Kansas City's Center for Children’s Healthy Lifestyles & Nutrition seeks to
become a leading voice in the local, regional and national movement to
prevent and treat childhood obesity. As a research center, our primary
goal is to contribute new knowledge regarding pediatric obesity and
nutrition ranging in scope from its biological origins to its societal
impact. Research currently conducted in the Center includes
evidence-based, comprehensive studies of the assessment of behavior,
nutrition and physical activity interventions on prevention and
treatment, the development and analysis of public policy pertaining to
pediatric obesity, the development of programs to engage communities,
and the provision of leadership regarding education related to obesity
prevention and treatment. Future directions for research will include
relevant genomics pertaining to obesity and its association with
secondary disease processes and the impact of chronic over- and
under-nutrition on drug disposition and action. We are committed to
reaching all children in our area, especially those in underserved,
ethnic minority, low-income communities, and in assisting others to do
Kansas City's Center for Children’s Healthy Lifestyles & Nutrition represents an
extension of the committed collaboration in the area of pediatric
obesity research between two neighboring institutions who serve the
health needs of children across the bi-state region of Missouri and
Kansas. Supported by a state-of-the-art facility, researchers at the
University of Kansas Medical Center and the Children’s Mercy Hospital
lead a wide range of childhood obesity treatment and prevention
initiatives designed to benefit children, families and communities. The
Center is poised to serve as a leader for pediatric obesity research in
the Midwest and as a centralized resource for community members,
academic and business leaders who are interested in arresting the
current rates of childhood obesity and moving forward to ensure the
healthy lifestyles and nutrition of all children.
Dr. Ann Davis
is a pediatric psychologist who is passionate about the intersection
between behavioral principles and eating/nutrition. The core of her work focuses on
pediatric obesity in urban and rural children, and is treatment outcome focused. She
is also interested in behavioral principles as they apply to young children who do
not eat enough to sustain a healthy weight.
Dr. Greg Kearns
is the Marion Merrell Dow/Missouri Endowed Professor of Pediatric Medical Research &
Chairman of the Department of Medical Research as well as Associate Chairman of the
Department of Pediatrics at Children’s Mercy Hospital (CMH). He is also Director of
the Pediatric Pharmacology Research Unit and Pediatric Clinical Pharmacology fellowship
program at CMH. Dr. Kearns’ research interests focus on the impact of ontogeny,
pharmacogenomics and nutritional status on drug disposition.
Dr. Meredith Dreyer
is a pediatric psychologist at Children’s Mercy Hospitals and
Clinics and assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Missouri-Kansas
City School of Medicine. She works primarily in the treatment and prevention of
childhood obesity, with a special emphasis on the challenges that are encountered
among parents of young children and those with special needs such as Autism Spectrum
Disorders or Down Syndrome.
Dr. Sarah Hampl
is the Medical Director of Weight Management Services at Children’s
Mercy Hospitals and Clinics and a member of the Section of General Pediatrics. She
is an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Missouri-Kansas City
School of Medicine. Dr. Hampl works in the areas of childhood obesity treatment,
prevention, healthcare professional education and community and statewide advocacy.
Dr. Leon Greene
is a faculty member in the Health, Sport, and Exercise Sciences
Department at the University of Kansas. During the last 10 years, he has been
involved with research projects involving school age children that studied nutrition
and physical activity intervention programs as well as examining the relationship of
physical activity to academic achievement. He has trained a number of educators on
how to use physical activity to deliver academic lessons.
Dr. Debra Sullivan
is Department Chair of Dietetics and Nutrition at the University of Kansas Medical
Center and the Midwest Dairy Council Professor in Clinical Nutrition. Her research
focuses on prevention and treatment of obesity and its co-morbid conditions. She also
maintains a nutrition assessment laboratory in order to conduct measurement of dietary
intake and body composition.
Dr. Susana Patton
is a pediatric psychologist. Her research focuses on the promotion of health and the prevention of disease-related complications
through diet, a healthy lifestyle, and improved adherence to medical treatment for children living with chronic illness. The core
of her work centers on children with type 1 diabetes mellitus and she is conducting both treatment outcome and descriptive studies.
Dr. Patton is also interested in child eating behaviors as they relate to child nutrition and overweight and she has an interest
in research related to the treatment of common childhood digestive problems, including constipation.
Dr. Amy Beck
is a clinical psychologist at Children’s Mercy Hospitals and Clinics and an Assistant
Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine.
Dr. Beck primarily provides psychological services for families involved in
multidisciplinary weight management treatment. She is particularly interested in the
impact of psychosocial factors in the etiology and maintenance of pediatric obesity.
