Kate Lolley, On her way from Martha’s Vineyard to Suriname

Katherine Lolley stands next to the seal of the United States Embassy in Paramaribo the capital of Suriname, in May. — Photo courtesy of Kate Lolley

On Their Way is an occasional series in which The Times introduces people who grew up on Martha’s Vineyard and have moved on to establish themselves in careers on or off Island. We are looking for young people who have distinguished themselves by their accomplishments in the arts, business, in social services, in the military, in academics, in fact in any meaningful way. We welcome your suggestions.

Katherine “Kate” Lolley graduated from the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School in 2001. She is now living in the former Dutch colony of Suriname in South America, where she is a health policy consultant to the Suriname Ministry of Health.

This past year she worked on the “National Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases,” a Suriname ministry of health project that outlines measures to prevent and reduce the nation’s high levels of coronary heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and chronic liver disease.

Over the winter, her ministry of health team worked with the Pan American Health Organization to pass comprehensive nonsmoking legislation that took effect this June. She is now working on developing recommendations on how to improve the country’s food supply by eliminating trans fats from diets, reducing sodium and sugar content, and developing a uniform, easy-to-understand nutrition labeling system.

Kate said that one of her favorite high school memories is of sailing on the school sailing team. “I loved to go out and be on the water,” she said in a conversation via the Internet on Skype last month from Suriname. “Unfortunately the beaches aren’t great in Suriname; they are very muddy.”

Born in Maine, Kate and her parents John and Sarah Lolley moved to the Vineyard when she was five. She attended the Tisbury School.

Her parents now live in Oak Bluffs, where her mother, now retired, was the Oak Bluffs assistant assessor. Her father is a self-employed structural civil engineer.

Ms. Lolley received her Bachelor of Science from Simmons College in Boston in the fall of 2005. She was part of the school’s honors program and was in the pre-med program majoring in human biology, with a minor in society and health. Her thesis was titled, “Effectiveness of Hatha Yoga on Aerobic Performance, Muscular Strength and Endurance, Flexibility and Mood State.”

She was a member of the Sigma Xi Scientific Research Society and selected for the 2005 edition of “Who’s Who among Students in American Universities.”

She received her Master of Public Health, in International Health and Development, in May 2010 from Tulane University in New Orleans. While in Louisiana she worked on obesity-related initiatives for local and state obesity-prevention advocacy groups and helped document the effects of the Gulf oil spill on people, the community, and the environment.

She worked in Suriname on her Masters practicum in 2009. “On my first day with the academic hospital, collecting data on acute respiratory infections, the first case of H1-N1, the swine flu, was confirmed,” she said. “We switched gears to collect data for the national epidemiology center.”

As part of her Masters work she wrote a public health analysis entitled “Global Response to the 2009 Influenza A H1N1 Pandemic: An Examination across Economic Boundaries and the Implications of International Donations.”

It was during that trip that she met her fiancé, Brad Hawkins, who was coordinating the Tulane distance learning program in Suriname.

Mr. Hawkins returned to Suriname last year after he received a Fulbright scholarship to work at the school of medicine. Ms. Lolley applied for and got her job with the ministry to be with him.

Dutch is the national language in Suriname and Ms. Lolley and Mr. Hawkins are taking Dutch lessons at the United States Embassy, but she said that almost everyone in Suriname speaks English and her work is in English. Sranan Tongo, a combination of English, Dutch, and African languages, is the English-based pigeon language spoken by many in Suriname. She said there are more than ten native Amerindian languages spoken in the rural areas.

In their spare time they volunteer at a rehabilitation center for sloths and anteaters that have been displaced due to urban deforestation. The animals are released back into the wild when healthy.

Ms. Lolley returned to the Island last Christmas and will be back for a month or two this summer to prepare the groundwork for her wedding in September which will be on the Vineyard.

Ms. Lolley said the focus of her work wherever she might be is to improve the environment, and to make it easier for people to live a healthy and active life.

“The Vineyard is a truly special place because it has so many of the desired environmental features that we in public health strive for,” she said, citing “an extensive network of bike paths, continuous sidewalks, safe and free places to play, healthy lunches in schools, no fast food outlets, a good supply of local, healthy food, and a rural health clinic that provides affordable, quality primary care.”

As an Islander and a public health specialist she sounds authoritative when she said, “The Vineyard is a model of what a healthy community looks like.”