Our Members

Udayan Apte, PhD, DABT
Dr. Udayan Apte, professor at the Department of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Therapeutics at KUMC studies mechanisms of normal and abnormal cell proliferation in the liver. He is investigating mechanisms of hepatocyte proliferation during liver development, liver regeneration and pathogenesis of liver cancers including hepatocellular carcinoma and hepatoblastoma (main liver cancer in the children). He is also investigating mechanisms of adverse effects of perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) on liver in children and adults. Finally, he is involved in a collaborative project with Dr. Voytek Slowik, a member of CHLN, investigating mechanism of pediatric nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Dr. Apte utilizes cell specific transgenic mouse models of liver diseases and extensive next generation sequencing technology in his research work.

Carolyn Bates, PhD
Dr. Carolyn Bates is a pediatric psychologist and assistant professor in the Division of Developmental and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Kansas Medical Center. Her research examines contextual influences on child health, with an emphasis on the role of the family in pediatric populations. Building on this work, she is interested in developing interventions that improve health outcomes for youth with chronic illnesses by optimizing family functioning.  

beckAmy Beck, PhD
Dr. Amy Beck is a clinical psychologist at Children’s Mercy Kansas City and an Associate 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.

Christie Befort, PhD
Dr. Christie Befort is a professor at the University of Kansas Medical Center. She is the Associate Director of Cancer Prevention & Control and Co-Leader of Cancer Control & Population Health Program at the KU Cancer Center. Dr. Befort’s research focuses on developing and implementing behavioral weight control interventions to improve cancer prevention, survivorship, and quality of life. Most of her research is targeted for residents in rural communities and for cancer survivors. Her teaching interests include behavioral medicine, counseling skills, quality improvement, survey research and behavioral clinical trial research. Her belief is that learning is greatest when students experience high expectations and genuine enthusiasm from their instructor as well as a participatory and supportive learning environment.

William (Bill) Black, PhD
Dr. Bill Black is a pediatric psychologist and assistant professor at the University of Kansas Medical Center. He completed his fellowship in pediatric pain psychology at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and Medical Center, and is interested in mechanisms underlying the development and treatment of pediatric chronic pain. He is specifically interested in the role of physical activity in chronic pain interventions, adherence to physical activity recommendations, and developing programs to promote increased physical activity and exercise engagement.

Andrea Bradley-Ewing
Andrea Bradley-Ewing is the director of Community Engaged Research in the division of Health Services and Outcomes Research at Children’s Mercy Kansas City. Ms. Bradley-Ewing’s is primarily interested in engaging patients and members of the community in the design, development, implementation, and dissemination of health science research. Ms. Bradley Ewing has collaborated extensively with researchers, health care providers, patients and families, and community organizations to develop and test effective individual and community level strategies to promote health behavior change, particularly in underserved communities. Ms. Bradley-Ewing’s current research involves establishing partnership networks between academic health researchers, patients, and community members to improve health outcomes.

Amanda Bruce, PhD
Dr. Amanda Bruce of the University of Kansas Medical Center uses functional neuroimaging (fMRI) to conduct research on how the brain is involved in affecting and impacting childhood obesity. She is also interested in improving the ability to delay gratification and how this contributes to obesity in children.

Dave Burnett , PhD, RRT, AE-C
Dr. Burnett is an associate professor at the University of Kansas Medical Center. He is the Chair of the department for Respiratory Care Education and co-director of the KU Asthma Center. Dr. Burnett’s primary research interests involve investigating treatment strategies for exercise induced bronchoconstriction (EIB) and asthma. Current research activity is steeped in collaboration among asthma stakeholders in order to achieve a better understanding on approaches for improving the burden of EIB and asthma.

Jordan A. Carlson, PhD, MA
Dr. Carlson is Director of Community-Engaged Health Research at Children’s Mercy Kansas City and Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine. His research interests include active living, school-based physical activity, neighborhood walkability, improving uptake and implementation of physical activity interventions, and physical activity measurement technology. jacarlson(at)cmh(dot)edu.

