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Annual NUIP news & updates

August 2021 | Issue 5


CMP Students Again Stellar on RD Exam

Graduating a Second PhD Class


New Presidential Endowed Chair

Mary Playdon Joins 5 for the Fight

Play "Symons Says"


Learn how the University of Utah Center for Community Nutrition is addressing food insecurity and nutrition education during the pandemic


More successes from our all-star faculty and trainees



We are excited to welcome everyone back for a new school year. We look forward to another year of stellar trainee performances and impactful research, discoveries.

Please visit our website for important information as well as Instagram and Twitter for the latest news.

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I'll say it: I'm sad.

I miss the laughter in the hallways. I miss the exclamations of joy following scientific breakthroughs or successful exam performances. I miss the carefree banter and teasing amongst faculty and students. I even miss the bad stuff, like students lamenting about a challenging instructor or researchers complaining about unfair reviewers. I miss it all!

Zoom is serviceable, but it isn't the same as being together in person. Masks are critically important, but they obscure the depth of emotions that make this career so interesting and this job so worthwhile.

Yet we trudge onward, doing what is necessary to protect those around us. We face another year dealing with an insidious virus that shows few signs of stopping. The immediate future remains murky.

Yet, despite the uncertainty, many things are guaranteed. I know that NUIP trainees and faculty will continue to perform at an exemplary level, despite the hurdles thrown their way. I know that we will continue to publish papers in prominent journals and win national grants and awards. I know that we will offer high impact learning activities, including exciting bench research and clinical and community engagement experiences. I know that our PhD students will complete rigorous dissertations and that our CMP students will again crush the credentialing exam to become registered dietitians. And I know that we will continue to deliver important nutrition programs to Utahans in need.

I know this, because I have seen the extraordinary effort of everyone in this department during the last pandemic year. I know this, because I have witnessed the character, professionalism, and diligence of the faculty, staff and students that are NUIP.

I remain honored to work with such a fantastic team. Thanks to all of you for another successful year.



Celebrating NUIP's Second Batch of PhD Graduates

Since launching in 2016, the PhD program in Nutrition and Integrative Physiology has graduated 9 talented students who fully prepared to conduct rigorous and translational research on on the metabolic basis of disease. The second batch of graduates (Drs. Nica Clark, Jordan Johnson, Pari Mokhtari, and Trevor Tippetts, pictured below) defended their dissertations within the last few months. Representatives of the 2020 and 2021 classes of PhD graduates were hooded at the College of Health Graduate School Commencement at Rice-Eccles Stadium in May of this year.

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Dr. Nica Clark

Dissertation Title:

Team Thrive: Development and Implementation of a Diabetes Prevention Initiative in Utah Adolescents

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Dr. Jordan Johnson

Dissertation Title:

Phospholipid Regulation of Thermogenesis in Mice


Dr. Tahereh Mokhtari

Dissertation Title:

Preventing Early Diabetes: Evaluating School-Based Programming and Characterizing the Gut Microbiome in Adolescents

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Dr. Trevor Tippetts

Dissertation Title:

Ceramides in Obesity and Beta-cell Dysfunction

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Representatives of the first two NUIP PhD classes preparing for their hooding at graduation. From the left: Drs. Trevor Tippetts, Nica Clark, Kary Woodruff, Jay Hydren, and Pat Ferrara.


CMP Alumnus Jessica Pastuf Joins Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Congratulations to NUIP alumnus Jessica Pastuf for her new position on the Performance Nutrition Team of the Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Follow her journey @jmpastuf on Instagram

Coordinated Master's Students Again

Stellar on RD Credentialing Exam

From 2018-2020, CMP graduates achieved a first-time pass rate of 93% on the credentialing exam to become a registered dietitian. This outstanding record greatly exceeds the national pass rate average of 71%. This spring, NUIP Instructor Sarah Boyt led an exam preparation workshop to solidify our remarkable success on the exam.

