Speakers by Session

Keynote Address, Sunday, September 21, 2014

Nancy Brown
Keynote Address

Chief Executive Officer,
American Heart Association

Nancy Brown, since 2009, has been Chief Executive Officer of the American Heart Association, which is widely known and respected as the world's largest voluntary health organization dedicated to preventing, treating and defeating cardiovascular disease and stroke. Under Brown's leadership, the AHA announced its bold 2020 goal of improving the cardiovascular health of all Americans by 20 percent, while reducing deaths from cardiovascular diseases and stroke by 20 percent.
In addition to her work with the AHA, Brown serves as the 2014 chairperson of the National Health Council and co-chair of the Steering Committee of the Coalition to Transform Advanced Care. She also is a member of the Executive Committee of Research!America, and on the Boards of Directors of the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, and the Valentin Fuster-Mount Sinai Foundation for Science, Health and Empowerment.

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Session One - Genetic Influences on Weight Status

Session Moderator: Dr. Lisa Cassis, University of Kentucky


John H. Hernandez Professor in Health Promotion, LSU

Dr. Nikhil Dhurandhar is a Professor of Infection and Obesity and the John Henry Hernandez Endowed Professor in Health Promotion at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center at Louisiana State University. He will serve as president of the Obesity Society in 2014. As a physician and nutritional biochemist, he has been involved with obesity treatment and research for more than 20 years. Dr. Dhurandhar has received research funding from the National Institutes of Health, American Diabetes Association, Federal Emergency Management Agency, and other nonprofit and commercial funding sources. He has published more than 90 scientific articles and book chapters

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Assistant Professor, University of Alabama

Dr. Laura Reed, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Alabama since 2010, received her B.S. at the University of Oregon in 2000 and her Ph.D. at the University of Arizona in 2006. In 2007, she received a National Institutes of Health-National Research Service Award (NIH-NRSA) postdoctoral fellowship to study the genetic and dietary contributions to Metabolic Syndrome-like phenotypes in Drosophila melanogaster. Professor Reed continues her NIH-funded research on the genetic and environmental factors of obesity by mapping the genes contributing to metabolic interactions with diet. She also teaches integrated genomics and evolutionary biology courses at Alabama.

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John W. Barton, Sr. Chair in Genetics and Nutrition, LSU

Claude Bouchard is a Professor and Director of the Human Genomics Laboratory at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center at Louisiana State University. He also holds the John W. Barton, Sr. Endowed Chair in Genetics and Nutrition. His research focuses on the genetics of adaptation to exercise and the genetics of obesity and its comorbidities. Bouchard also studies physical activity in relation to changes in cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes risk factors. He is a Fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine, the American Society of Nutrition, the American Heart Association, the Obesity Society, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

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Dr. Ya-Xiong Tao

Professor, Auburn University

Dr. Ya-Xiong Tao is Professor of Physiology at the Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine. He has worked on several G protein-coupled receptors, including gonadotropin receptors regulating reproduction, and melanocortin receptors regulating energy and glucose homeostasis. For more than 10 years, he has focused on mutations in the two neural melanocortin receptor genes as cause for childhood obesity. He has been published extensively in peer-reviewed biomedical journals and edited five books. He obtained funding for his research from the National Institutes of Health, the American Diabetes Association and the American Heart Association, among others. He has also served on the grant review panels of ADA and AHA.

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Session Two - Physiology of Obesity Prevention

Session Moderator: Dr. Roger Cone, Vanderbilt University

Dr. Larry Reagan

Associate Professor, University of South Carolina

Lawrence P. Reagan received his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and performed postdoctoral studies at Rockefeller University. He joined the faculty at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine in 2002 and is currently an Associate Professor and Vice Chair in the Department of Pharmacology, Physiology and Neuroscience. Dr. Reagan’s laboratory has a long-standing interest in the neurological complications of metabolic disorders like obesity. In particular, the Reagan lab is investigating the structural and functional underpinnings responsible for cognitive deficits in obesity, as well as the increased risk for comorbid depressive illness in obese subjects.

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Dr. Brynn Voy

Associate Professor, University of Tennessee

Dr. Brynn Voy earned her Ph.D. in Physiology from the University of Tennessee in 1996. Upon graduation, she joined Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) as a postdoctoral scientist in the Mouse Genetics Program and later transitioned to Staff Scientist in the Systems Genetics Group. Dr. Voy’s research at ORNL encompassed a range of problems relevant to the U.S. Department of Energy and provided broad training in complex genetics, genomics, computational biology and nanotechnology. She was recruited back to Tennessee in 2009 and has re-established her research program in obesity as a tenured Associate Professor in the Department of Animal Science.