Delwyn Catley, PhD
Dr. Catley is a clinical health psychologist and is Professor of Pediatrics and Associate Director of the Center for Children’s Healthy Lifestyles & Nutrition at Children’s Mercy Kansas City. His research focuses on health behavior change and motivation in the areas of smoking, medication adherence, diet and exercise, patient-provider communication, health disparities and Motivational Interviewing. dcatley(at)cmh(dot)edu.

Julie A. Carlsten Christianson, PhD
Dr. Christianson is a professor in the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology at the University of Kansas Medical Center. Her research program is designed to understand the mechanisms underlying centralized pain syndromes related to early life stress, and clinically-applicable therapies designed to reverse or prevent these permanent changes in pain processing.

Danielle Christifano, PhD
Danielle Christifano is a research assistant professor in the Department of Dietetics and Nutrition at the University of Kansas Medical Center.  Her research focuses on the intersection of nutrition and lifestyle in maternal and child health.  Specifically, she is interested in how metabolism and diet impact autonomic nervous system function of both the mother and the fetus throughout gestation.  Her future research goals include the design and implementation of interventions to alleviate the burden of metabolic stress and obesity on the health and wellbeing of future generations

Mark A. Clements, MD, PhD, CPI, FAAP
Dr. Clements
is the Medical Director of the Pediatric Clinical Research Unit and Director, Pediatric Endocrine/Diabetes Clinical Research and a professor of pediatrics at Children’s Mercy Kansas City. His research interests include these factors related to type 1 diabetes mellitus: predicting risk for chronic complications, novel behavioral and technology-based interventions, impact of glycemic variability on chronic complications and autoimmune mechanisms.

Vicki Collie-Akers, PhD, MPH
Dr. Collie-Akers is the Associate Director of Health Promotion Research at the Center for Community Health and Development at KU-Lawrence. Her research is primarily focused on applying a community-based participatory research orientation to working with communities to understand how collaborative partnerships and coalitions can improve social determinants of health and equity and reduce disparities in health outcomes.

Mark Andrew Connelly, PhD
Dr. Connelly is a Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine and a clinical psychologist at Children’s Mercy Kansas City, where he is the Director of Pain Research for Comprehensive Pain Management and Co-Director of the Comprehensive Headache Clinic. Dr. Connelly’s research interests center on the assessment and management of pain in children, with a specific focus on the integration of eHealth and mHealth technologies into chronic pain assessment and treatment.

Christopher Cushing, PhD
Dr. Christopher Cushing is a faculty member in the Clinical Child Psychology Program at the University of Kansas. He is interested in sleep, diet, and physical activity. Specifically, he uses smartphones and body sensors as well as laboratory tasks to study the impact of these behaviors on children’s mood, cognition, and social functioning.

Ann Davis, PhD, MPH, ABPP
Dr. Ann Davis is a Professor at the University of Kansas Medical Center is a pediatric psychologist who is passionate about the intersection between behavioral principles and eating/nutrition. The core of her work focuses on 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.

Meredith Dreyer Gillette, PhD
Dr. Meredith Dreyer Gillette is a pediatric psychologist at Children’s Mercy Kansas City and a 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 Edwards, DO
Dr. Sarah Edwards is a pediatric gastroenterologist at Children’s Mercy Kansas City and associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Missouri – Kansas City.  Dr. Edwards specializes in treating children with feeding disorders and is the medical director of the Interdisciplinary Pediatric Feeding and Swallowing Program at Children’s Mercy.

