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News from 2017


ACEND has accepted HNFE's proposed M.S. program in Nutrition and Dietetics as a demonstration program accredited under the Future Education Model! Our next steps are to navigate the university and SCHEV governance processes, with a hopeful start date of Fall 2019.


Led by co-directors Matt Hulver and Warren Bickel, the VTCRI Center for Transformative Research on Health Behaviors is officially open! Researchers will study habits that lead to medical conditions like obesity, addictions, and diabetes.

Valisa Hedrick

Valisa Hedrick received the First Author Award from the Research Dietetics Practice Group of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics at FNCE. Her manuscript, "Dietary quality changes in response to a sugar-sweetened beverage-reduction intervention: results from the Talking Health randomized controlled clinical trial" was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in March 2017. Co-authors included Brenda Davy, Wendy You, Kathleen Porter, Paul Estabrooks, and Jamie Zoellner.


Allison Burns
Allison Burns (left) and Cameron Myers (right) are the first two recipients of the Charles W. Schiffert and Dolores S. Schiffert Scholarship.

HNFE junior Allison Burns is one of two recipients of the Charles W. Schiffert and Dolores S. Schiffert Scholarship award. Burns dreamed of becoming a physician as a child. “While the typical patient would cringe with terror each time they stepped foot into the monstrous hospital, I felt no fear,” said Burns, who frequented hospitals as a result of kidney reflux disease. “Lab coats, stethoscopes, test tubes: every inch of the building excited me. The copious time spent in doctors’ offices birthed a passion in me to be a pediatrician."


Dave Brown and lab

David Brown presented "Mitochondrial Targeted Molecules: Tools and Therapies" at the Physiological Bioenergetics: Mitochondria from Bench to Bedside Conference in San Diego, sponsored by the American Physiological Society. His talk gave an overview of current and emerging treatments for a variety of diseases that target mitochondria; he also presented new data from his lab using novel mitochondria-targeting medicines. Lab members Mitch Allen, Justin Perry, and Kalyn Specht also attended.

George Davis and Elena Serrano were awarded the 2017 Quality of Communication Award for their book, “Food and Nutrition Economics: Fundamentals for Health Sciences,” during the annual Agricultural and Applied Economics Association meetings held in Chicago in August.

A well-intentioned government regulation designed to offer healthier options in school vending machines has failed to instill better snacking habits in a sample of schools in Appalachian Virginia, according to a study by Elena Serrano and fomer graduate student Georgianna Mann. On the challenge of providing healthy snacks for kids, "We thought the legislation would have a profound effect and assumed there would be changes in snack behavior at school and at home." Instead, they discovered that while there were improvements in the nutritional value of snacks available to students, teens did not report making healthier choices.

Samantha Harden and group
David Dzewaltowski, Harden, Fabio Almeida, Russ Glasgow (founder of RE-AIM), and Paul Estabrooks.

Samantha Harden was a keynote speaker at the "Translating Effective Interventions into Practice: An Interactive, Pragmatic Workshop for T3-T4 Research" hosted by CENTRIC (Center for Patient, Family, and Community Engagement in Chronic Care Management), The Great Plains IDeA-CTR, and the College Of Public Health at University of Nebraska Medical Center.


Vivica Kraak: FDA Extends Deadline for Nutrition Label
Recognized expert in food and nutrition policies Vivica Kraak  discusses with NewsRadio WINA's Les Sinclair the revised nutrition labels and the FDA decision to push back the deadline for compliance.

diversity grant
(From left) Michele Deramo, Mike Bowers, Jill Sible, Debby Good, and Sarah Karpanty are project leads on a new grant the university received from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Debby Good is one of the project leads in a $1 million, five-year grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute to engage all students studying science, especially students from diverse pathways, to be successful in its Inclusive Excellence initiative. The idea behind the grant is to help such institutions as Virginia Tech work with first-generation students and students transferring in from community colleges to guide them into STEM-related careers.

Samantha Harden
left to right: Amy Yaroch (director of the Gretchen Swanson Center), Harden, and Paul Estabrooks (chair of Department of Health Promotions, Social & Behavioral Health at the University of Nebraska Medical Center)

Samantha Harden received an "Early Career Investigator Invited Talk" award from the International Society of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity. She was also an invited panelist to the "Rural Cancer Control: Challenges & Opportunities."