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Dr. Matt Ganio

Assistant Professor, University of Arkansas

Dr. Matt Ganio is an Assistant Professor of Exercise Science at the University of Arkansas and Director of the Human Performance Laboratory. In the last three years, he has brought more than $400,000 in grants to support his research on hydration, thermoregulation, and health. Specifically, Dr. Ganio is investigating the mechanisms by which cardiovascular and thermoregulatory responses may be altered in healthy and patient populations. His current projects examine the clinical implications of obesity on cardiovascular and thermoregulatory responses during heat stress. He is a member of the American College of Sports Medicine, American Physiological Society and American Society for Nutrition.

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Dr. Bradley Phillips

Millikan-Reeve Professor, University of Georgia

Dr. Phillips received his Bachelor’s degree in Pharmaceutical Sciences in 1989 from the University of British Columbia and his Doctorate in Pharmacy at the Medical University of South Carolina in 1993. After completing his postdoctoral research at the University of Illinois in Chicago, he focused his career on understanding the pathophysiologic mechanisms for cardiovascular disease and obesity in patients with sleep apnea. His current studies focus on obesity and genetics in those with sleep disordered breathing. Dr. Phillips has been invited to present at more than 50 national and international meetings and has published more than 70 books, book chapters, and papers on sleep and sleep disorders.

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Keynote Address, Monday, September 22, 2014

Dr. Michael Lauer
Keynote Address

Director, Division of Cardiovascular Sciences, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

Dr. Michael Lauer leads the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute's program for research on the causes, prevention and treatment of cardiovascular diseases. He received education and training at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Albany Medical College, Harvard Medical School, Harvard School of Public Health and the NHLBI's Framingham Heart Study. He spent 14 years at the Cleveland Clinic as Professor of Medicine, Epidemiology, and Biostatistics.
During his tenure at the Cleveland Clinic, Lauer led a federally funded, internationally renowned clinical epidemiology program that applied big data from large-scale electronic health platforms to questions regarding the diagnosis and management of cardiovascular disease. Since coming to the NHLBI in 2007, he has promoted efforts to leverage big data infrastructure to enable high-efficiency epidemiology, comparative effectiveness research, and clinical trials.

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Session Three - Early Life Influences on Weight Status
Session Moderator: Dr. Leann Birch, University of Georgia

Dr. Jihong Liu

Associate Professor, University of South Carolina

Dr. Jihong Liu is Associate Professor of Epidemiology with the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina. Dr. Liu’s research in the past decade has focused on two areas: the impact of maternal obesity, gestational weight gain, and physical activity on the health of mothers and children; and the contribution of maternal, behavioral, social, and environmental factors to childhood obesity. Much of Dr. Liu’s research has examined health disparities along the lines of race/ethnicity, urban/rural residence, and acculturation status. Dr. Liu’s work has been funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Health Resources and Services Administration.

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Dr. Carol Lammi-Keefe

Alma Beth Clark Professor, LSU

Carol Lammi-Keefe is Alma Beth Clark Professor of Nutrition in the School of Nutrition and Food Sciences and Adjunct Professor at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center at Louisiana State University. She has taught across the curriculum and mentors undergraduate and graduate students. Dr. Lammi-Keefe has devoted three decades to research in maternal/fetal nutrition with an emphasis on lipids. Her current research project is assessing overweight pregnant women and the effect on infant outcomes, including child weight and body composition. She has been recognized by the American Dietetic Association Foundation with the Ross Award in Women’s Health, and she is lead editor for the Handbook of Nutrition and Pregnancy.

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Dr. Katie Kavanagh

Associate Professor, University of Tennessee

Dr. Kavanagh received her Doctorate Degree in Nutritional Biology from the University of California-Davis and holds the Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist credential. Her research targets strategies to support optimal infant feeding, including parental identification of infant satiety cues and perceptions of infant weight status, proper preparation of infant formula, and novel mechanisms to increase breastfeeding duration and exclusivity. She has received research funding from the Southern Rural Development Center, as an ERS/USDA RIDGE Award, and from the USDA/NIFA/AFRI granting mechanism. Dr. Kavanagh teaches undergraduate and graduate courses related to maternal and child nutrition and is a co-investigator on a Maternal and Child Health Leadership and Training Program Grant.

