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About the OHDRC

The UAB Minority Health & Health Disparities Research Center (MHRC) was awarded a $7 million grant from the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) to establish the UAB Obesity Health Disparities Research Center (OHDRC). UAB is one of 12 academic institutions in the U.S. to receive funding through the NIMHD’s Centers of Excellence program which fosters collaborative multidisciplinary research in minority health and health disparities. Using the state of Alabama as a model, UAB investigators are studying the complex contributors and interactions among biological, behavioral, and social factors related to obesity; how they vary at critical periods during life; and develop interventions to address these contributors.

“This new NIMHD/NIH award allows us to build on the MHRC’s strong foundation, which has been successful for the last 17 years,” said Mona Fouad, MD, MPH, Director, UAB MHRC and principal investigator for the new center. “Under the umbrella of the MHRC, we have studied the pathways to obesity and the differences in health outcomes for members of vulnerable populations. With the creation of this new obesity research center, we are continuing this important work,” she added. This award allows the UAB MHRC to expand its impactful obesity-related research, education, and community engagement efforts over the next five years.

The OHDRC has launched two new research projects. One project, led by Sylvie Mrug, PhD, Professor and Interim Chair of the UAB Department of Psychology, will study whether early life stress (before age 20) can change DNA in a way that contributes to obesity and if this changed DNA can be inherited by future generations. Dr. Mrug will also investigate whether there are protective factors that can prevent the biologically-embedded DNA changes from being transmitted to children.

The second project, under the leadership of Sarah-Jeanne Salvy, PhD and Gareth Dutton, PhD, Associate Professors in Preventive Medicine, is testing the effectiveness of delivering obesity prevention as part of a federally-funded home visitation program for low-income mothers and their young children. The study will examine whether a simple targeted in-home intervention, focused on developing good habits – can improve weight outcomes and obesity risk among mothers and children.

Joining Dr. Fouad as co-principal investigators are UAB colleagues Tim Garvey, MD, Professor of Medicine, Chair of the Department of Nutrition Sciences, and Senior Scientist, Nutrition Obesity Research Center and Isabel Scarinci, PhD, MPH, Professor of Medicine, Associate Director for Faculty Development and Education, Division of Preventive Medicine.

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OHDRC Pilot Programs

Pilot project studies may focus on any area of research related to obesity and health disparities and are designed to provide initial project support for new investigators; allow exploration of possible innovative new directions for established investigators in obesity research that represent a significant departure from ongoing funded research; and stimulate investigators from other areas of endeavor to use their expertise for obesity and health disparities research.

P/F funding is intended to support full-time UAB faculty members who are NIH-defined New and Early Stage Investigators at the time of funding without current or past NIH research project support or senior investigators who are new to obesity and health disparities research. Instructor, Assistant, and Associate Professors, as well as UAB-designated Research Scientists, are eligible to apply. P/F awards may be made to post-doctoral fellows. However, generally, post-doctoral fellows will only be competitive when such individuals are preparing to transition to a faculty slot at UAB. Post-doctoral fellows wishing to apply are strongly encouraged to meet simultaneously with their UAB faculty mentor and the P/F and/or OHDRC directors prior to submitting a proposal.

Early Stage Investigators (junior faculty, junior research scientists, and Postdoctoral Fellows) must identify a senior faculty mentor who has a strong record of NIH funding as a PI in an area related to the proposed research and who will agree to provide guidance throughout the conduct of the proposed study. Priority will be given to applications that demonstrate close relevance to the OHDRC mission, OHDRC core facility usage, and likelihood of future R01 funding.

OHDRC Career Enhancement

Obesity Health Disparities Research Training Certificate Program

A strategy in eliminating disparities is developing a cadre of researchers committed to finding solutions to reverse existing trends and develop new knowledge aimed at preventing disparities. Faculty, mid-level faculty or post-doctoral fellows who are new to research or are interested in making a transition to disparities research are encouraged to apply for a the Obesity Health Disparities Training Program. This concentrated six-month program runs January - August and includes lectures, mentoring opportunities and a Grant Writing Retreat, usually held each February. The program is coordinated by the MHRC.

We seek enthusiastic applicants dedicated to devoting the required time to meet the training objectives. The program, designed to support the scholars in developing a competitive grant proposal, encourages grant application submissions based on the scholar’s research interests. The scholars will also focus on secondary data analysis and development of manuscripts for publication.

  • Faculty members, post-doctoral fellows and medical students at UAB, ASU, MSM, JSU, TU, and UA are eligible. Minority faculty are encouraged to apply.
  • All candidates must submit an application, CV, Statement of Intent, and Letter of Support (LOS) through the MHRC Connect on the UAB MHRC website.
  • Request your Letter of Support now- from a supervising senior faculty person, Director, Dean, or Chair, in order to upload with other documents.
  • LOS should address support of research career and release time to participate in the HDRTP.
  • Please have all materials ready to upload in Adobe PDF files and submit at one time.

Contact Ann Smith at (205) 934-9903, or annsmith@uab.edu for more information.

Submit an Application