Keith Feldman, PhD
Dr. Feldman is an assistant professor of pediatrics and researcher at Children’s Mercy Kansas City — his work is focused on the field of health informatics, where he explores the ways in which data mining, machine learning, and statistical techniques can aid practitioners and researchers in understanding, analyzing, evaluating, and synthesizing the wealth of health and wellness data now digitally available. He is interested in answering questions and developing informatics-driven methods to enhance the effectiveness of those engaged in the healthcare system, augmenting their existing knowledge rather than replacing the individual.

photo of Cristina Fernandez Cristina Fernandez, MD, MPH
Dr. Fernandez is a clinical professor who joined Children’s Mercy recently after being a general pediatrician for more than 20 years.  In the last 10 years, she was able to establish a program in obesity at Omaha Children’s Hospital. She feels that working with childhood obesity has been a challenge but has been completely rewarding.

Daniel Forsha, MD, MHS, FASE
As a faculty member of the Heart Center at Children’s Mercy Kansas City, Dr. Forsha focuses on clinical non-invasive imaging (Echocardiogram and cardiac MRI/CT) and imaging research. One area of research is the evaluation of dyssynchronous and discoordinated ventricular contraction patterns using strain echochardiography to determine whether certain children may benefit from cardiac resynchronization therapy. Another research interest is using strain echo and other tools to assess the reversibility of early obesity-related cardiovascular disease in populations of teenagers with intellectual delays. He is excited to work as part of the CCHLN to improve our understanding of the cardiovascular health consequences of obesity and how improving lifestyle may reverse this disease process.

Lauren Foster, OTD, OTR/L
Lauren is a clinical assistant professor in Occupational Therapy Education and teaches courses in KU’s entry-level and post-professional doctoral degree programs in occupational therapy. Her clinical experience includes work in a variety of settings, including early intervention, mental health, telehealth services, and physical rehabilitation. Her research and practice efforts focus on adult learning strategies, coaching, and community-based supports for adults and children with disabilities.

Andrew T. Fox, PhD
Dr. Andrew T. Fox is an applied experimental psychologist by training and Research Scientist at Children’s Mercy Kansas City. His research interests include incentive-based and behavioral-economic approaches to understanding and promoting behavior change with a focus on the areas of smoking, diet, and exercise, and health behavior change interventions in general.

Heather Gibbs, PhD, RD, LD
Dr. Gibbs is a dietitian and Assistant Professor in the Department of Dietetics & Nutrition at the University of Kansas Medical Center. Her research focuses on nutrition literacy, which concerns an individual’s ability to use nutrition information to follow a healthy diet. Building upon the tools she has validated for measuring nutrition literacy, her current interest lies in delivering interventions to improve nutrition leading to healthier diets and chronic disease prevention.

Anna Gorczyca, PhD
Dr. Anna M. Gorczyca is a Research Assistant Professor within the Division of Physical Activity and Weight Management in the Department of Internal Medicine at KUMC. Her research focuses on the impact of physical activity and weight management for the prevention of chronic disease (cardiovascular disease, diabetes, dementia, etc.) in rural and other underserved populations. Secondarily, investigating the interplay of reproductive function on chronic disease risk and how that is influenced by physical activity and weight management in women across the lifespan (adolescence – menopause).

Elin Grundberg, PhD
Dr. Grundberg is a research faculty member at the Center for Pediatric Genomic Medicine at Children’s Mercy Kansas City and an Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Missouri Kansas City School of Medicine. She holds the Roberta D. Harding & William F. Bradley, Jr. Endowed Chair in Genomic Research. Dr. Grundberg’s main area of investigation concerns obesity and metabolic complications and her team is applying next-generation sequencing approaches to understand genetic and environmental (epigenetic) factors underlying disease susceptibility.