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Dr. Melinda Sothern

Professor, LSU

Dr. Melinda Sothern is a Professor at Louisiana State University's School of Public Health in New Orleans. She also has an adjunct appointment at the Prevention of Childhood Obesity Laboratory at the LSU Pennington Biomedical Research Center. Dr. Sothern has led her field in establishing standardized guidelines for prescribing exercise for children with increasing levels of obesity. She has been published in numerous peer-reviewed journals and three textbooks. Dr. Sothern is currently serving as the principal investigator on two National Institutes of Health studies on childhood obesity in relation to physical determinants and asthma, respectively. She is considered an expert on overweight youth and has been featured extensively on national and international television, radio and in print media.

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Session Four - Family, School and Community-Based Interventions that Target Obesity in Children
Session Moderator: Dr. Leah Robinson, Auburn University

Dr. Sara Gable

Associate Professor, University of Missouri

Sara Gable’s research and teaching focuses on children, families, child care, and childhood obesity. At the University of Missouri, she has conducted research on the child care workforce, behavioral and environmental factors associated with the onset and persistence of childhood obesity, and the social, emotional, and academic consequences of obesity that persists across childhood and into adolescence. For the University of Missouri Extension, she has created and taught educational programs for child care providers and early educators and served on numerous state child care-related agency advisory boards. Her first book, The States of Child Care: Building a Better System, was published in 2014 by Teachers College Press.

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Dr. Scott Owens

Associate Professor, University of Mississippi

Dr. Owens is an Associate Professor of Exercise Science at Ole Miss. He has served as the Coordinator of the Exercise Program and Director of the Kevser Ermin Applied Physiology Laboratory since 2006. Dr. Owens received his Ph.D. in Movement Science from Florida State University and completed a postdoctoral fellowship in childhood obesity at the Medical College of Georgia. His research interests have focused on afterschool interventions in the prevention and treatment of childhood obesity, the association between physical activity and the childhood metabolic syndrome, use of whole-body movement video games to increase childhood physical activity, and in-school physical activity as it relates to state legislative mandates.

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Dr. Shari Barkin

Director, Pediatric Obesity Research, Vanderbilt University

Dr. Shari Barkin is the William K. Warren Foundation Chair Professor of Pediatrics, Director of Pediatric Obesity Research in the Diabetes Research and Training Center, and Chief of General Pediatrics at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Barkin received her undergraduate degree from Duke University and her medical degree from the University of Cincinnati. She completed a pediatrics residency at Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles and a fellowship in Health Services Research. Dr. Barkin was also selected as a UCLA Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholar. Her laboratory studies family-based community centered clinical interventions to measurably reduce pediatric obesity during critical windows of childhood development.

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Dr. Sarah Colby

Assistant Professor, University of Tennessee

Dr. Colby is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Nutrition at the University of Tennessee. She is an obesity prevention behavioral researcher with a focus on health communication through novel nutrition education strategies, which include marketing, arts, and technology. Dr. Colby received her Doctorate degree in Nutrition from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and she has worked as a Nutrition Research Scientist for the USDA/Agricultural Research Service. She has research experience with young children, adolescent, and young adult populations; Latino and Native American populations; and environmental and cost influences on food behaviors. Currently, she is working on two USDA-funded, multi-state obesity prevention projects.

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Session Five - Workplace Strategies for Obesity Prevention
Session Moderator: Dr. Joe Sharkey, Texas A&M University

Dr. Mark Wilson

Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, University of Georgia

Mark Wilson is Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, UGA Foundation Professor in Public Health in the Department of Health Promotion and Behavior, and Director of the Workplace Health Group, all in the College of Public Health at the University of Georgia. He has been conducting research, teaching and consulting in the area of workplace health promotion for more than 30 years. Mark has worked with organizations such as Georgia-Pacific, Home Depot, AT&T, Dow Chemical Company, Union Pacific Railroad and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on projects ranging from the evaluation of an environmental obesity intervention to development and evaluation of a healthy work organization intervention.

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Dr. Melinda Valliant

Associate Professor, University of Mississippi

Dr. Valliant received a B.S. in Nutrition and Ph.D. in Exercise Science at Ole Miss, and she is a board certified specialist in sports dietetics (CSSD). She has worked as a chief clinical dietitian, fitness center director and is currently Co-Director of the Center for Health and Sport Performance at Ole Miss. In these roles, she teaches graduate and undergraduate courses, directs the sports nutrition program, conducts research and counsels individuals on a variety of nutritional needs, including performance nutrition and disordered eating. Her research interests are sports nutrition knowledge, body composition as is relates to diet, disordered eating/weight management and corporate wellness.

