NUIP Department Newsletter | 2017 - 2018
A message from our Chair: 
Dr. Scott Summers

Greetings members of the NUIP family,

Our new department launched in 2016 as part of a re-alignment of the College of Health, one of the key constituents of University of Utah Health. Built thematically around the topic of “translational metabolic health,” our researchers, clinicians, educators, and trainees endeavor to understand how nutrient homeostasis influences the development and progression of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Our highly integrated education, research and outreach programs strive to achieve the following goals: 

  • To understand and combat the metabolic underpinnings of chronic disease
  • To produce the next generation of exemplary dietitians and research scholars
  • To apply rigorous evidence-based research to improve interdisciplinary health care
  • To empower Utahns to improve their own health

Starting last July, our NUIP faculty and students embarked on an ambitious agenda to promote excellence in these areas. This newsletter highlights our research accomplishments, innovative educational endeavors, and  new community outreach activities.  

To our many friends of the program and former students from the Division of Nutrition, including our stellar class of recent graduates, we need you! Stay involved! Please reach out to me to discuss ways that you can remain connected with our new programs.  

To our current faculty and students, I thank you all for welcoming me to the department and for working so hard to get us off to a great start. I’m excited to take the next steps in the coming academic year.  


Research and Discovery

NUIP scientists and research scholars use a broad array of 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 University of Utah Health. We endeavor to translate new research findings into clinical procedures and community outreach programs that improve quality of life.

Chaurasia and Colleagues Ask the Question “How Does a Fat Cell Know its Fat?"

Adipocytes that comprise fat tissue are remarkably dynamic cells that act as  “first responders” to changes in the nutritional environment. They have an incredible capacity to store energy in the form of triglyceride in a lipid droplet. For example, a 70kg person stores 1,600 kcal of energy in the form of glycogen, 24,000 kcal in the form of protein, and 135,000 kcal in the form of triglyceride! Moreover, adipocytes have several other unique characteristics that define them as centers for sensing and communicating nutritional information. Assistant Professor Bhagirath Chaurasia identified an important new way that the adipocyte gauges its energetic status.

As fat molecules enter the adipocyte, those that aren’t stored in the form of triglycerides can condense with products of protein metabolism to produce a class of lipids called ceramides. Dr. Chaurasia and colleagues found that ceramides accumulate in adipose tissue from obese diabetic subjects. Blocking their production in mice substantially altered the characteristics of the tissue, ultimately changing the way the animal consumed energy. Remarkably, the intervention led to substantial health improvements including the clearance of fat from the liver and amelioration of insulin resistance. The work provides support for ceramide reduction as a therapeutic strategy for ameliorating the progression of diabetes and metabolic disease.

Chaurasia’s work was published in November 2016 in Cell Metabolism and highlighted in Nature. Links to these articles and other press clippings are linked below.

Click on the name of the publisher to view the article: 

The Boudina Lab Uncovers a Beneficial Role for Reactive Oxygen Species in the Adipocyte

Obesity and aging lead to commensurate elevations in reactive oxygen species (ROS) as a consequence of normal metabolism. When ROS accumulate in excess of a tissue’s antioxidant capabilities, they can elicit tissue damage. Numerous clinical trials investigating the impact of antioxidants on metabolic pathologies are underway, but early results have been largely disappointing.

The Boudina laboratory sought to determine the consequences of ROS in fat cells of mice. They destroyed the first line of defense against ROS in mitochondria by deleting an enzyme called manganese superoxide dismutase (MnSOD), which is responsible for buffering harmful ROS species (i.e. superoxides). They found that superoxides actually elicit protective responses that enhance the tissue’s ability to burn calories and increase energy expenditure

The work was published in the September edition of the journal Diabetes. An image from the article, entitled "Adipocyte-Specific Deletion of Manganese Superoxide Dismutase Protects From Diet-Induced Obesity Through Increased Mitochondrial Uncoupling and Biogenesis," was featured on the cover. The image depicts a transmission electron micrograph of mitochondria in inguinal fat tissue of mice lacking MnSOD.  To read the full article, click here.