Sarah Hampl, MD, FAAP
Dr. Sarah Hampl is a General Pediatrician and Professor of Pediatrics at UMKC School of Medicine. She leads the Advocacy area at the Center for Children’s Healthy Lifestyles & Nutrition. Dr. Hampl provides clinical care in the PHIT Kids Weight Management Clinic and provides medical oversight for the PHIT Kids and Zoom to Health evening group programs. Dr. Hampl supports primary care providers in childhood obesity treatment. She is the chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics obesity clinical practice guideline writing group. She serves as an AAP Section on Obesity coach for colleagues in the Midwest and leads the University of MO Telehealth Network’s Show-Me ECHO on pediatric weight management. She and colleagues advocate for increased access to obesity treatment through the MO Council for Activity and Nutrition’s Healthy Weight Advisory Committee and Healthcare Workgroup. Dr. Hampl and CHLN and state colleagues are researching the impact of a newly released MO Medicaid treatment benefit for children with obesity, and the use of clinical tools to aid obesity prevention and treatment. Other research interests include correlates of patient attrition from weight management and interventions to improve retention, clinical outcomes of clinic- and group-based treatment and impact of healthcare professional educational interventions on weight bias

Trent J. Herda, PhD
Dr. Herda is an assistant professor in the Dept. of Health, Sport and Exercise Sciences and the Director of the Neuromechanics Laboratory and Hawk Fitness Academy at KU-Lawrence. His primary research interests include examining the effects of acute and chronic exercise and obesity on muscle composition and motor unit behavior. Of particular interest to the Neuromechanics Laboratory is quantifying alterations in the composition of the muscle (i.e. muscle size, intramuscular fat, etc.) as a result of endurance- and resistance-training exercise interventions and, subsequently, the effects of changes in muscle composition may have on motor unit behavior and the neural costs to match force tasks. The Hawk Fitness Academy is a youth exercise program that is designed to improve muscle strength, agility and balance while teaching exercise techniques that can be used throughout adulthood.

Cara M. Hoffart, DO, MSCE
Dr. Cara Hoffart is a pediatric rheumatologist at Children’s Mercy Kansas City and Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Dr. Hoffart specializes in researching and treating pediatric pain amplification syndromes in childhood populations.

Holly Hull, PhD
Dr. Hull, Associate Professor in the Dept. of Dietetics and Nutrition at KU Medical Center, is an expert in body composition assessment and analysis. Her research agenda explores how the maternal environment impacts fetal development and programs offspring disease risk. Further, she studies intervention methods to prevent excessive gestational weight gain and how pregnancy influences maternal disease risk.

Kai Ling Kong, PhD
Dr. Kong’s research focuses on the prevention of obesity during infancy, in particular, targeting the development of eating behaviors in infants and toddlers. The obesity epidemic spares no age groups, and rapid weight gain during the foremost years is of utmost importance to treat, since its prevalence and severity generally increase with age. Therefore, early preventive strategies that positively impact weight and behaviors that lead to obesity, are imperative. The premise of my work is grounded in the behavioral economics framework and necessitates valid early measures of food and non-food reinforcement. Based on this framework, an individual’s choice to obtain commodities, such as food or fun activity is influenced by the constraints on those choices, as well as the availability of alternatives surrounding him/her. Secondly, the premise of my work is also grounded by research on environmental enrichment, and principle of choice architecture. Literature in these two areas suggest that arrangement of one’s physical environment, such as increasing the availability of choices, substitutability between reinforcers and constraints on complements to eating, can be used to make healthful lifestyle choices more obvious and accessible.

Kathryn (Kate) Kyler, MD, MSc, FAAP
Dr. Kate Kyler is a pediatric hospitalist and researcher at Children’s Mercy Kansas City and an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at University of Missouri-Kansas City. Dr. Kyler’s research interests center on hospitalized children with obesity, including examination of gaps in hospital outcomes for children with obesity, and improvement of safety and equity of care provided to children with obesity during hospitalization.

Helena Laroche MD, FAAP
Dr. Laroche is a combined Internal Medicine/Pediatric Physician who focuses on weight management, the Scientific Medical Director of the Center for Children’s Healthy Lifestyles & Nutrition and associate professor at University of Missouri-Kansas City.  Her research focuses on community and family approaches to obesity prevention.  She works in partnership with community-based organizations to design interventions for families. These interventions support healthy behaviors while also addressing the social needs and circumstances that influence those behaviors. She is also working with other weight management physicians on research to improve weight management treatment for children. 