Virginia Family Nutrition Program: Looking for an easy family dinner idea? One-pot soup is a tasty solution; keep the costs low and still make a healthy, tasty soup! #BetterPantry

Hulver Bickel
Two authorities in lifestyle disease research — Matthew Hulver (left) and Warren Bickel will lead a new research center to understand and tackle the threat of diseases people often bring upon themselves.

A new research center to tackle the threat of lifestyle diseases — medical conditions such as obesity that are caused or aggravated by a person’s own behavior — will be established at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute in the heart of the Roanoke Innovation District.

Scientists and clinicians throughout Virginia Tech and Carilion Clinic will join forces at the new VTCRI Center for Transformative Research on Health Behaviors in a strategic effort to protect the health of people in Virginia and the United States. The initiative will be led by two authorities in lifestyle disease research — Warren Bickel, the Virginia Tech Carilion Behavioral Health Research Professor, and Matthew Hulver, the head of the Department of Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise.  Read more...

2017 Aspire! Award for Ut Prosim: HNFE senior Jacob Long
Recent graduating senior Jacob Long's philosophy is simple: embrace Ut Prosim as a way of life. Long has dual degrees in Psychology and HNFE, was a student leader with VT Engage, a mentor for the SERVE Living Learning Community, and a research assistant with the Psychology Department’s Mind-Body Lab. He worked with researchers on VT Project SMYLE in Human Development, compiling articles on the topic of LGBTQ+ disclosure to family and friends. He has been a teaching assistant, camp counselor, coaching intern, physical therapy volunteer, and shift manager for 209 Manna Ministries, the campus food pantry run by and for Virginia Tech students.  

George Davis and Elena Serrano received the Agricultural & Applied Economics Association’s prestigious Quality of Communication Award for "Food and Nutrition Economics: Fundamentals for Health Sciences."

Perry and Brown

David Brown and Ph.D. student Justin Perry attended the European Society for Cardiology Heart Failure 2017 meeting in Paris in May.

Perry presented in the Young Investigator Award session and received the runner-up prize for his presentation.

Seyi Olusina
Seyi Olusina (left) and Skyler Mueller (right) stand on the steps of East Ambler Johnston, where they've hosted two seminars regarding race relations.

Rising senior Seyi Olusina has been selected as the undergraduate student representative to the Board of Visitors next year.  "I will represent the undergraduates and be eyes and ears for the board to help them stay up to date on the different moods on campus and bring up important issues. I will also work on initiatives that I came up with and help other leadership groups achieve what they are working on," said Olusina, who is completing minors in communications and psychology. Once he graduates, he plans to attend physical therapy school or become a hospital administrator. Seyi is also one of the first Keystone Fellows and is on the Student Advisory Board (Student Life Council) for the Division of Student Affairs. Learn more about his inclusivity work at Virginia Tech.


Janet Rankin presented "Active Transportation for a Healthy, Sustainable Planet" at Westfield State University. Her presentation focused on areas of health, including the body, the environment, and transportation.

A diaBEAT-IT study participant lost 130 pounds and regained his health and life! Former HNFE faculty Fabio Almeida and Paul Estabrooks led this collaborative study between the department and Carilion Clinic. Co-investigators were Rick Seidel, Brenda Davy, Zhiyong Cheng, and Mark Greenawald. Sarah Wall was the study manager and had research assistance from Ashley Hash, Nick Bilbro, and many other students for the last five years.

Internship alumni in the news:

Elise Deming is one of several registered dietitians at New Jersey ShopRite locations sharing their expertise with children across South Jersey in a program called KidsFit. "KidsFit is a cooking class that involves nutrition education, healthy recipes, grocery-store scavenger hunts, and much more that involves many kids and their families," said  Demings who is a retail dietitian with two stores. "This program is so essential to ShopRite right now because it combats childhood obesity," said Demings. "That is a huge problem, and this teaches kids how to bring health and wellness, healthy foods, and great cooking skills into their home."

Congratulations to recent Internship graduate Jenny Dang, who was honored with the 2017 Cindy Reeser Undergraduate DPD/Dietetic Intern Award. This recognizes the emerging leadership and achievement of undergraduate students and dietetic interns in ACEND-accredited and approved dietetics education programs and encourages their participation in the DC Metro Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.