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Dr. Rebecca Kelly

Director of Health Promotion and Wellness, University of Alabama

Dr. Rebecca Kelly serves as director of Health Promotion and Wellness for the University of Alabama. She provides the guiding leadership, strategic planning, and program implementation, as well as research and service, for the WellBAMA program. Dr. Kelly is a registered dietitian, exercise physiologist and certified diabetes educator. Active in several professional organizations, she is currently a board member of the Health Project. She completed her Doctorate and Master’s degrees from the University of Alabama at Birmingham; her dietetic internship at Indiana University Medical Center and received her Bachelor's degree in Nutrition and Food Science from Auburn University.

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Dr. Danielle Wadsworth

Associate Professor, Auburn University

Dr. Danielle D. Wadsworth is an Associate Professor at Auburn University in the School of Kinesiology and Director of the Exercise Adherence and Obesity prevention laboratory. Her research focuses on identifying environmental, psychological and social underpinnings of exercise adherence and translating these findings to effective evidence-based interventions, primarily for women and children. Dr. Wadsworth has served as a co-investigator on National Institutes of Health and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grants aimed at examining the impact of physical activity policies on children’s physical activity levels at school and during physical education. Currently she is an at-large member on the Southeast Chapter of the American College of Sports Medicine.

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Session Six - Technology and Media Based Approaches for Obesity Prevention
Session Moderator: Dr. Sylvia Byrd, Mississippi State University

Dr. Kim Bissell

Director, Institute for Communication and Information Research, University of Alabama

Kim Bissell is a Professor in the College of Communication and Information Sciences at the University of Alabama and serves as the Associate Dean for Research. Her research interests lie in the intersection of media, health, and children. Her publications relate to the role of media in the development of children’s nutritional knowledge and attitudes. She is a co-principal investigator on a National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities grant that looks at developing effective, sustainable, community-based participatory research to reduce obesity in rural Alabama. She has developed media and health literacy programs for children in the areas of health and body image.

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Patricia Thomas

Professor, University of Georgia

Patricia Thomas holds the Knight Chair in Health and Medical Journalism at the University of Georgia. She directs the Master’s degree program in Health and Medical Journalism, organizes professional workshops for journalists, and trains researchers to explain their work to general audiences. She has written about medicine, public health, and life science research for many years, and she was editor of the Harvard Health Letter. Her book, Big Shot: Passion, Politics, and the Struggle for an AIDS Vaccine (PublicAffairs), was named a notable book for 2001 by The Washington Post. She holds a B.A. in English from the University of California-Berkeley and an M.A. in Communication from Stanford University.

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Dr. Mary Roseman

Associate Professor, University of Mississippi

Mary Roseman is an Associate Professor in the Department of Nutrition and Hospitality Management at Ole Miss. Her primary undergraduate and graduate teaching areas include foodservice management, human resources, marketing, research methods, and strategic management. Dr. Roseman has published numerous articles in nutrition, dietetics, and hospitality management journals and has presented more than 70 peer-reviewed presentations and posters at national and international conferences on obesity, food messages, school nutrition, food safety, and healthy menus in restaurants and schools. She received her Ph.D. in Foodservice Systems Management from Oklahoma State University, an MBA from University of Central Oklahoma, and B.S. in Food and Nutrition from Western Kentucky University.

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Dr. Kathleen Ragsdale

Associate Research Professor, Mississippi State University

Dr. Kathleen Ragsdale has 15 years of experience as a principal investigator, co-principal investigator, research scientist and evaluation consultant for studies funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health, and other organizations that explore health disparities among minority and vulnerable populations in the U.S. and cross-nationally. Her research populations include high-risk female and male tourists in Costa Rica and the U.S., substance abuse treatment clients in the Mississippi Delta, and minority teen mothers and infants in the rural Southeastern U.S. She has authored more than 30 peer-reviewed articles, book chapters, and reports on health disparities among vulnerable populations.

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Session Seven - Environmental Influences on Weight Status and Weight-Related Behaviors
Session Moderator: Dr. Rudy Nayga, University of Arkansas

Dr. Gene Fitzhugh

Director, Center for Physical Activity and Health, University of Tennessee

Dr. Fitzhugh is the Director of the Center for Physical Activity and Health at the University of Tennessee and is a graduate of the health sciences program at the University of Alabama. Prior to joining the faculty at Tennessee, he taught middle school physical education, served as the state coordinator for health and physical education at the Kentucky Department of Education, coordinated a worksite health promotion program for Alabama Power, and was a chronic disease epidemiologist for the Knox County Health Department in Knoxville, Tennessee. A physical activity epidemiologist, his research focuses on obesity, physical activity, and the built environment.