Matthew B. Lindquist, DO
Dr. Lindquist is an Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine and Pediatrics at UMKC. As the founder and medical director of the University Health Weight Management clinic, he  practices at and runs a multidisciplinary clinic treating obesity in adults, though he also sees children at the Children’s Mercy Metabolic and Bariatric Clinic. His clinical and research interests are genetics of obesity, pharmacotherapy, and binge eating disorder. He is also passionate about teaching the next generation of physicians to improve their understanding and treatment of obesity.

Colin McCoin, PhD
Dr. McCoin is a Research Assistant Professor at KU Medical Center in the Department of Molecular and Integrative Physiology. His research interests center around investigating the impact of obesity on mitochondrial quality and function and how various treatment modalities, including exercise and standard pharmacological therapeutics, impact these outcomes. He is particularly interested in the sex-dependence of mitochondrial energetics and mitophagy.


Abbey Masonbrink, MD
Dr. Masonbrink is a Pediatric Hospitalist at Children’s Mercy Kansas City and an Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC). Her research focus is to improve access to health services for high-risk adolescents, especially regarding substance use among hospitalized adolescents.

mische-lawson-lisa-shp-ot-2016 Lisa Mische-Lawson, PhD, CTRS
Dr. Mische-Lawson is a Professor of Occupational Therapy Education at the University of Kansas Medical Center and the director of KU Sensory Enhanced Aquatics, a swimming and water safety program for children with autism spectrum disorder. She is a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist and her research focuses on promoting health of vulnerable populations through leisure and physical activity. Dr. Mische Lawson is a President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition I Can Do It, You Can Do It Advocate, bringing national resources for promoting healthy eating and physical activity to Kansans with disabilities.

e-matthew-morris-phdE. Matthew Morris, PhD
Dr. Morris of KU Medical Center investigates the role of liver energy metabolism in the development of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. His work centers around how the function or dysfunction of the primary energy producing cellular bodies, mitochondria, can impact liver function and ultimately systemic health. The current focus is how liver mitochondrial function can, through neural pathways to the brain, influence high fat diet-induced weight gain via changes in food intake and storage of dietary fat. Ultimately, the goal of his research is to describe mechanisms and therapeutic options to reduce or prevent metabolic disease in adult and adolescent populations.

eve-lynn-nelson-phdEve-Lynn Nelson, PhD
Dr. Nelson‘s research interest is using outreach strategies, including technologies, to deliver best practices in children’s healthy lifestyles to rural and underserved communities. A professor of Behavioral Pediatrics at KU Medical Center, she is currently focusing on Project Extension of Community Outcomes (ECHO), a technology-supported education approach to build the capacity of rural primary care to assess/treat common conditions using evidence-based strategies. She is  also interested in home-based telehealth interventions.

Lauren Ptomey, PhD, RD, LD
Dr. Ptomey is an Associate Professor in the Department of Internal Medicine at the University of Kansas Medical Center. Dr. Ptomey’s primary research focus is the use of technology for the promotion of weight management and physical activity in adolescents who are both typically developing and those with intellectual disabilities, such as Down syndrome. Additionally, she is interested in the impact of diet and physical activity on body composition, cognition, and metabolism in adolescents with intellectual disabilities.

randellKimberly Randell, MD, MSc
Dr. Randell is an attending physician in pediatric emergency medicine at Children’s Mercy Kansas City and clinical professor of pediatrics at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine. Her areas of interest are adverse childhood experiences, intimate partner violence, adolescent relationship abuse, and resilience.

salley-1Brenda Salley, PhD
Dr. Salley is a clinical psychologist and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Kansas Medical Center and the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine. Dr. Salley is the Director of the Baby Lab at the University of Kansas Medical Center, which focuses on understanding developmental pathways towards adaptive and healthy outcomes. She is particularly interested in how the social world can impact learning in the areas of early cognitive and communication development.