Dr. Cara Hoffart
is a pediatric rheumatologist at Children’s Mercy Hospital and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the University
of Missouri-Kansas City. Dr. Hoffart specializes in pediatric pain amplification syndromes.
Dr. Dustin Wallace
is a pediatric psychologist at Children’s Mercy Hospital and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the University
of Missouri-Kansas City. Dr. Wallace specializes in pain management, pediatric pain rehabilitation and acceptance
Dr. Amanda Bruce
uses functional neuroimaging (fMRI) to conduct research on how the
brain is involved in childhood obesity. She is also interested in the ability to delay
gratification and how this contributes to obesity.
Dr. Jennifer Lundgren’s
primary area of research is on night eating syndrome (NES). She is
currently collaborating on a longitudinal family study of NES among children and parents
enrolled in QUALITY (QUebec Adiposity and Lifestyle InvesTigation in Youth), a study on
the prevention of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes in children and adolescents.
Kelsey Briggs Borner is a graduate student in the Clinical Child Psychology doctoral program at the University of Kansas. Kelsey is primarily interested in the effectiveness of pediatric obesity interventions for weight-related change, health-related quality of life, and symptoms of mood disorders. Kelsey is currently investigating the relations between physical activity, quality of life, and mood, in the treatment of obesity.
Kimberly Canter is a doctoral student in the Clinical Child Psychology Program at the University of Kansas.
Her primary research interests are in the field of pediatric psychology, with a particular interest in elements
of culture that impact health and illness and the way that multiple systems interact to influence health experiences
on a family level. Previous work has also examined health-related quality of life in a range of chronic health
conditions. Kimberly’s current work examines the impact of cultural factors and health behaviors on health
outcomes (e.g., food consumption), as well as various socio-emotional correlates of pediatric obesity. Future
work will continue to explore the impact of health behaviors and socioeconomic variables on food consumption and
weight status in childhood.
Katie George, RD is a dietitian and graduate student in the Department of Dietetics and Nutrition at the University of Kansas Medical Center. Her current research involves analyzing mealtime behaviors and diet records of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. She is particularly interested in how parent and child behaviors are related to child weight.
Cathleen Odar is a graduate student in the Clinical Child Psychology doctoral program at the University
of Kansas. Her interests are in pediatric psychology, and she is currently completing her required
pre-dissertation project on the benefits of children with chronic illness attending summer camps designed
specifically for children with medical concerns. At the Center for Children’s Healthy Lifestyles & Nutrition,
Cathleen’s current work has involved research with children with special needs, such as examining
perceptions of the importance of healthy habits by parents of children with developmental concerns.
Cathleen also plans to examine eating behaviors in children with autism and how mealtime behaviors may
relate to child weight.
Kati Poppert is a doctoral student in the Clinical Child Psychology Program at the University of Kansas. Her primary research interest within pediatric psychology is treatment outcome, specifically emphasizing the intersection between health and behavior. Her research includes a variety of pediatric populations using objective measures of behavior including fMRI, actigraphy, and neuropsychological tasks. Kati's current research involves functional neuroimaging to examine impulsivity in children and their mothers participating in a weight management program. She is also working on projects involving prevention and treatment of pediatric obesity.
Nora Sporn is a graduate student in the Clinical Health Psychology Program at the University of Kansas. Her primary interests are in health behaviors and health related quality of life for children and families, particularly related to overweight and obesity. Nora plans to pursue research related to adherence to health behavior change as well as biological, psychological, familial and socio-economic influences on childhood eating behavior and health related quality of life.
Children’s Mercy Hospital
Children’s Mercy Hospitals and Clinics, founded in 1897 with one bed, now serves as a
314-bed comprehensive pediatric medical center serving children from throughout western
Missouri, eastern Kansas and the Midwest. We are the only freestanding pediatric
hospital system between St. Louis and Denver, Omaha and Little Rock. Our institution
consists of two pediatric acute care hospitals, primary and specialty care clinics,
outreach clinics, and a transport program named 2007 Transport Program of the Year by
the Association of Air Medical Services. Throughout its 113-year history, the hospital
has been steadfast in its policy of providing care to all children, regardless of their
family’s ability to pay. On average, nearly half of all children served at the hospital
receive Medicaid or are uninsured. In FY 2009, Children’s Mercy provided pediatric
specialty care to more than 1,000 children every day, with a total of 14,621 inpatient
admissions, over 301,428 outpatient clinic visits, 137,255 emergency room /urgent care
center visits and 3,207 home health visits.
The University of Kansas Medical Center, an integral and unique component of the
University of Kansas and the Kansas Board of Regents system, is composed of the School
of Medicine, located in Kansas City and Wichita, the School of Nursing, the School of
Allied Health, the University of Kansas Hospital in Kansas City, and a Graduate School.