NUIP's Latest Academy of Health Science Educators Awardees

The Academy of Health Science Educators (ASHE) recognized Assistant Professor Kary Woodruff with the Early Career Education Award. Kary's nominees noted that she was "a driving force in NUIP's program and has developed new courses, implemented creative teaching modalities, and demonstrated an unwavering commitment to innovation and excellence." The Academy also named Professor Thunder Jalili as an ASHE Fellow, noting his "superlative teaching evaluations and commitment to creating a highly engaging and interactive learning environment." Thunder joins NUIP faculty members Julie Metos, Kristine Jordan, and Staci McIntosh as Fellows in this important organization.

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Thunder Jalili, PhD

2021 ASHE Fellow

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Kary Woodruff, PhD, CSSD, RD, CEDRD

2021 Early Career Educator Awardee

ASHE Newsletter
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Amy Loverin Wins 2021 Anita Owen Award For Innovative Nutrition Education


NUIP Assistant Professor Amy Loverin received the 2021 Anita Owen Award of Recognition for Innovative Nutrition Education Programs for the Public. This award from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Foundation was given for her expansion and online conversion of the Team Thrive curriculum.

Culinary Medicine Adds Online Program for Veterans

NUIP's Culinary Medicine (CM) program encourages collaboration within healthcare teams, and increases provider confidence in nutrition counseling. A few CMP students completed a project to develop, pilot and evaluate a fully online CM curriculum for healthcare providers at the Veteran's Administration. The program included six disease-centric modules, as well as new content addressing food insecurity. Check out some sample curriculum materials (left and below).

Clinical Course Series Recipes

Lemon Chicken Stir Fry
Vegetarian Spinach & Red Pepper Fritatta
Rosemary Tuna Salad Sandwiches
Mediterranean Barley Salad
   Fish Tacos  
Chicken Cauliflower Enchilada Skillet
Vegetarian Pasta Primavera
Chilled Veggie Shrimp Salad
Crunchy Quinoa Wraps
Simple Lo Mein 
Red Beans Rice
Veggie Quesadillas
Greek Salad        

UOnline Nutrition Program Maintains Top 10 Ranking

The NUIP Online MS Program led by Associate Professor Katherine Beals maintained its top 10 ranking (#7) by Accredited Online Colleges.


NUIP By The Numbers

Our Department is Growing!

  • 70 faculty members: 10 tenure-track, 24 career-line, 35 adjunct, and 1 emeritus
  • 7 post-doctoral fellows
  • 80 graduate students: 38 PhD students, 32 CMP, and 10 MS
  • 229 students performing a nutrition minor
  • 9 PhD graduates to date (and still counting)
  • $3.2M in research expenditures in FY21


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Scott Summers Awarded William J. Rutter, PhD, Presidential Endowed Chair in Biochemistry

On August 6th, Scott Summers was awarded the inaugural William J. Rutter, PhD, Presidential Endowed Chair in Biochemistry. Dean Perrin notes that the award is given to recognize Scott's "transformative impact on U of U Health, the College of Health, and Department of Nutrition and Integrative Physiology as an academic leader and researcher."

This award is given in honor of Dr. Bill Rutter (pictured above), a former Chair of UCSF’s Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics and a co-founder of Chiron. As one of the early adopters of recombinant DNA technology, Rutter and his colleagues cloned and characterized the insulin genes and hepatitis viruses and produced the world's first recombinant vaccine (against Hepatitis B). Often described as the “Father of Biotechnology,” Dr. Rutter received the Heinz Award “for his role in helping to create the biotechnology industry and for his interest in shaping the industry to serve society.” He has been elected into the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2021, Rutter was awarded an honorary doctorate at the University of Utah.


Mary Playdon Wins

Cancer Research Fellowship

For The Fight is a Qualtrics-led nonprofit that raises funds for cancer research, typically in the form of $5 donations given in honor of someone who is battling the disease. In 2021, NUIP Assistant Professor Mary Playdon was awarded a prestigious 5 for the Fight Fellowship. Mary is a nutritional and cancer epidemiologist that completed a PhD at Yale and a postdoctoral fellowship with the National Cancer Institute. She endeavors to improve survival rates of cancer patients through research focused on diet.