Valentina Shakhnovich, MD
Dr. Shakhnovich is a Pediatric Gastroenterologist and Clinical Pharmacologist at Children’s Mercy Kansas City and an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics; University of Missouri Kansas City School of Medicine. She went into Gastroenterology because of inflammatory bowel disease. She has a passion for taking care of children; a drive for understanding why some children respond to medications better than others; and always strives to get the treatment right at the right time for every single child.  “Dr. Tina” (as her patients call her) believes that utilizing clinical pharmacology knowledge and integrating research into every day practice is helping to drive GI therapeutics forward. Her research program focuses on drug dose selection for children with obesity, an understudied patient population, with few dosing recommendations available for some of the most commonly prescribed drugs in pediatrics. Currently, she is investigating the impact of liver fat on drug metabolism in the liver.

shook Robin P. Shook, PhD
Dr. Shook is an Associate Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Children’s Mercy and the Director of Weighing In. His research interests include both public health and clinical approaches to understanding obesity. His clinical studies focus on energy balance, which is the interaction between an individual’s diet, their physical activity level, and their body weight. This is an important area of research as there can be many physiological changes when someone tries to lose weight through dieting or exercise that may result in less than expected weight loss. From these studies, his team tries to develop strategies to prevent or reduce obesity on a population level using public health approaches.

Voytek Slowik, MD
Dr. Voytek Slowik is a pediatrics transplant hepatologist at Children’s Mercy Kansas City and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Missouri – Kansas City. Dr. Slowik specializes in the care of pediatric patients with liver and intestinal diseases in the Liver Care Center as well as member of the Liver Transplant Program at Children’s Mercy Kansas City.  He has an additional focus in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease with a multidisciplinary clinic to manage complex cases and on-going research projects.

Jane Sosland, PhD
Dr. Sosland is a clinical associate professor at the University of Kansas Medical Center and a member of the multidisciplinary team for the Healthy Hawks clinic, which serves children and adolescents with obesity. Her clinical interests include evaluation and treatment of anxiety disorders, ADHD, depression children and adolescents.

Vincent Staggs, PhD, PStat®
Dr. Staggs is a research faculty member  an professor in the Dept. of Biostatistics & Epidemiology, Health Services and Outcomes Research at Children’s Mercy Kansas City. Areas of interest/expertise: Statistical/machine learning, linear and generalized mixed models, bootstrapping, predictive modeling, R. SAS, mental/behavioral health, genomics, health services, bioethics.

Dr. Stephani Stancil
Stephani Stancil, PhD, APRN is a clinician scientist in the Divisions of Adolescent Medicine and Clinical Pharmacology, Toxicology and Therapeutic Innovation at Children’s Mercy and an assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine. She was clinically trained as a Family Nurse Practitioner at the University of Kansas, received a PhD in Pharmacology and Pharmaceutical Sciences from the University of Missouri – Kansas City and completed a NICHD T32 post-doctoral fellowship in Pediatric Clinical Pharmacology at Children’s Mercy Kansas City. For over a decade, her clinical practice has focused on adolescents and young adults who are traditionally underserved and under-researched, including those with mental health conditions as well as those experiencing homelessness.  Her interdisciplinary, translational research focuses on improving the health of youth through development of precision therapeutics for mental health. Her other research interests include improving reproductive health care in teens and reducing risks of vulnerable youth. She continues to be inspired by the remarkable resilience, tolerance and strength of her teen patients and strives to ensure they have an open, safe environment to not only receive health care, but to actively participate in the research to improve it. 

Debra Sullivan, PhD
Dr. 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.

Shelly Summar, MSEd, RD, LD
Shelly is the manager of the Weighing In program at Children’s Mercy Kansas City, building community collaboration to prevent childhood obesity. Her work includes leading the Healthy Lifestyles Initiative (HLI) which engages partners in healthcare, government, and community working to create environments that support health.