The KU Medical Center is a complex institution whose basic functions include research,
education, patient care, and community service involving multiple constituencies at
state and national levels.
The University of Kansas Medical Center is a major research institution primarily
serving the State of Kansas as well as the nation, and the world, and assumes leadership
in the discovery of new knowledge and the development of programs in research, education,
and patient care. The KU Medical Center recognizes the importance of meeting the wide range
of health care needs in Kansas – from the critical need for primary care in rural and other
underserved areas of the state, to the urgent need for highly specialized knowledge to
provide the latest preventive and treatment techniques available. As the major resources
in the Kansas Board of Regents system for preparing health care professionals, the
programs of the KU Medical Center must be comprehensive and maintain the high scholarship
and academic excellence on which the reputation of the University is based.
Dr. Davis is currently the PI for a multisite randomized controlled trial (NIH R21 HD066629)
assessing a multidisciplinary feeding protocol for the treatment of young children who
refuse to eat orally and are sustained by feedings via tube. Preliminary work suggests
this treatment protocol is effective (Davis AM, Bruce AS, Mangiaracina C, Schulz T, Hyman
P. (2009). Moving from Tube to Oral Feeding in Medically Fragile Nonverbal Toddlers.
Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology & Nutrition, 49, 233-236), but this new randomized
controlled trial is the next step in this line of work. Future directions will include a
dismantling of the protocol to determine which treatment components are necessary and which
are not, and effectiveness studies using the protocol with children who are treated at
typical medical sites rather than large tertiary care centers.
Healthy Hawks is the pediatric obesity program for the University of Kansas Medical
Center Department of Pediatrics. Dr. Davis was the founder and currently serves as
director of this program. Current research
is focused on several areas, including a randomized controlled trial of a newly designed
treatment manual, improving methods of reaching and engaging the large Spanish speaking
population in Kansas City, and partnering with community agencies to deliver Healthy Hawks
at other locations (churches, schools, community centers, etc.).
Dr. Davis is currently investigating the best methods to treat pediatric obesity
among rural children and their families. She began with an investigation of the
differential rates of pediatric obesity among rural and urban children in the state
of Kansas (Davis AM, Boles RE, James RL, Sullivan DK, Donnelly JE, Swirczynski DL,
Goetz J. Health behaviors and weight status among urban and rural children. Rural
and Remote Health 8 (online), 2008: 810), and finding higher rates among rural
children, conducted a series of focus groups among parents of rural children to
learn more about how to tailor intervention to meet the specific needs of rural
families (Davis, A.M., James, R.L, Curtis, M., Daley, C.M., Felts, S. (2008).
Pediatric obesity attitudes, services, and information among rural parents: A
qualitative study. Obesity, 16(9):2133-2140). At the current time she is conducting
two randomized controlled trials to study 1) the use of interactive televideo as
compared to standard care for rural pediatric obesity (NIH K23 DK068221), and 2) the
use of interactive televideo compared to conference phone for rural pediatric obesity
(NIH R03 DK081016). The future direction for this research will be to engage in
state-wide or possibly multi-state interventions with the most effective intervention
Deborah Markenson, director of Kansas City’s Childhood Obesity Collaborative—Weighing In, is
leading efforts to develop a coordinated approach to obesity prevention and early intervention for
Kansas City 2-5 year olds among primary care, public health and community organization settings.
Other partners in this collaborative are Children’s Mercy’s Primary Care Clinics, Children’s Mercy
Family Health Partners, KC Healthy Kids, Kansas City, MO Health Department and the Y of Greater
Kansas City. This collaborative is the DHHS Region VII representative to the National Initiative
for Children’s Healthcare Quality’s Healthy Weight Collaborative, funded by HRSA.
Drs. Hampl and Dreyer are Co-PIs to administer this group behaviorally-based, culturally
informed intervention for obese 9-17 year olds and their parents/caregivers, which began in
2006. The program, funded by the Healthcare Foundation of Greater Kansas City, with the support
of many community partners, consists of weekly visits during which evidence-based behavioral,
nutrition and physical activity topics are taught by trained health educators. This active treatment
phase is followed by monthly maintenance visits for a total of 2 years. The PHIT Kids program
was honored in 2008 by NICHQ for its commitment to meeting the needs for a culturally and
socioeconomically diverse population while achieving strong results. Current research initiatives
include a 12- vs. 24-week active treatment phase randomized controlled trial; comparison of
outcomes among group completers, noncompleters, PHIT Kids clinic-only and standard care obese
patients; analysis of parental interviews of children who left the group program prematurely
and parents of children considered to successfully complete this program; analysis of response
to treatment with quality of life; and comparisons of the Pediatric Symptom Checklist amongst
groups of PHIT Kids.
