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 so.

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.

Leadership Ann Davis, PhD, MPH, ABPP
Center Co-Director

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.

Gregory L. Kearns, Pharm.D., Ph.D.
Center Co-Director

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.

Meredith Dreyer, PhD
Center Associate Director

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.

Sarah Hampl, MD
Center Medical Director

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.

University of Kansas Medical Center/University of Kansas Faculty Leon Greene, PhD

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.

Debra Sullivan, PhD

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.

Susana Patton, PhD, CDE

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.

Children’s Mercy Hospital/University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine Faculty Amy Beck, PhD

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.

Cara M. Hoffart, DO, MSCE

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.

Dustin Wallace, PhD

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 based treatment.

University of Missouri-Kansas City Faculty Amanda Bruce, PhD

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.

Jennifer Lundgren, PhD

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.

Graduate Research Staff

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

Administrative Assistant
Renée VanErp

Member Institutions Children’s Mercy Hospitals and Clinics

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.

University of Kansas Medical Center

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.

Current Projects

2013 Posters & Presentations 2012 Posters & Presentations Feeding Team

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

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.).

Healthy Schools Project

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 modality.

National Initiative for Children’s Healthcare Quality’s Healthy Weight Collaborative

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.

Promoting Health in Teens and Kids (PHIT Kids)

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

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.

Special Needs Weight Management 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.

Weighing In on Childhood Obesity

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, complimentary manner.

Yoga and Parenting Pain Flexibility for Teens with Chronic Pain

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.

Zoom to Health

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 appropriate education.

CHLN Annual Report

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

Read our Center Use Guidelines.

Current Job Postings

Children’s Mercy Hospital Kansas City is seeking a Doctoral level (MD, PhD, or equivalent) researcher to serve in the Center for Children’s Healthy Lifestyles and Nutrition (www.chlnkc.org) as Director of Community Engaged Research.

This position will provide leadership as we build and expand community-based approaches, research capacity, and services provided by CMH to address the complex health needs of the community.

The Weight Management Program at Children’s Mercy began in 2005. Its mission is to treat children, educate families, conduct research to find effective approaches, and lead community efforts to end childhood obesity. Weighing In became a part of the Weight Management Program in 2008. Weighing In works to strengthen community capacity to collaboratively prevent and reduce childhood obesity through a regional systems approach. Both of these programs are part of the Center for Children’s Healthy Lifestyles & Nutrition (http://www.chlnkc.org/) a research center focused on the healthy lifestyles of young children and their families.

This position will work closely with the Weighing In Director, Weight Management program staff, and other members of the Center for Children’s Healthy Lifestyles & Nutrition, as well as, with healthcare, community and government partners to build and expand current Weighing In community activities. The primary responsibilities of this position are to expand the research capabilities and federal research funding of the community engagement team. In addition, this position will work to develop, implement and evaluate new prevention and intervention efforts of Weight Management.

Candidates must have a MD, PhD or equivalent doctoral degree, at least five (5) years of related experience and a strong track record of extramural federal funding.

The Center works in partnership with Children’s Mercy Hospital and the University of Kansas Medical Center. Salary and academic rank through the UMKC School of Medicine will be commensurate with experience.

For more information contact:
Ann McGrath Davis, PhD, MPH, ABPP adavis6@kumc.edu
Co-Director, Center for Children's Healthy Lifestyles & Nutrition
or visit our webpage www.childrensmercy.org/weightmanagement
Interested candidates may submit CV to: physicianjobs@cmh.edu

Children’s Mercy Kansas City is an independent, 354-bed pediatric health system, serving half a million patients each year from across the country. Children’s Mercy has been ranked by U.S. News & World Report as one of "America’s Best Children’s Hospitals" and received Magnet#® recognition three times for excellence in nursing services.

In affiliation with the University of Missouri-Kansas City, our faculty of nearly 600 pediatric subspecialists and researchers is actively involved in clinical care, pediatric research and educating the next generation of pediatric subspecialists. And, our leadership in pediatric genomic medicine and clinical pharmacology is driving research and innovation in heart care, neonatology, cancer treatment and other subspecialities to transform outcomes for children here and around the world.

Kansas City is located in the heart of America. It has small-town friendliness, with big-city dining, a variety of entertainment options, incredible jazz, professional sports, world-renowned museums, great shopping and more fountains than any city in the world, other than Rome. The city, a metropolitan area of more than 2 million people, has some of the best public school districts in the nation.

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Contact Us Please use the following information to contact us:

Amy Fox, MA, CCRC
Manager Clinical Trial Administration
The Children's Mercy Hospital
(816) 802.1208