Brooke Sweeney, MD, FAAP
Dr. Sweeney is a clinical professor and combined Internal Medicine/Pediatric Physician and the Medical Director of Weight Management services at Children’s Mercy Kansas City. Nationally, she is on the Governance Board of POWER (Pediatric Obesity Weight Evaluation Registry) and the Associate Director of POWER Recruitment. Dr. Sweeney is active in the Weight Management Expert Exchange of the Children’s Hospital Association/American Academy of Pediatrics Institute for Healthy Childhood Weight. Her clinical expertise is in prevention and treatment of chronic disease, weight management, and clinical care for children with obesity. Her research interests include improving the effectiveness of weight management clinics, transitional care, and using a national registry to improve pediatric weight management.

John P. Thyfault, PhD, FACSM, FTOS
Dr. Thyfault – professor at The University of Kansas Medical Center, examines the effect of chronic physical inactivity, sedentary behavior, and low aerobic fitness on the development of chronic disease conditions including obesity, insulin resistance, fatty liver disease, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. In contrast, daily physical activity and maintenance of aerobic fitness throughout the lifespan are associated with protection against chronic disease(s). The mechanism(s) underlying the development of these diseases and the role that activity and fitness status play in altering susceptibility remain largely unknown and are the focus of our research. We utilize integrative (multi-tissue and whole body), translational (cells, rodents, humans) approaches to perform studies in these areas with a focus on clinical or human relevance.

Dustin Wallace, PhD
Dr. Wallace is a pediatric psychologist at Children’s Mercy Kansas City 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.

David White, PhD, ACSM-CEP
Dr. White is an exercise physiologist at Children’s Mercy Kansas City. His focus is clinical exercise testing and prescription in children with congenital and/or electrophysiological heart defects, neurocardiogenic syncope, dyslipidemia, and abnormal cardiopulmonary responses to exercise. Advanced methodology includes oxygen consumption, EKG, oxygen saturation, exercise blood pressure, pulmonary function testing, and tilt table testing. Additional responsibilities include exercise and behavioral counseling for youth and families of children with dyslipidemia and/or obesity in the Ward Heart Center Preventive Cardiology Clinic.

Yun Yan, MD, FAAP
Dr. Yan is a Pediatric Endocrinologist and the Director of Endocrine Type 2 Diabetes Prevention Program at Children’s Mercy Kansas City, and a clinical professor of Pediatrics at the UMKC School of Medicine. Dr. Yan is a member of Pediatric Endocrine Society Special Interest Group of Obesity and she actively participates in the education and research activities nationally. Dr. Yan’s research interests include identifying risk factors and biomarkers that can be used for early diagnosis and intervention of insulin resistance syndrome, type 2 diabetes and comorbidities.

Erin E. Young, PhD
Dr. Young is an Assistant Professor at the University of Kansas Medical Center in the Department of Anesthesiology, Pain and Perioperative Medicine. Her work primarily focuses on identifying the genetic variations and patterns of gene expression that contribute to chronic pain risk across a number of pain types. Her team uses a variety of methodologies to address questions in the lab, including behavioral modeling in animals, analysis of whole tissue and single cell gene expression, RNASeq, SNP genotyping in human subjects, human subjects pain phenotyping and whole genome methods.  A critical component of the research program is translation into human subjects, so they often utilize clinical research collaborations to validate and explore genes identified in the animal and molecular lab studies. Her team works not only from the “bench-to-bedside” but also “bedside-to-bench” where they begin with clinically relevant candidate genes and use lab-based methods for determining the mechanisms underlying these genetic effects.

Carli Zegers, PhD, APRN, FNP-BC
Dr. Zegers is a faculty member at the University of Kansas School of Nursing, and a nurse practitioner in the Emergency Department at Truman Medical Center. Her research focuses on health literacy and communication strategies with an emphasis on diverse populations.  Recently, she focused on developing a pipeline program for high school students from underrepresented and underserved backgrounds into healthcare professions. Combining her work, she is interested in developing pipeline programs with an emphasis on student health literacy.

