SUPREMA, and UFPR), where I taught different classes, including Health Promotion.
I was a Professor and I had my office crowded with patients. However, one piece of the puzzle was still missing, and I thought, ‘We are doing research in my hometown, but we are not doing prevention there.’
Then in 2014, I was talking with a friend (Professor Carlos Alberto Mourão Júnior) at the university, and we came up with the same idea, ‘Let´s start a prevention project in Baependi!’ We knew what we wanted, but we did not know how to do it until I had written my first poem about the human body, which happened in 2015. Then, my poems became puppet plays for children and patients. What is more, lots of students joined us! In a few months, we had some groups working in different cities! Then the "Little Hearts Changing Lives Program" was born.
Two years later (2017), I moved to Boston for a post-doc (Framingham Heart Study, Boston University). In the same year, I implemented the Little Hearts among the Brazilian immigrant population through new partnerships (the Brazilian Consulate in Boston/ Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the University of Massachusetts).
From 2018 to 2019, I was a visiting researcher at Harvard Medical School (Framingham Heart Study). Today, I am a visiting scholar at the Global Co-creation, MIT at IMES. My research line is about the development of strategies to improve health through education, "Evaluation and Prevention of Cardiovascular Risk Factors in Specific Populations".
Nowadays, my goal is to keep developing strategies related to childhood obesity based on the Creative Learning theory. I hope that children can teach their parents about a healthier lifestyle through our work.
I believe that children deserve to learn in a fun way. I think this is one of the most important solutions to combat epidemic diseases like obesity. Perhaps, this is the missing piece in the puzzle.