Center mentors include both internal and external senior level administrative and research faculty, all of whom have demonstrated excellence in their respective fields. The mentors provide project specific guidance on, the development and progress of the junior investigator research projects by:

  • Meeting with the junior investigators at least monthly to discuss the following:

  • subject enrollment

  • issues (including budget)/barriers; potential solutions

  • accomplishments

  • recommendations and goals for the next quarter

  • Connecting junior investigators with potential collaborators, consultants, and opportunities to enhance their research

  • Meeting quarterly or as needed with Dr. Weber to discuss the project’s progress

  • Attending Work-in-Progress meetings, monthly training sessions and external advisory committee meetings


Aline Andres, Ph.D.

Associate Professor
Department of Pediatrics, College of Medicine
University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences
Associate Director for Clinical Research, Arkansas Children’s Nutrition Center

Dr. Andres is an Associate Professor of Pediatrics in the College of Medicine at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.  Her research focus is on examining the effects of prenatal and postnatal nutrition on anthropometrics, body composition, metabolism and physical activity of infants and children. She is funded from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for studies addressing childhood obesity. Dr. Andres obtained her PhD in Nutritional Sciences in 2007 from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and completed her postdoctoral training in Physiology in 2008, at UAMS.


Kevin Fitzpatrick, Ph.D.

Jones Chair in Community
Department of Sociology & Criminal Justice
University of Arkansas

Dr. Fitzpatrick is the Director of the Community and Family Institute at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. Dr. Fitzpatrick is a University Professor and the Bernice Jones Chair in Community and is a community researcher with over 30 years of experience in primary studies that examine the intersection of place and health. His work includes extensive research on homelessness, obesity and food insecurity, and exposure to violence among low-income, minority adolescents. Dr. Fitzpatrick obtained his PhD in Sociology in 1985 at the State University of Albany. Prior to coming to the University of Arkansas in 2005, he spent 20 years in the department of sociology at the University of Alabama-Birmingham.


Pearl McElfish, Ph.D.

Associate Vice Chancellor – Northwest Arkansas Regional Campus
Director, Office of Community Health and Research
University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences – NW

Dr. Pearl McElfish began her tenure as Associate Vice Chancellor of the UAMS Northwest Regional Campus on October 1, 2016 and is the second person to serve as leader of the regional campus.

In addition to her role as Associate Vice Chancellor, Dr. McElfish oversees the Office of Community Health and Research, serves as Co-Director of the Center for Pacific Islander Health, and holds faculty positions in the UAMS Colleges of Medicine, Nursing, and Public Health. She is the founder of the Office of Community Health and Research at UAMS Northwest Regional Campus and of the Center for Pacific Islander Health at UAMS. Since late 2014, she has been awarded more than $10 million in federal and private foundation grants for investment in community health in Northwest Arkansas.

Dr. McElfish holds a PhD in public policy, a master’s degree in community and economic development, and a master’s degree in business administration. She is a certified Project Management Professional and a Certified Community Developer and has more than 15 years of experience working in health care administration and community health.

Dr. McElfish’s research focuses on reducing health disparities with Pacific Islander and Hispanic Communities. She also conducts food systems research, and methodological research related to the best methods for conducting community-based participatory research and for disseminating research results to participants and communities. She has a history of funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and other private foundations.


Radhika Muzumdar, M.D.

Chief, Division of Endocrinology and Diabetes
Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC
Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Cell Biology
University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine

Radhika Muzumdar is the chief of the Division of Pediatric Endocrinology and Associate professor of pediatrics and cell biology at University of Pittsburgh. Her clinical interests include care of children with diabetes, growth and adrenal disorders, thyroid problems and disorders of puberty. Her research is focused on GH, insulin-like growth factors and their binding partners, and a novel mitochondria-associated peptide called humanin on glucose homeostasis, energy metabolism, cardiovascular health and aging. Her lab is also studying the link between tumor suppressor gene AIM 2 and obesity, as well as the role of novel acyl dehydrogensase enzyme (ACAD 10) on glucose/lipid metabolism and mitochondrial function. She has served on several national and international study sections, including the NIH, AFAR research council, Binational Israel foundation, Israeli Science Foundation, Marsden Fund (New Zealand) and Wellcome trust UK. She serves as standing member on the NIA/ASG study section and on AFAR’s National Scientific Advisory Council. Dr. Muzumdar is the principal investigator of the Research Training in Pediatric Endocrinology program (T32), goal of which is to provide state-of-the-art training in the molecular, cellular, physiologic, genetic, and biochemical aspects of pediatric endocrinology to ensure that the physician-scientists who graduate from this program are well prepared for productive academic careers. She is an active member of the Pediatric Endocrine Society (PES), and is Chair of the Research advisory council of PES.

Rodolfo Nayga, Ph.D.