Congratulations to Heather Cox, who was selected as the Area 6 Outstanding Dietetic Educator in the Didactic Program in Dietetics category for 2017! The award recognizes the teaching, mentoring, and leadership activities of faculty and preceptors in dietetics education programs that are accredited by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics. The selection of awardees is determined by the Nutrition and Dietetic Educators and Preceptors Group of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Area 6 consists of all programs in Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia, Delaware, and Pennsylvania.

Brenda Davy
Congratulations to Brenda Davy, who received the 2017 Achievement Award at the 2017 Sports, Cardiovascular, and Wellness Nutrition Symposium! Each year, SCAN recognizes a practitioner who has played a significant role in the evolution of SCAN through both outstanding service to the organization and professional accomplishments in the field. With Brenda are current and past students: Samantha Kostelnik, Katarina Smiljanec, Mary Elizabeth Baugh, Cortney Steele, Tanya Halliday, Lori Moore, Emily VanDerBrink, and Brittany Thorpe.
Justin Perry, David Brown, and Mitchell Allen
Associate Professor David Brown (center) worked with Ph.D. students Mitchell Allen (right) and Justin Perry on a research project that found dysfunction at the molecular level during heart failure. Understanding this abnormality could lead to new approaches for treating the No. 1 killer among men and women worldwide.

David Brown leads a team that examines molecular-level problems of heart disease. In a recent study, they teamed up with cardiologists and heart therapy scientists from across the U.S. and Europe and found that dysfunction at the molecular level is present in heart failure. Understanding this abnormality could lead to new approaches for treating the No. 1 killer among men and women worldwide.


Along with directors Carol Papillon and Amy LaFalce, all 16 Virginia Tech dietetic interns visited state legislators at the Virginia Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Legislative Day in Richmond. Speakers included  Virginia First Lady Dorothy MacAuliffe, who spoke about the collaborative role in overcoming child hunger, and Sandy Curwood, the new director of School Nutrition Programs.  Two interns also attended the Maryland Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Legislative Day.

 Virginia Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Legislative Day 2
Amy LaFalce and Northern Virginia interns prior to the VAND members being introduced in the House of Delegates Chamber.
 Virginia Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Legislative Day
Carol Papillon with Blacksburg interns and registered dietitians visiting Senator John Edwards.

Robert Grange and his lab are part of ground breaking research on Duchenne muscular dystrophy with the University of VirginiaDespite decades of research, there is no cure or treatment for this disease. Researchers at UVA (in collaboration with Grange and his M.S. student Kate Bukovec) have been awarded a $2.5 million NIH grant with the goal to create a computer model of Duchennes that mimics both biomechanical and inflammatory changes during disease progression in mice and humans. In a very novel approach, Kate will use dystrophic mouse muscles to mimic the damage experienced by muscles during different walking techniques.

Judy Midkff, Governor McAuliffe, and Anna Midkiff
FNP's Judy Midkiff with Governor McAuliffe and her daughter Anna at the Governor's Mansion to celebrate the launch of Project 365, a USDA Child Hunger Demonstration Grant. FNP is partnering with several state agencies to implement this program, which has three goals: to end childhood hunger in participating areas by 2018, to nourish student’s minds and bodies for improved school performance, and to be the nation’s leader in ending childhood hunger through partnerships and collaboration and innovative service delivery.


Vivica Kraak has been awarded a 2017 Fulbright Scholar Award to teach and conduct research on food policy and nutrition in Denmark. Kraak will spend four months in Copenhagen at the Metropolitan University College, where she will be a visiting professor for the college’s undergraduate global nutrition and health degree. She will also spend her time in the Nordic country researching sodium reduction in the nation’s food supply.

The 2017 Summer Hepler Fellowship students, faculty mentors, and their research focus:

Bailey Houghtaling (Elena Serrano)
Rural and urban food-retailer willingness to alter the food environment in promotion of healthful food and beverage purchases for low-income consumers

Jing Luo (Dongmin Liu)
Novel role of GPR30 in adipogenesis

Olivia Privitera (Brenda Davy)
Influence of a high-fat diet on delayed discounting, reward responses, and dietary cognitive restraint