In 2017, 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). In 2019, the center expanded its focus to the southeast and partnered with academic institutions Louisiana State University (LSU), The University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC), and Jackson State University (JSU).  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. Center investigators study 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.

The OHDRC is under the direction of principal investigators Mona Fouad, MD, MPH, Professor of Medicine, Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion, Director of the Division of Preventive Medicine, and Director of the Minority Health & Health Disparities Research Center; 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, Vice-Chair for Global and Rural Health, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and Senior Advisor for Globalization and Cancer, O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Partnering institutions are led by site principal investigators Lucio Miele, MD, PhD, Professor and Department Head, LSU School of Medicine, Department of Genetics, and LSU Site Lead for CCTS; Marinelle Payton, MD, PhD, MS, MPH, Professor and Chair, JSU Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Assistant to the Dean of Research and Program Development; and Mario Sims, PhD, Professor of Medicine at UMMC; Chief Science Officer, Jackson Heart Study.

“This new NIMHD/NIH award allows us to build on the MHRC’s strong foundation, which has been successful for the last 15 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 can continue 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.