Swapping Alpha Cells for Beta Cells to Cure Diabetes

An animal study suggests a new approach to treat the millions of people with type 1 diabetes. NUIP Associate Professor William Holland and colleagues reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that blocking signaling by the fasting hormone glucagon converts pancreatic alpha cells into insulin-producing beta cells, effectively curing diabetic mice. Read more about this exciting work.

Experimental treatment subdues Type 1 diabetes in laboratory mice.

Symons Says...."Exercise to Clean Up Your Aging Heart"

Every day, cells throughout the body activate a process called autophagy, which clears metabolic byproducts. NUIP Professor Dave Symons and colleagues report in Aging Cell that exercise activates this process in mice, even when the training intervention happens late in life. Activation of autophagy improved heart health.

Boudina and Colleagues receive $2.8M to Find New Drug for Fatty Liver Disease

Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is a chronic liver disease that underlies cirrhosis and liver failure. NUIP Associate Professor Sihem Boudina and her collaborators Patrice Mimche (UofU Pathology) and Mark Henkemeyer (UTSW Developmental Biology) are endeavoring to develop a potent new therapeutic approach to combat the condition. The work builds upon the provocative observation that the Ephrin B2/EphB2 signaling pathway exacerbates liver inflammation and fibrosis, two hallmarks of the pathology. The team has produced novel drug candidates that are showing strong efficacy in preclinical models of NASH (note the improvement of liver structure with A20, a lead drug candidate, in the image to the right). The National Institutes of Health recently awarded this interdisciplinary team ~$2.8M to develop this promising new therapeutic approach.

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NASH liver

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NASH liver after treatment with A20

Summers and Colleagues to Receive $3M to Study Nutritional Control of Intestinal Stem Cells in Colon Cancer

The intestine is the most rapidly regenerating tissue in the body. Stem cells that lie in a specialized structure at the base of intestinal villi respond to dietary cues that increase their proliferation to promote tissue regeneration. Excessive nutrient exposure increases one’s risk for gastrointestinal cancers by expanding this pool of cells, producing the polyps that seed tumors. NUIP researcher Scott Summers and his HCI collaborator Bruce Edgar were awarded a new NIH grant to study the role of ceramides (products of fat and protein metabolism) as nutritional signals that influence these stem cells to increase cancer risk. The work holds great promise for understanding the dietary factors that alter gut health and influence cancer risk.


Histological image of the mouse intestine before and after depletion of intestinal ceramides. Note the changes in the box, which demarcates stem cells that lie within the intestinal crypt.

NUIP Trainees Win the Paul Shurtleff Hatch and Heidi Hatch Ford Award for Diabetes Research Two Years in a Row!

The Paul Shurtleff Hatch and Heidi Hatch Ford Endowment for Diabetes Research is a competitive research award for graduate students and post-doctoral trainees within the Utah Diabetes and Metabolism Research Center. Since being created in 2016, the award has been given annually to some of the university’s brightest stars in diabetes research. NUIP trainees have won the Hatch award each of the last two years! Check out their stories here:

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Dr. Trevor Tippetts won the award for his exciting work on ceramides as drivers of type 1 diabetes. In June, Dr. Tippetts--a member of the inaugural NUIP PhD class--successfully defended his dissertation describing this work.

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Dr. Md. Kamrul Hasan Chowdhury, a postdoctoral fellow in the Holland laboratory, won the award for his work showing that inhibiting glucagon reverses type 1 diabetes in mice. This work was highlighted in a prominent 2021 publication in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


University of Utah Center for Community Nutrition

The University of Utah Center for Community Nutrition (UCCN) provides nutrition help to enhance health and prevent chronic disease. Thanks to its superlative leadership and committed student and professional volunteers, the Center has reached 90,000 people across Utah, Idaho and Arizona (since 2017)! Below are recent highlights from its programs:


State Appropriation for DODI

In 2021, the Utah State Legislature committed an annual $500,000 appropriation to support Driving Out Diabetes (DODI), a Larry H. and Gail Miller Family Foundation initiative. This funding supports the UCCN's programs for secondary school students and the homeless.