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Dr. David Schlundt

Associate Professor, Vanderbilt University

Dr. David Schlundt is an Associate Professor of Psychology at Vanderbilt University. With 30 years of research experience, he has published more than 160 papers in peer reviewed journals. He is trained as a clinical health psychologist and has been studying the assessment and modification of health behaviors for the past 30 years. Dr. Schlundt directs the qualitative research core for the Vanderbilt Institute of Clinical and Translation Research, and is a core investigator with the USET-VU Native American Research Center for Health. He also leads the community engagement core of the Center for Diabetes Translation Research where he provides health geography services to other investigators.

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Dr. Alison Gustafson

Assistant Professor, University of Kentucky

Alison Gustafson is an Assistant Professor at the University of Kentucky in the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics. Her research focuses on proximal determinants to obesity and dietary habits among low-income and rural populations. Her current work has targeted adolescent and parent food shopping patterns and habits using ecological momentary assessment methods to capture neighborhood travel patterns. Dr. Gustafson also studies interventions aimed at improving access and availability to local food utilizing farmers’ markets, gardens, and other non-traditional food sources. She has published several articles focused on weight loss interventions and the role of the food environment as a modifier in the success of weight loss.

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Dr. Sonja Wilhelm Stanis

Assistant Professor, University of Missouri

Sonja Wilhelm Stanis is an Assistant Professor in Parks, Recreation and Tourism within the University of Missouri’s School of Natural Resources. Wilhelm Stanis completed her Ph.D. in Natural Resources Science and Management at the University of Minnesota. Her research examines the role of parks and public lands in promoting physical activity and public health; motivations for and benefits of outdoor recreation; constraints to outdoor recreation; and issues in outdoor recreation relating to diversity and youth. She teaches classes on research methods of parks, recreation and tourism, recreation land management, and planning and evaluating leisure environments.

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Session Eight - Community Actions to Promote Energy Balance
Session Moderator: Dr. Michael Perri, University of Florida

Dr. Patricia Sharpe

Research Professor, University of South Carolina

Dr. Patricia Sharpe is Research Professor in the Prevention Research Center of the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina. Dr. Sharpe received her education in Health Behavior and Health Promotion in the Schools of Public Health at the University of South Carolina and the University of Michigan and was a postdoctoral fellow at Michigan. Her research focuses on eliminating health disparities and promoting social justice in disadvantaged communities in the Southeast. Using a community-based, participatory research approach, her work engages community-based organizations and lay community advocates in creating healthy community environments, including access to healthy, affordable food and safe, convenient venues for physical activity.

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Dr. Judith Warren

Professor, Texas A&M University

Dr. Warren holds a B.S. from Virginia Tech and an M.S. and Ph.D. from Syracuse University. At Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, she focuses on lifespan health and wellness, developing statewide educational training programs in health and gerontology. She has been principal investigator on grants related to rural health, cancer risk-reduction, long term care, minority peer education, community capacity building and obesity prevention. She is principal investigator on a $5 million grant from NIFA/USDA addressing child obesity through family-focused programming, collaborating with the University of Texas Health Dell Center for Healthy Living.

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Dr. Deborah Murray

Associate Dean for Extension and Outreach, University of Georgia

Dr. Murray is the Associate Dean for Extension and Outreach in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences at the University of Georgia where she co-facilitates the Obesity Initiative’s Community Health Team, which links the university with communities wanting to apply a systems approach to addressing obesity. She is director of the Walk Georgia project, an energy balance-focused physical activity and nutrition intervention that is a corporate partnership with Coca-Cola. Before coming to Georgia, she was Associate Director of the Health Education through Extension Leadership Program at the University of Kentucky, an innovative partnership between the Cooperative Extension Service and the academic health campus.

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Dr. Mike Perri

Dean, College of Public Health and Health Professions, University of Florida

Michael G. Perri is Dean of the University of Florida College of Public Health and Health Professions (PHHP) and the Robert G. Frank Endowed Professor of Clinical and Health Psychology. Dr. Perri’s research focuses on health promotion and disease prevention through changes in diet and physical activity. Dr. Perri has contributed to 168 publications, and he has been the Principal Investigator or Co-Investigator for more than $35 million in research grants and contracts, funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and private industry. In 2008, Dr. Perri received the American Psychological Association’s Samuel M. Turner Award for Distinguished Contributions to Applied Research in Clinical Psychology and in 2013 he was awarded the Society of Behavioral Medicine’s Distinguished Research Mentor Award.

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Closing Session

Closing Comments

Dr. Russ Pate, Professor, Arnold School of Public Health, USC

Ms. Torie A. Johnson, Executive Director, SECU