COH Research Award
At the 2017 Annual College of Health Spring Meeting in April, Dr. Sihem Boudina received the College of Health New Investigator Award. The award was given by Dean David Perrin to recognize Dr. Boudina for her outstanding research contributions.
The Utah Vascular Research Laboratory (UVRL) Demonstrates the Power of Collaboration

Upon his arrival in Utah in 2007, Dr. Russ Richardson, the Marjorie Rosenblatt Goodman and Jack Goodman Family Professor of Geriatrics in Internal Medicine, Professor of Nutrition and Integrative Physiology, and the Associate Director of Research for the Salt Lake City Geriatrics, Education, and Clinical Center (GRECC), founded the Utah Vascular Research Laboratory (UVRL). The UVRL is a highly collegial and collaborative environment that fosters the research of like-minded investigators sharing a common interest in vascular and metabolic control with an emphasis on age-related disease and the impact on mobility. When founding the UVRL, Dr. Richardson’s vision was heavily influenced by his experience with a team science ethos: “The belief that a collaborative research effort can accelerate the acquisition of knowledge more effectively than a simple aggregate of research projects that have no interaction or thematic integration”. This is exactly how the UVRL operates, with shared facilities, shared personnel, shared resources, and, most importantly, shared ideas.

The UVRL, now in its 10th year, is a beacon of success at the University of Utah. 2017-2018 was another exemplary year that included the acquisition of grants from the NIH, the US Department of Veteran’s Affairs, the American Heart Association, and numerous private foundations and the publication of 29 high quality peer-reviewed research papers. Beyond Dr. Richardson, 5 UVRL faculty have adjunct appointments in NUIP and a large proportion of NUIP’s PhD students conduct their thesis research in the UVRL under their mentorship.

  Pictured above: Members of Utah Vascular Research Laboratory   

NUIP researchers published 45 peer-reviewed papers, 1 textbook, 2 mini-textbooks, and 5 book chapters in 2016-2017. Several of the papers appeared in journals with high impact factors included Chaurasia et al, 2016, Cell Metabolism, IF=17.566; Summers and Meikle, 2017, Nature Reviews in Endocrinology, IF-15.432; Han….Boudina, 2016, Diabetes, IF= 8.095. etc.). Russ Richardson and his colleagues were particularly prolific, contributing 29 of these manuscripts.

New Research Grants 
NUIP investigators acquired nearly 2 million dollars in new research grants.
  • Boudina – AHA Grant-in-Aid; Washington University Diabetes Research Center Grant
  • Chaurasia – UU Diabetes and Metabolism Center Grant; UU Vice President of Research Funding Incentive Seed Grant
  • Richardson – VA Merit Grant
  • Summers – AHA Grant-in-Aid
  • Symons – AHA Grant-in-Aid; Research Instrumentation Fund Grant (to purchase a shared pressure myograph); AHA Postdoctoral Fellowship (awarded to Seul Ki)  
Innovation in Education
Launch of the New PhD Program

NUIP launched its inaugural PhD program in Nutrition and Integrative Physiology in August of 2016. The rigorous program trains research scientists and academic scholars on the fundamentals of translational bioscience, enabling them to take research findings from bench-to-bedside. The degree takes 4 to 5 years to complete and culminates with the development of a written thesis and a successful oral dissertation defense.    