Tyson Chair in Food Policy Economics
Distinguished Professor
Agricultural Economics & Agribusiness
University of Arkansas

Rodolfo M. Nayga, Jr. is Distinguished Professor and Tyson Endowed Chair in Food Policy Economics in the Department of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness at University of Arkansas. Dr. Nayga’s research interests include the economics of food consumption, policy, and health. He has focused his work on critical issues such as poverty, nutrition, obesity, and novel food technologies. He has examined issues related to how people comprehend and use food and nutritional labels and how these would then influence a number of important health related outcomes such as diet quality and obesity. He has also analyzed the effects of important federal food programs such as the National School Lunch Program, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and the Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Program on food consumption and obesity. His work in this area provided crucial information on the causal effects of important federal food programs/policies on health outcomes of various segments of the population including children and historically disadvantaged groups. Another strand of his research is on the application of stated and revealed preference elicitation methods to study how people would value novel food products, food programs, and policies. This research is crucial in determining whether a proposed food program or policy would be valued by the public or target population. This information is used by policy analysts and policy makers not only for benefit-cost analysis but also to assess the public’s propensity to support the proposed food program or policy.

Kartik Shankar, Ph.D., DABT

Associate Professor
Department of Pediatrics, College of Medicine
University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences
Associate Director for Basic Research, Arkansas Children’s Nutrition Center

Dr. Shankar is an Associate Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and the Associate Director for Basic Research at the Arkansas Children’s Nutrition Center. Dr. Shankar’s research centers on understanding the programming of obesity and metabolic disease in utero. Specifically, his group conducts translational research examining the nature and mechanisms by which maternal obesity impacts the offspring. His current research emphasis is on understanding transcriptomic and epigenetic and other environmental changes in mother and child, by leveraging large-scale genomic and other data-driven techniques. Dr. Shankar is funded via NIH and the USDA. Dr. Shankar obtained his PhD in Toxicology in 2003, and completed his postdoctoral training in Pregnancy and Nutrition at the ACNC. He is also a Board Certified Toxicologist.

Miriam Vos, M.D. MSPH

Associate Professor
Department of Pediatrics
Emory University School of Medicine
Director, Mason Transplant and Wellness
Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta

Dr. Vos is a clinical and translational physician scientist with a robust research program investigating nutrition and metabolism within childhood obesity, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and dyslipidemia.  Her research includes a wide breadth of activity, including basic science molecular studies using cell models, rodent models, clinical mechanistic studies using “omics”, feeding challenge studies, clinical trials, case-control studies, birth cohort studies and large population studies.  The current focus of her research work is to solve the clinical problems surrounding pediatric liver disease including the need for diagnostics, therapeutics and effective prevention.  In collaboration with Emory’s robust Environmental Health Sciences program and the Clinical Biomarkers Lab, Dr. Vos is advancing the understanding of the child metabolome, including investigations into pathway disturbance in NAFLD, toxicant exposures and response in the metabolome to meal challenges. 

Dr. Vos is an internationally recognized expert in pediatric NAFLD.  She published the first study to demonstrate the striking race and ethnic differences in prevalence in children with NAFLD and the first study to show the rapid rate of increase in the prevalence.  Her early work on non-invasive biomarkers included 3 publications in collaboration with radiology colleagues on magnetic resonance spectroscopy as a precise, non-invasive measurement of hepatic fat.  In both epidemiologic and clinical studies, she helped expand the understanding of effects of sugar metabolism in children, particularly in children with NAFLD.  Most recently this led to the publication of the first national guideline calling for a strict limit of added sugar consumption in children and the first pediatric NAFLD guidelines for children.  Ongoing studies include a RCT testing diet manipulation effect on liver steatosis, a RCT testing gut modification as a treatment for NAFLD, descriptive studies of the microbiome, metabolome and toxicant exposure in children with NAFLD and a longitudinal cohort study of NAFLD.   She is active in teaching and mentoring including serving as the Director of Graduate Studies for the Nutrition and Health Sciences Program.  She was selected as one of the top faculty mentors at Emory University School of Medicine in 2017.  

Robert Wolfe, Ph.D.

Director, Center for Translational Research in Aging & Longevity
Jane and Ed Warmack Chair in Nutritional Longevity
Department of Geriatrics, College of Medicine
University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences

Dr. Wolfe is currently a Professor in the Department of Geriatrics at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. Dr. Wolfe’s primary area of interest is the regulation of metabolism at a physiological level.  His work has focused entirely on macronutrient metabolism in human subjects.  Over the past 15 years his work has dealt primarily with protein metabolism.  In particular, Dr. Wolfe’s research has investigated the role of essential amino acids in controlling rates of protein synthesis and breakdown.  He has developed and utilized methods utilizing stable isotope tracers to quantify metabolic reactions.  He has published approximately 600 original research articles, reviews, and book chapters that have been cited more than 50,000 times according to Google Scholar (h index= 123).

Dr. Wolfe has mentored more than 50 research fellows, many of whom have become nationally and internationally recognized for their accomplishments.  He has also been the primary advisor for 11 PhD students.  He has taught a course in tracer methodology for more than 20 years that has attracted more than 2,000 scientists from every state and 221 countries.    


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The Center for Childhood Obesity Prevention is supported by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number P20GM109096. The content of this website and research reported in publications resulting from work performed under this Award are solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.