KENHP Faculty Advisors

EXERCISE PHYSIOLOGY & EXERCISE NUTRITION

Dr. Paul Gordon (Exercise Physiology; Epidemiology)

My research addresses the impact of exercise on cardio-metabolic health outcomes across the lifespan. Most recently, I have been investigating the role of skeletal muscle adaptations and the impact of muscular fitness as an independent predictor of health status as it is linked to both premature mortality and several morbidities across the lifespan. We have recently reported that a simple clinical assessment of muscular strength is a powerful predictor of cardiometabolic risk in children and have identified low thresholds for strength that could be helpful for clinicians. Maintaining strength over time, as we have recently investigated, is critical to guard against the future development of cardiometabolic risk. We have also shown that the muscle’s response to strengthening activities initiates a series of immune system responses that promotes metabolic function indicating the alternative benefits of strengthening activities among those with metabolic dysfunction. I am also an ongoing member of the Genetics and Exercise Research Consortium, I continue to investigate the role that genes play on the adaptive responses to exercise and how these may contribute to a personalized prescriptive approach to optimal health outcomes.

Dr. Peter Grandjean (Exercise Physiology; Exercise Nutrition)

My research addresses human metabolic and cardiovascular responses to exercise and weight loss. More specifically, my research is aimed at determining the immediate and short-term metabolic and cardiovascular responses to a variety of exercise interventions, including the combined and unique influence of pharmacological agents, functional foods, and exercise on cardiovascular and metabolic health. I am currently characterizing body tissue and humoral changes that occur with weight loss - through diet and exercise - in obese men. The information from our study is preliminary work designed to further develop hypotheses related to the influence of ectopic fat, lipotoxicity, and the role that novel cytokines play in the etiology of obesity-related metabolic disturbances. This line of inquiry has implications for identifying the unique contributions of exercise in improving cardiovascular and metabolic health in the absence of weight loss or when accompanying modest weight loss.

Dr. Darryn Willoughby (Exercise Physiology; Exercise Nutrition)

My research interests involve both the young and old and deal with the effects of resistance exercise and training and/or nutritional intervention on the: 1) the pre- and post-translational mechanisms which govern muscle-specific gene expression, along with up-stream signal transduction pathways that are involved in regulating skeletal muscle gene expression, protein synthesis and subsequent hypertrophy; 2) the oxidative-and inflammation-mediated signaling mechanisms which play a role in up-regulating atrophic-related genes thereby impacting muscle proteolysis and atrophy.

Dr. Yunsuk Koh (Exercise Physiology)

My research interests include the role of exercise, diet and and obesity on risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD) and inflammation. More specifically, my research topics are focused on the effects of exercise and diet interventions on the responses of atherosclerotic and inflammatory biomarkers by examining plasma lipid and lipoprotein parameters, pro-/anti- inflammatory biomarkers, cell adhesion molecules (CAMs), matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), and tissue inhibitors of MMPs (TIMPs). The current projects examine the effects of high-fat vs. high-carbohydrate on these atherosclerotic and inflammatory biomarkers in obesity.

Dr. Panos Koutakis (Exercise Physiology)

My research focuses on the development of improved diagnostic and treatment methods for patients with peripheral artery disease (PAD). PAD affects 8 million people in the USA and is a manifestation of atherosclerosis that produces progressive narrowing and occlusion of the arteries supplying the lower extremities. The most common clinical manifestation of PAD is claudication, i.e., a severe functional limitation identified as gait dysfunction and walking-induced leg muscle pain. A myopathy produced by chronic ischemia is present in the legs of patients with PAD and is central to the functional deterioration seen in claudication. My research projects include the evaluation of cytoskeletal proteins and their association with muscle morphology, as well as the role oxidative stress signaling mechanism in protein modification under ischemia-reperfusion conditions. Furthermore, I’m interested in the role of antioxidant defenses, mitochondrial function and the Ca2+ protease system in the PAD myopathy after revascularization operations and supervised exercise treatment.

HEALTH PROMOTION & PUBLIC HEALTH (COMMUNITY HEALTH)

Dr. Rodney Bowden (Health Promotion; Public Health-Community Health Emphasis)

My research agenda primarily concerns metabolic syndrome and medical, nutritional and behavioral interventions to reduce risk. Our study group has primarily investigated cholesterol and inflammatory markers in our attempts to reduce hypercholesterolemia and inflammation through dietary changes (primarily omega-3 supplementation) and through medical interventions (i.e., primarily medications designed to control cholesterol and/or inflammation). We have measured changes in traditional cholesterol measures as well as cholesterol sub-fractions. We have also studied inflammatory makers used in clinical practice and others that are not used routinely in clinical practice. Most recently we have sought to determine whether exercise participation can be improved in a chronic disease population, studying barriers to physical activity and the effects of physical activity participation on measures of cholesterol and markers of inflammation. The majority of my research is conducted using a team of local physicians in a variety of clinical/medical settings in the Waco area. Students working with me would have exposure to a variety of study populations, and would have the opportunity to gain experience working with a team of Baylor faculty and local physicians studying both apparently healthy as well as diseased populations.

Dr. Eva Doyle (Health Promotion; Public Health-Community Health Emphasis)

I engage in community-based participatory research (CBPR) designed to assess and build community capacities to promote health in underserved populations. In past projects, I have worked with Kurdish women in remote villages of Armenia, rural migrant and seasonal farm workers in east Texas, and an urban African American community in central Texas. I currently work with churches in southeast Brazil to assess and promote health in local at-risk neighborhoods. I also partner with other public health faculty (contribute qualitative aspects of mixed-model approaches) and local public health/healthcare partners to assess needs and adapt interventions in underserved Waco populations. Though my current research capacity is somewhat limited by administrative responsibilities, I am poised to work with a highly-motivated doctoral student with strong interest in qualitative research and population/public health.