Kristine Jordan, Thunder Jalili, and Janet Lindsley Bring Team-Based Learning to Utah

Drs.  Kristine Jordan (Associate Professor, NUIP), Thunder Jalili (Associate Professor, NUIP) and Janet Lindsley (Associate Professor in Biochemistry; Adjunct Associate Professor in NUIP) teamed with colleagues from the School of Medicine and the College of Pharmacy to develop a workshop introducing “Team-Based Learning.” Dr. Jordan was the principal investigator of the $5,546 University Teaching Grant, with additional support from the Academy of Health Science Educators. The workshop, held on April 3rd, 2017, introduced a form of classroom instruction that encourages student engagement and collaboration. The participants included over 80 faculty and graduate students. The conference was facilitated by Boyd Richards, PhD from the University of Utah and Edward McKee, PhD from Central Michigan University. 

In 2017-2018, NUIP faculty will start integrating Team-Based Learning into the Clinical Assessment and Research Methods Laboratory, Medical Nutrition Therapy I, and Macronutrient Metabolism. This team-based educational modality will be enhanced with a new interdisciplinary team approach to the Focused Area of Study projects. Through these approaches, students will learn the power of team-based approaches to solve complex clinical problems and develop new clinical and community programs.

Pictured in Photo: 

(On right) Joan Benson, Scott Summers, Kathie Beals

(On Left) Sihem Boudina

Pictured (from left): Cheri Bantilan, Pao Vinitchagoon, and Kristine Jordan.
Preceptor Luncheon

In April 2017, NUIP hosted a Preceptor Luncheon in appreciation of the amazing group of preceptors who graciously and selflessly mentor our Coordinated Master’s Degree students. At the luncheon two of our graduating students, Cheri Bantilan and Pao Vinitchagoon, spoke about their clinical training experience. We are grateful to have such an outstanding group of clinical preceptors!

Theresa Dvorak and Amy Locke Bring Culinary Medicine to University of Utah Health

Instructor and Registered Dietitian Theresa Dvorak (NUIP) and Dr. Amy Locke (Family and Preventive Medicine) created a new and innovative course entitled Culinary Medicine. The course teams Medical and Nutrition students in classroom sessions that integrate patient needs with meal preparation, enriching the clinician’s ability to provide helpful and practical advice about how to use diet to manage disease. The concept, which has similarities to a program first developed at the Tulane Medical School, was brought to the University of Utah through a grant awarded to Janet Lindsley (Associate Professor in Biochemistry and Adjunct Associate Professor in NUIP). Theresa and Amy presented the utility of their distinctive course, which received rave reviews from Utah medical students, at the 2017 Regional Spring Meeting of WGEA/WGSA/WOSR in a workshop entitled: “Culinary Medicine: Teaching Nutrition in an Inter-Professional Hands-On Setting.” In the Fall of 2017, Theresa and Amy will expand the course content, creating a version unique to the University of Utah that enables students to better communicate with patients about the interrelationships between nutrition, lifestyle and disease by incorporating interdisciplinary learning and counseling role play.  

  Pictured above:  Theresa Dvorak 
BlockU Program

The College of Health has developed a new BlockU course entitled Work, Wellness, and the Great Outdoors. NUIP Assistant Professor Julie Metos will be the lead instructor for the program. The BlockU Program was developed to help students graduate sooner by completing their General Education requirements at an accelerated rate. Students who are part of the Work, Wellness and the Great Outdoors block work with a small cohort while completing their coursework and engaging in enriching outdoor activities. 
Awards and Recognition
 Kristine Jordan  
 Julie  Metos 
Dr. Julie Metos and Dr. Kristine Jordan Named Fellows in the Academy of Health Science Educators
Drs.  Kristine Jordan and Julie Metos were named 2016 and 2017 Fellows in the Academy of Health Science Educators, respectively. The awards were given in recognition of the exemplary teaching abilities, strong mentoring skills, and genuine compassion of these exceptional individuals.
Other Teaching Awards

  • Shannon Jones was a recipient of the Career Services Faculty Recognition Award. Nominated by one of her students, Shannon was selected as 1 of 20 winners of this award, which had over 200 nominees.
  • PhD student and faculty member Nica Clark was awarded a University Teaching Assistant Scholarship by the Graduate School.  
Pictured (from left): Olivia Juarez and Shannon Jones
NUIP Department Annual Spring Awards Banquet

