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Letter From the Chair

Department of Nutrition & Integrative Physiology

Thanks for your interest in the Department of Nutrition and Integrative Physiology (NUIP). Our department launched in 2016 as part of a re-alignment of the College of Health, one of the key constituents of the University of Utah Health Sciences Center. Built thematically around the topic of “translational metabolic health,” our researchers, clinicians, educators, and trainees are dedicated to understanding how nutrient homeostasis influences the development and progression of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. We use a broad array of research techniques to study model organisms and clinical populations, with an eye towards understanding mechanistically how diet, energy expenditure, and other environmental factors influence organ systems. Our research bridges virtually all of the sciences which study human biology (e.g. anatomy, biochemistry, epidemiology, genetics, etc.) and our scientists and clinicians maintain active engagement with other programs within the Health Sciences Center. We endeavor to translate new research findings into clinical procedures and community outreach programs that improve quality of life.

Our focus in metabolism coincides with a resurgence in interest in the influence of nutrient utilization on chronic disease. Such research has never been more important, as “metabolic disorders” such as diabetes, heart disease, and certain forms of cancer are increasing at alarming rates throughout the world. Much of the excitement in metabolism stems from recent application of “omic” technologies to precisely measure fat, protein, and sugar metabolites in tissues using mass spectroscopy (e.g. Lipidomics, proteomics, and metabolomics). These technologies have already had a marked impact on our understanding of the link between metabolism and disease pathology. However, these new detection methods have raised far more questions, revealing new complexity in the metabolic networks and a large cadre of new nutritional byproducts with distinct biological functions. We aer excited about the rapid development of research in this area, which presents tremendous opportunities for therapeutic and dietary intervention.

Trainees in our educational programs are essential in our mission, and we strive to provide “active” learning opportunities in the laboratory, clinics, and classroom. In 2017, our graduate programs will replace lectures with classroom discussions and projects using the highly successful “team-based learning” modality that is being introduced into several medical schools. Our research-based Master’s and PhD programs provide training in translational bioscience, enabling graduates to advance fundamental discoveries from bench-to-bedside. Our accredited Coordinated Master’s Program (CMP) in Nutrition includes extensive clinical internships and produces graduates ready to apply the most recent information and rigorous evidence-based standards into healthcare systems. This CMP program is highly regarded and our graduates are enormously successful on the national exam to become a registered dietitian. Our online Master’s program provides literature-based training for dietitians and other degree holders on the emerging discoveries related to the control of nutrient homeostasis. We also provide undergraduate instruction to prepare students for professional programs or for jobs in the large nutrition industry. In the face of a large amount of publicly available misinformation around food choices and nutritional impact, we stress the important of “evidence-based practice” in all of our academic programs. 

I’m incredibly proud of the work of my colleagues in the department and encourage you explore our website to get a sense of the breadth of our research interests, academic programs, and outreach activities.

 

Best regards,

Scott Summers, PhD

Professor & Chair, Department of Nutrition & Integrative Physiology

Summers Lab

Center for Community Nutrition

Thank you for your interest in the Department of Nutrition and Integrative Physiology. Our department focuses on the important role of metabolism in the pathology of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers. Within our department, the University of Utah Center for Community Nutrition helps lay people understand how metabolism works, and  helps them translate knowledge into healthy eating behaviors.

Much of our work is focused on the social determinants of health, and seeks solutions to the barriers to healthful eating ingrained in society, such as socioeconomic status, education, physical environment, social support networks, and access to healthcare. Faculty, students and community members work together to design programs or policies that meet the needs of each population. Often, our programs aim to improve access to healthful foods, address food insecurity, and provide nutrition education to people living on a tight budget. Some programs, such as Culinary Medicine, see to improve nutrition care in the healthcare system, and other efforts focus on helping people understand the role of nutrition in preventing disease. Finally, we  prioritize programs for children and adolescents, to help them learn about healthy eating that can last a lifetime.

As part of your training in the department, I encourage you to join us in our community engagement activities.  Many students and trainees tell us that volunteering in the community helps them better understand the complexity of nutrition behaviors, and refocuses their research and clinical care efforts. You may be interested in volunteering in one of our Driving Out Diabetes programs focused on secondary school students and homeless families, assisting with the Culinary Medicine Program, or helping with our various community outreach on campus and in the wider community.  The Center holds volunteer trainings each semester, and it is easy to register and start participating.

Feel free to reach out and let me know how you would like to be involved.

Sincerely,

 

Julie Metos, PhD, RDN
Executive Director, University of Utah Center for Community Nutrition

Community Outreach