Shannon Jones Earns Award for Work with Families Experiencing Homelessness

Shannon Jones and Amy Loverin co-lead the UCCN's Food, Movement, and You program, which provides diabetes prevention, nutrition education, and direct food access for families experiencing homelessness. Shannon makes weekly produce deliveries from Wasatch Community Gardens' Green Phoenix Farm, which is a job training program for homeless women at the local organic farm, to the emergency pantries at The Road Home’s Midvale Family Center and Palmer Court. Food, Movement, and You also operates a community garden club at The Road Home's Palmer Court facility, which houses formerly chronically homeless individuals and families whose head of household has a disability. Co-led by Shannon and two women from the Green Phoenix Farm, they host twice-weekly gardening sessions to teach residents how to produce and prepare healthy foods while transitioning out of homelessness. These innovative efforts earned Project Lead Shannon Jones the UAND 2021 Award of Recognition. 

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Pictured is the Road Home's Palmer Court, Emergency Pantry


Shannon makes weekly produce deliveries on her new ebike from Wasatch Community Gardens' Green Phoenix Farm


New Ways to Crush Diabetes...Online

Since 2017, Center faculty and staff have delivered the Crush Diabetes curriculum to ~75,000 students across three states.


In response to the global pandemic, CRUSH Diabetes embarked on an ambitious endeavor to reimagine the curriculum as online modules. The re-design included a teacher focus group that reviewed best practices in health education and incorporated evidence-based health behavior learning. The curriculum is aligned with the Utah, Idaho, and Arizona school board standards for middle school students, which greatly aided teacher efforts to offer a curriculum that meets state standards.


“Adapting the curriculum is a huge asset to teachers in their classes across the state and even worldwide. Classrooms are looking different for teachers and students daily with time restraints, virtual learning, student involvement, and these changes provide teachers priceless information and resources.”

-Emily T., Utah Middle School Teacher

10,000+ Pounds of Food Collected by EHSEB Feed U Pantry

Located on the Health Campus, this pantry combats food insecurity for faculty, staff, students, and the U of U's hospital-based workforce.

  • A food recovery project with University Hospital Nutrition Care Services recovered and redistributed 10,240 lbs of food, which is $24,470 in-kind or 8,533 meals.
  • Volunteers have transferred over 3,000 lbs of food from the main campus location to the satellite health science center location.
  • The Junior League of Salt Lake City donated over 2,000 lbs in shelf-stable food, hygiene, and infant care items. Campus colleges and departments donated an additional 1,000 lbs.
  • A Seed Sharing program partnership stocked free herb and plant seeds to promote sustainability.
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Pictured is Rodney Evans, University Hospital Nutrition Care Services

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Team Thrive project leads, left: Amy Loverin, Paul Grayson, Carmon Ramos, Nica Clark

Team Thrive Completes Extensive Data Collection Effort

After finishing our two-year journey of data collection, Team Thrive found positive, statistically significant evidence that its curriculum improved healthy behaviors in high school-aged youth.


By the numbers:


25 Utah School Districts

46 schools

10,540 students reached

Culinary Medicine Partners with Red Butte Gardens

Culinary Medicine continues to expand its community offerings and partner with Red Butte Gardens! After hosting virtual cooking classes from Summer 2020-Spring 2021, the center hosted in-person cooking demonstrations in the Red Butte Gardens beautiful Herb Garden with topics such as Mediterranean Summer Tapas, Fireside Cooking, and Fueling From Your Garden. The Center plans to expand to interactive cooking classes in the coming months.



NUIP Hosts Numerous Students for Summer Research Internships

NUIP researchers participated in several programs that provide summer research internships for undergraduate and high school students. Such programs include:

  • The Native American Research Internship (NARI) program that provides dynamic summer research opportunities for undergraduates interested in Health Science research.

  • A new program on Microbiology, Immunology, and Metabolism developed by Assistant Professor Keke Fairfax (Department of Pathology) for students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

  • UROP, which provides experiences for University of Utah undergraduates.

  • SPUR and SEARCH, which provide funded research experiences for high school students.

Mya Coleman and Michael Martinez, two of the students that completed a summer research internship in NUIP laboratories.