NUIP held its annual Spring Awards Banquet in April of this month. Award Recipients include the following:

The E. Wayne Askew Award for Exemplary Student in Research 

  • Recipient: Cheri Bantilan

The Constance J. Geiger Award for Outstanding Clinical Dietetics Student

  • Recipient: Micah Turney

The Teacher of the Year Award

  • Recipient: Julie Metos, PhD, RD

The 2017 Distinguished Alumnus Award

  • Recipient: Abigail Larson, PhD, RD, CSSD, CSCS

The 2017 Preceptor of the Year Award

  • Recipient: Jen Derrick, MS, RDN, CD

The Spring Banquet presents an opportunity to celebrate our graduating students. This year we recognized 21 graduating students. In addition, four scholarships were awarded to continuing students:

  • The Maurine N. Hegsted Scholarship: Cassidy Moore
  • The Barbara Mathis Prater Scholarship: Kimberly Funk
  • The Constance J. Geiger Scholarship: Amy Loverin
  • The Anna M. Jacobsen Scholarship: Ashleigh Libs
Textbooks Published/Featuring NUIP Faculty
  • NUIP Instructor Staci Nix-McIntosh, authored and published Williams' Basic Nutrition and Diet Therapy, 15th edition. Two of our faculty members, Kary Woodruff and Theresa Dvorak, also wrote chapters for the textbook.
  • Dr. Stacie Wing-Gaia wrote a chapter about Nutrition, Malnutrition, and Starvation in the wilderness in Auerbach's Wilderness Medicine textbook
  • Faculty member Kary Woodruff published her 2nd textbook: Sports Nutrition Strategies for Success: A Practical Guide to Improving Performance Through Nutrition.
  • Staci Nix-McIntosh authored book chapters in Essentials for Nursing Practice, 9th edition and Health Promotion Throughout the Lifespan, 9th edition. These textbooks will publish in the latter part of 2017.
Recognizing Our Amazing Department Staff 
At the 2017 Annual College of Health Spring Meeting, Associate Director, Administration, Sarah Elizabeth Levitt received the Staff and Advising Excellence Award. The award was in recognition of Sarah Elizabeth’s helpful nature, strong work ethic, and commitment to excellence. We couldn’t be more proud of the amazing work being done by the administrative staff of the NUIP Department. Congratulations, Sarah Elizabeth!
Pictured (from left): Sarah Elizabeth, Dean Perrin 
In Memoriam of Constance J. Geiger, 1963-2017

Chair of the Division of Foods and Nutrition at the University of Utah from 1986 until 1993.

Connie died at home on her ranch in Wyoming on May 5, 2017 from pancreatic cancer.

Connie played a prominent role in requiring food manufacturers across the United States to label processed foods. She was known both nationally and internationally for her expertise in health communications and government affairs consulting.

She obtained a Bachelor of Science from the University of North Carolina, a Master's degree at Ohio State, and a PhD from Utah State University in Nutrition and Food Science.

She remained on the faculty at the University of Utah after 1993 as an Adjunct Associate Professor and while managing her own consulting company, Geiger and Associates.

There is a scholarship fund in her name for students in the field of nutrition. Contact Courtney Garay, Development Director, College of Health, 

To view a short tribute to Connie Geiger by Dr. Julie Metos, click here

Community Outreach

Julie Metos Launches the Utah Center for Community Nutrition

Dr. Julie Metos has become the executive director for the Utah Center for Community Nutrition, an umbrella program that coordinates outreach initiatives to encourage healthy eating habits and disease prevention. The center offers innovative comprehensive education programs that target middle and high school students, medically under-served populations, and the homeless. 

Contact us to learn more about the programs we have available to encourage healthy eating habits and disease prevention.