Rehabilitation for Amplified Pain Syndromes (RAPS) is a multidisciplinary treatment program promoting Healthy Lifestyles in children and adolescents with amplified pain syndromes through physical therapy, occupational therapy, behavioral therapy, self-regulation and creative arts therapy. Dr. Hoffart is conducting a prospective inception cohort study of pediatric patients with Amplified Pain Syndrome treated with a non-pharmacological highly structured protocol, evaluating treatment program outcomes one year after completion of the treatment program.
Dr. Dreyer is the PI on this program. Funded by the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City,
this new initiative is one of the first in the country to provide a comprehensive intervention targeted
at children who are obese and have a special need such as an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASDs), Down Syndrome,
or physical disability. Research supporting the development for this clinic identified a significantly
higher rate of overweight and obesity among our population of children with ASDs (see presentations by
Dreyer et al. 2008, Egan et al. 2009, Garrison et al., 2010), particularly among the youngest children.
The multidisciplinary intervention program will feature standardized data collection but an individualized
treatment approach to meet the needs of the patient and family.
This community-based research initiative, led by Deborah Markenson, MA,RD will expand the Weighing
In collaborative’s reach and effectiveness in addressing childhood obesity by compiling a community
asset map, defining priority needs, and compiling policy briefs on viable approaches to address the
most pressing childhood obesity issues in Jackson and Wyandotte Counties. Weighing In will provide
training and facilitate planning sessions so organizations address these priorities in a coordinated,
Dr. Wallace (PI) and Beth Woodford, APRN, (Co-I) are leading this program which seeks to evaluate yoga (a combination of physical activity and self-regulation) as a group-based treatment for teens with chronic pain. While teens participate in yoga, their parents participate in a group-based intervention focused on emotional health, effective parenting and self care.
Dr. Dreyer is the PI for this program which is funded by the Kenneth and Evelyn Smith Clinical
Scholars Award and the PNC Foundation to provide parenting skills and nutrition education to parents
of overweight and obese 2-8 year olds. This 6-week intervention program aims to provide family-based
treatment to arrest the rapid weight gain during the critical early childhood period. Families are
served healthy meals, participate in fun physical activities, and children and parents receive age
View our Annual Report.
Read our Center Use Guidelines.
The Center for Children’s Healthy Lifestyles & Nutrition is based at the Donald Chisholm Center
at Children's Mercy Hospital, a 14,000 square foot facility designed to support clinical and bench
research, individual clinical and group educational interventions and house faculty and research
staff. The Center’s 800 square foot demonstration kitchen features four prep stations, each with a GE
Profile refrigerator and microwave. The kitchen contains four oven/stove/exhaust hood combinations and
two dishwashers. The 500 square foot wet lab features extensive countertop space, an exhaust hood
and a -80 degree freezer. Testing rooms contain an indirect calorimeter, treadmill and DEXA. Clinical
exam rooms and a waiting room are also available. The Center’s 2400 square foot exercise facility features
treadmills, stationary bicycles, elliptical trainers and weight machines, and has a large area
for group physical activity. Locker rooms, showers and laundry facilities are also available. The
Center provides conference room facilities for 10-50 attendees.
Address: 610 E. 22nd St., Kansas City, Missouri 64108
The Center for Children’s Healthy Lifestyles & Nutrition (www.chlnkc.org), a joint partnership between the University of Kansas Medical Center (www.kumc.edu) and Children’s Mercy Hospitals & Clinics (www.childrensmercy.org), invites applications for two full time (20 hours per week) graduate research assistantships to begin summer/fall 2014. Specific focus area is open, but previous research experience in pediatric/adolescent obesity or other pediatric/adolescent nutrition or physical activity area is helpful. Preference will be given to those who can complement our existing strengths and have demonstrated the ability for independent work through projects, posters, papers or presentations. Desirable qualifications include experience as part of a collaborative research team, experience with SPSS, excellent writing skills, independent-level data analysis skills, and the desire to be part of an active research team.
The review of applications will begin on Jan 1, 2014 and will continue until the positions are filled. Required materials include a cover letter expressing specific areas of interest, a CV, and the names and contact information for 3 academic references who are willing to be contacted by the search committee.
For questions please contact Ann M. Davis, PhD, MPH, ABPP, Co-Director, Center for Children’s Healthy Lifestyles & Nutrition; Meredith L. Dreyer Gillette, PhD, Associate Director, Center for Children’s Healthy Lifestyles & Nutrition; or Sarah E. Hampl, MD, Medical Director, Center for Children’s Healthy Lifestyles & Nutrition (phone: 816-234-9251).
We strongly encourage applications from minority and women candidates, and are an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.