Dr. Beth Lanning (Health Promotion; Public Health-Community Health Emphasis)

My research interests are conducting research in the area of quality of life. I am interested in animal assisted interventions, specifically equine assisted interventions. I am currently working with two populations, our military personnel (soldiers and their families) and children with Autism. I have also conducted research in the area of health literacy and sexual violence.

Dr. Renée Umstattd (Health Promotion; Public Health-Community Health Emphasis)

My research interests lie in health promotion through physical activity behavior. Specifically, I am interested in the application, measurement, and evaluation of how theoretical constructs promote, explain, and predict physical activity behaviors; the translation of these applications and relationships into community-based settings; and subsequently, how physical activity impacts chronic disease, functionality, and quality of life across the lifespan. More recently, I have focused my efforts on better understanding the role of environmental support for physical activity in rural and worksite communities, measurement of this support, and implications for behavior change.

Dr. Kelly Ylitalo (Health Promotion; Public Health-Community Health Emphasis)

My research interests include physical functioning, obesity, and diabetes. Specifically, I am interested in the role of obesity and cardio-metabolic health in the development of peripheral neuropathy, the role of neuropathy as a leading contributor to limitations in physical functioning and disability, and subsequently, how physical functioning and disability contribute to quality of life and mortality. I have applied complex statistical methods to longitudinal cohort studies and large data sets in order to better understand chronic disease. As an epidemiologist, I work with national and local partners to evaluate and understand the health of individuals and their communities throughout the life course.

Dr. Emily Smith (Health Promotion; Public Health-Community Health Emphasis)

My research interests include global health epidemiology, pediatric surgery, health economics, and policy. My long-term research goal is to improve surgical care for children in low-income to middle-income countries through the development of surgical service scale-up models. To develop pediatric surgery scale-up models, two major knowledge gaps need to be addressed in the field of health system strengthening for surgical care in LMICs; 1) Accurate identification of the burden of pediatric surgical diseases, and 2) Quantification of essential pediatric surgical procedures. My main research interests to achieve this goal stems from my training in epidemiology, health economics and policy, and mathematical modeling. The linkage between the day-to-day provision of medical care and health policy is often overlooked since they represent two fields of study with varying perspectives and methodologies. My studies aim to combine real-world, evidence-based data collection occurring on the ground with a policy level perspective of health system strengthening for children. New understandings of how to leverage both perspectives are critical to inform policy-level recommendations for on-the-ground implementation, resulting in greater impact for children than simply focusing only on one perspective.

RECREATION

Dr. Chris Wynveen (Recreation)

My research focuses on the human dimensions of natural resource management. Specifically, I have a continuing interest in the meanings recreational visitors ascribe to parks and other protected areas. I use place meaning to refer to the thoughts and feelings people hold for specific settings. The concept provides the foundation for understanding other constructs important to the human-environment relationships (e.g. sense of place and place attachment) and the sustainable management of protected areas (e.g. relationships between various resource uses and recreation users, community stakeholder involvement, and collaborative management). My other research interests include recreation behavior as it relates to the management of parks and other protected areas. I have developed my knowledge of this area through projects related to the enforcement of regulations and laws in parks, management of game species through hunter behavior, and community and stakeholder involvement in the management of publically owned recreation resource areas. Lastly, I have also been involved in projects related to the evaluation of grassroots conservation projects.

ATHLETIC TRAINING

Dr. Andrew Gallucci (Athletic Training)

My research interests are focused on adverse health behaviors in collegiate student populations. To date I have examined risk factors and motivations associated the prescription medication misuse, energy drink consumption, and hazardous drinking. My primary area of research examines the risk factors and motivations associated with stimulant use (e.g. prescription stimulants, energy drinks) in undergraduate student samples. Currently my research is focused on examining neuroethical and spiritual issues related to stimulant misuse.

NUTRITION

Dr. LesLee Funderburk (Nutrition; Family and Consumer Sciences)

My research interests are focused on the promotion of quality nutritional intake, supplements, healthy body weight and composition.  A near-term research project will investigate diet quality, body composition and food insecurity in college aged participants.  I am also interested in exercise effects on body composition, both weight training and aerobic, coupled with quality nutritional intake including supplementation.  My research questions are aimed at determining the beneficial effects of supplementation and exercise and the cumulative effects on body composition.  A second project in the planning phase will focus on peri- and post-menopausal women and the effect of leucine and omega3 supplementation combined with a weight training program.  The information from this study is designed to further develop hypotheses related to the influence of supplements and response of biomarkers such as cortisol and vitamin D and the role they play in transforming body composition.  The overarching goal is to continue to identify the unique contributions of exercise, diet quality and supplementation in improving body composition with or without weight loss.

Dr. Leigh Greathouse (Nutrition; Family and Consumer Sciences)

The focus of my laboratory is on elucidating the relationship between diet, the microbiome and colon cancer etiology. Our goal is to 1) delineate the dietary factors that modify the microbiome and its function, 2) develop microbial multi-omic classifiers that improve stratification of patients for colon cancer treatment, and 3) identify key functional pathways and mechanisms of the microbiota-host communication, including nucleic acid sensing cell receptors that control inflammation. Ultimately, our goal is to discover microbial and metabolic targets for the development of clinical tools to improve treatment and reduce mortality from colon cancer.