Sarah Elizabeth Levitt, Associate Director | 801.581.6730

Shannon Jones Develops New Sustainability Initiatives

Instructor Shannon Jones is one of the original Sustainability Scholars at the University of Utah. The process to earn the title of Sustainability Scholar takes a year to complete and includes taking part in full-day workshops and modifying class curriculum. In addition to being a Sustainability Scholar, Shannon also obtained two grants to advance new sustainability initiatives. 

  • In October of 2016, Shannon and student Julia Maciunas were awarded $5,000 from the University's Sustainable Campus Initiative Fund (SCIF) to reclaim and redistribute food waste on campus. As the University's faculty advisor for the university chapter of the Food Recovery Network, Shannon oversaw the project, which diverted food waste from campus Dining Services to the Salt Lake Rescue Mission. Because of Shannon’s selfless efforts, over 12,000 pounds of fresh food that was destined for the landfill was instead provided to community members with low food security.
  • In April 2017, Shannon and student Nick Knight were awarded a $1,100 Sustainable Campus Initiative Fund (SCIF) grant for the Feed U Campus Pantry. The grant allowed Shannon and Nick to purchase 500 reusable grocery bags in order to reduce the use of plastic bags. Shannon hopes the reusable grocery bags will help reduce stigma for pantry patrons. 

Shannon's future sustainability goals include coordinating the collection of excess food at Primary Children's and delivering the food to programs that support people in need.

PhD Students in Inaugural Class

Faculty Peer-Reviewed Publications 

Faculty Presentations

Number of Nutrition Minors


Undergraduate Students Taught Spring '17


Amount in New Grants

In April 2017, Shannon Jones and student, Olivia Juarez, were interviewed on KRCL's RadioActive Program regarding the Salt Excess Food Reclamation and Diversion Program they developed last year. Shannon is the Program Director of Excess. With the help of the Salt Lake County Health Department, Salt Lake City's Sustainability Department and students, the program is working to divert food excess to those in need, including senior citizen centers. 

To listen to their interview, click here
Ernie Rimer, a student studying under Dr. Jim Martin and working on his PhD, was featured in an article in the Salt Lake Tribune in February 2017. Rimer is using scientific studies and data to improve the performance of University of Utah athletes. 

To read the article, click here
  • Throughout the Fall 2016 and Spring 2017 semesters, Dr. Scott Summers has been interviewed regarding his contributions to research on Diabetes. In April of 2017, Dr. Summers was interviewed live on the BYURadio show Top of Mind with Julie Rose. Dr. Summers was also featured in an article in The Atlantic in March 2017. In the article Dr. Summers describes the relationship he has found between ceramides, also called "toxic fat", and Diabetes through his research. In November 2016, Dr. Summers and Dr. Bhagirath Chaurasia were interviewed by The Scope - University of Utah Health Sciences Radio about their research on the relationship between ceramides and Diabetes. 
    To read the article featuring Dr. Summers in The Atlantic, click here
    To listen to Dr. Summers interview on Top of Mind with Julie Rose, click here.
  • Dr. Julie Metos also provided interviews to The Scope - University of Utah Health Sciences Radio throughout 2016 and 2017. The topics included sugar-sweetened beverages and rating your fridge game.
  • Throughout 2016 and 2017, instructor, Theresa Dvorak, provided multiple interviews to The Scope - University of Utah Health Sciences Radio. The topics of her interviews included how to incorporate more greens into your diet, selecting healthier alternatives to candy to give out on Halloween, and eating for fat loss.
  • In January 2016, the Deseret News published an article discussing research being completed by Dr. Patricia Guenther, a Research Professor in NUIP, and Dr. John Hurdle, a Professor of Biomedical Informatics. Dr. Guenther is co-PI on the project which utilizes computer software to analyze the nutritional information of the items individuals purchase at grocery stores. The software will help individuals learn how close their food choices are to USDA dietary guidelines. To read the article, click here