Women’s Health Alumni Profiles

Ali MacHendrie Ecklund

Ali MacHendrie Ecklund is originally from Santa Fe, New Mexico. After earning a BA in Political Science and Creative Writing from the College of Santa Fe in 2002 she started working toward her MPH in Community Health Education in the fall of 2008, and graduated in May 2010.

She has lived in Barcelona and Amsterdam, served a year with AmeriCorps Multicultural Communities in Action in Saint Paul, and also spent two years as a patient educator with Planned Parenthood in Saint Paul. Since beginning graduate school she has worked for the Hazelden Foundation, the Minnesota Department of Health, and the Division of Epidemiology and Community Health at the University of Minnesota.

How did you learn about the field of public health?

I first became interested in public health while working as a patient educator in a women’s health clinic that provided abortion services.  Working directly with patients was an invaluable experience and I learned so much from the women who sought care from us. Ultimately, I turned to public health because I wanted to focus on prevention over crisis management.

Why did you choose this particular research area?

I had worked in the women’s health field before beginning my MPH. While in school many of my projects continued to focus on issues important to women’s health, but I was mostly drawn to stigmatized health conditions such as addiction, HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted infections, and eventually vulvodynia. I found it fascinating that vulvodynia was as prevalent as it was, yet nearly every woman I spoke to had never heard of it. It was as if we had a modern equivalent of hysteria, and it was a great jumping off point for me to combine my background in social science with the analytic skills I had learned in my masters program. I had the opportunity to work with the National Vulvodynia Association, Dr. Harlow, Dr. Nguyen and Dr. Hennrikus to tell a very compelling story and I was really grateful that these experiences could be shared.