NUIP Submits Proposal for a New Postdoctoral Training Program for Underrepresented Minorities

NUIP is committed to doing its part to make the university a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive place. Since its inception in 2017, a dedicated workgroup has redesigned the department’s admission processes, creating a holistic vetting mechanism that values academic excellence and prospective students’ lived experience. This group has infused health equity, diversity, and inclusion training in our curriculum and created funding opportunities for diversity scholars. Below are a few highlights:

  • NUIP developed and implemented an Admissions Mission Statement that promotes equity, diversity, and inclusion.
  • PhD and MS admissions eliminated the GRE requirement to remove barriers to application.
  • PhD admissions match admitted students with labs that provide a full tuition waiver and a monthly stipend to remove student cost as a barrier to education.
  • NUIP faculty member Sihem Boudina, PhD is on the Rising Stars in Metabolism organizing committee targeting URM recruitment.
  • NUIP supports active research participation by undergrads in the Native American Research Internship (NARI) Program.
  • NUIP participated in the inaugural Summer Research Program for students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities interested in Microbiology, Immunology, and Metabolism.
  • NUIP sponsored a nationally recognized researcher to present to our graduate students on how to combat Imposter Syndrome.
  • NUIP submitted an NIH U24 Grant to develop a Building BRIDGES Postdoctoral Fellow and Early Career Faculty Training program. This innovative program reimagines recruitment and training of junior researchers who are underrepresented in science. We predict that the new tools and solution-based interventions described herein will lead to systemic changes at the U of U while promoting inclusive excellence of UDMRC research, leading to new career opportunities for URM scientists and impactful discoveries on the causes and treatments of diabetes and its comorbidities.

Introducing our new EDI Fellow:

Sarah Puig-Holzman.

As a first-year dietetics student, Sarah has a deep commitment to “serve as an advocate in improving the health and quality of life of others.”


Spring Banquet

  • Volunteer of the Year - Miley Nguyen, MS
  • Preceptor of the Year - Mary Playdon, Ph.D., M.P.H.
  • The Constance J. Geiger Award - Kai Benedict, MS
  • The E. Wayne Askew Award - Annelise Poss & Jae Min Cho
  • Distinguished Alumnus - Wei Hsun- Chao, MS, Ph.D
  • Teacher of the Year - Anandh Pon Velayutham, Ph.D
  • Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Award - Sydney Larsen

College of Health Awards

  • Distinguished Teacher of the Year - Katherine Beals
  • Staff Excellence Award - Brittany Bellows
  • Outstanding Student Award - Annelise Poss
  • College of Health Inclusive Excellence Student Award - Dani Perez
  • Office of Health Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Leadership in Inclusive Excellence Student Award - Dani Perez

PhD Student Fellowships

  • NIH F99/K00, Prasoona Karra
  • NIH F31, Annelise Poss
  • NIH F3, Alek Peterlin
  • USDA, Chrissa Peterson
  • NIH Computational Aspects of Metabolic Disease Research T32, Sean Tatum
  • NIH Metabolism T32, Bekah Nicholson
  • NIH Cardiovasomobility T32, Samuel Bloom
  • NIH Cardiovasomobility T32, Vincent Georgescu
  • Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Fellowship, Lacie Peterson

Elizabeth Fouriman Gardner Prize for the Outstanding Woman Student in the Health Sciences

  • Annelise Poss was the College of Health representative for the Gardner Award.



Check out Shannon Jones' article in the Salt Lake Tribune about making vegan, plant-based meals for the homeless!


Thunder Jalili and E. Wayne Askew spoke for the U Alumni and College of Health about Healthy Aging. You can watch here.

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Watch our CMP graduate Samantha Shanahan talk on ABC 4 about how to achieve your New Year's resolution.


Sarah Elizabeth Garza-Levitt spotlighted in Humans of the U.

Scott Summers and Julie Metos participated in a panel discussion hosted by PBS following a viewing of the film Blood Sugar Rising.

If you were unable to join us, you can watch the full 2 hour film here:

If you missed the panel discussion, you can watch that here:

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Listen in on Theresa Dvorak and Thunder Jalili on The Scope Radio WCAMH Podcast


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2018 Newsletter

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2019 Newsletter

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2020 Newsletter