University to Hire 20 Experts on Obesity and Genetics

As part of the university's Cluster Hire Program, the UI Carver College of Medicine will be among seven different colleges benefiting from 20 new faculty who will study obesity and genetics.

The UI Obesity Initiative will focus on community, behavioral and economic research and basic biomedical research, according to directors of the initiative: Allyn Mark, MD, professor and Roy J. Carver Chair in Internal Medicine, and Charles Brenner, PhD, Roy J. Carver Chair of Biochemistry and head of the Department of Biochemistry.

In this initiative, 10 new faculty members will join faculty in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; the College of Public Health; the College of Nursing; the Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine; and the Tippie College of Business. The UI Obesity Initiative will also include collaboration with both Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa through ISU’s Nutrition and Wellness Research Center and the Youth Fitness and Obesity Institute at UNI.

″A distinctive feature of the UI Obesity Initiative will be the network of Regents Universities working together and with the State Department of Public Health and the Iowa business community to focus on prevention of obesity in the state of Iowa,″ Mark said. ″The launch of this statewide academic research network coincides with Gov. Branstad′s priority on a private-public partnership to promote the health and well being of Iowans, focusing on obesity."

"Because everyone personally deals with what is available to eat, how much to eat, and how much to exercise, obesity is the type of problem that has unlimited potential to engage students and the general public,″ Brenner said. ″We anticipate that this initiative will help launch Iowa into national prominence as an institution conducting leading edge research to improve weight management."

Other leaders in the UI Obesity Initiative include Linda Snetselaar, PhD, professor of epidemiology and director of the Nutrition Center in the College of Public Health; Kathleen Janz, professor of health and human physiology in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; and Peter Densen, MD, professor of internal medicine in the Carver College of Medicine.

The UI Genetics Initiative will focus on keeping pace in teaching and research with rapid changes in technology and the understanding of ethical, legal and social issues surrounding genetics, according to initiative co-director Jeffrey Murray, MD, Roy J. Carver Chair in Perinatal Health and professor of pediatrics with joint appointments in biological sciences, dentistry, nursing and epidemiology. Richard Smith, MD, the Sterba Hearing Research Professor and vice-chair otolaryngology-head and neck surgery, joins Murray in directing the initiative, which will have participants in the the Carver College of Medicine; the College of Public Health; the College of Engineering; the College of Nursing; the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; and the College of Law.

The two areas of study are the newest approved endeavors under the university’s five-year cluster hire initiative, "Meeting the Grand Challenges of the 21st Century." The Office of the Provost kicked off the cluster hire program in 2009 with a 10-faculty cluster in water sustainability. Two other clusters, on digital public humanities and aging of the mind and brain, were approved in 2010.