E (Alice) Zhang, Ph.D. BCBA-D, LBA
Dr. Zhang recently joined the Department of Occupational Therapy Education as an Assistant Professor. She previously was a postdoc fellow affiliated with the KS LEND, the Kansas Center for Autism Research and Training (KCART), and the Telehealth ROCKS project. Dr. Zhang’s research interests focus on increasing evidence-based service access for families of children with autism spectrum disorder and other related disorders via technology. She provides clinical services including parent training and behavioral consultation through both in-person and telehealth clinics.  Dr. Zhang is also passionate about advocating for health care access and disability rights.



Kelsey Dean, MS, RD, LD, CCRP  is a Clinical Trials Coordinator and Dietitian at Children’s Mercy Kansas City and the University of Kansas Medical Center. She provides study coordination support for investigators at CCHLN.

Audrey McCalley MPH Clinical Research Coordinator
Audrey is a Clinical Research Coordinator at the University of Kansas Medical Center. She completed her Master’s in Public Health at Columbia University and is interested in the social and environmental factors of health and disease prevention.

Amy Moran has joined our team as a full time nurse clinical trials coordinator at CHLN. Amy began with us on 8/16. She brings with her a wealth of experience in coordinating trials at CMH as well as nursing skills, and will join our already strong central research team in this area. Very excited to deliver this news! 

Meggie Murray  is a registered dietitian and research assistant at the University of Kansas Medical Center.  Her research interests include the effects of nutrition intervention and physical activity on weight status and obesity prevention among all age groups.  She is currently working on a project examining a behavioral intervention among overweight and obese children in rural areas of Kansas.

Paige Posson, MS, RD, LD is a research assistant and dietitian at Children’s Mercy at the Center for Children’s Healthy Lifestyles & Nutrition. She is currently working in the Energy Balance Research Lab for Dr. Robin Shook.


Graduate Research Staff

Jennifer Christofferson is a fourth year in the Clinical Child Psychology Doctoral Program at the University of Kansas. She plans to become a pediatric psychologist in an academic medical center, where she can be actively involved in both of her passions of research and clinical work. Currently, she is interested in the psychosocial impact of pain on children and their families; the influence of parental functioning on child health outcomes; pediatric health and health promotion; risk and resilience; and family systems.

Bryce Miller is a graduate of the University of Missouri – Kansas City (UMKC). Bryce was a track & field and cross-country athlete in the Health Sciences program at UMKC, where he found his passion for exercise science and public health work. He is interested in the role that diet and exercise have in weight gain, as well as how to promote healthy lifestyle modifications in children.

Alexandra Monzon  is a graduate student in the Clinical Child Psychology doctoral program at the University of Kansas. Her research interests generally focus on promoting healthy behavior and improving quality of life in pediatric populations through mobile health platforms. She is specifically interested in examining how health behaviors, such as sleep, impact mental health and the ability to cope with a chronic health condition in children and adolescents. Alex is currently working on projects examining the relationship between sleep behaviors and glycemic control in youth with type 1 diabetes mellitus.

Adrian Ortega is currently in his 3rd year as doctoral student in the Clinical Child Psychology Program at The University of Kansas. Adrian is interested in researching the microtemporal situational and contextual factors that influence healthy decision making such as physical activity in youth. He aspires to become an informed health behavior scientist apply this knowledge to build personalized interventions to improve activity behaviors in youth.

Chelsea Steel  earned a Bachelor’s of Science in biology from the University of Kansas and a Master’s degree in Public Health–Epidemiology from The University of Kansas Medical Center. She works with Dr. Carlson on projects related to activity measurement and the impact of built environment on obesity outcomes. Her primary research interests are in dissemination and implementation science and translational research.


Administrative Support Staff

Administrative Director, Department of Pediatrics
Jack Curran, MHA

Director of Professional Services, Department of Pediatrics
Royce Tenney, MBA

Administrative Assistant
Amy Donnelly

Administrative Assistant III
Joy Delgandio

Membership Application

Member Benefits