Written by: Kevin Storr
Media contact: Adam Pope
James O. Hill, Ph.D., an internationally recognized expert in weight management, has been named chair of the University of Alabama at Birmingham Department of Nutrition Sciences and director of the UAB Nutrition Obesity Research Center.
Hill comes to UAB from the University of Colorado, where he was director of the Center for Human Nutrition at UC Health Sciences. He also served as director of the UC Anschutz Medical Campus NORC for more than two decades. As a researcher for more than 30 years, Hill has published more than 550 scientific articles and delivered lectures around the world about weight management.
He says a strong nutrition department should do three things well.
“Research is the foundation, so we will prioritize research because it provides a credibility that allows us to do everything else,” said Hill, who will also serve as a professor of nutrition in the School of Health Professions. “Education follows, and UAB’s nutrition education is already strong; but we will look at strengthening it so we can be seen as the place for nutrition education at all levels. Finally, we must conduct outreach — we need to take our research and education into the community to positively affect the people around Birmingham and beyond.”
Hill takes over a UAB NORC that is home to 170 regular, affiliated and mentored member scientists, 37 postdoctoral trainees, and 15 predoctoral students. Funded by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, there are only 11 NORC locations in the United States.
“I’m thrilled we were able to bring in one of the pre-eminent experts on weight management to build on the success and national reputation of our nutrition department’s research and education programs,” said Harold P. Jones, Ph.D., dean of the UAB School of Health Professions. “Dr. Hill brings nearly 25 years of NORC experience, knowledge and ideas to UAB, and that is sure to propel our center to the next level of research, discoveries and solutions.”
Hill is excited about leading UAB’s NORC because he sees it as a strong center that can become even greater.
“My passion is helping people achieve lifestyles to prevent and manage chronic disease, and if a major medical center — like the UAB Health System — would engage in this ‘lifestyle medicine’ area and show you can bring changes that are effective, that would really transform a medical center,” Hill said. “It is very ambitious, but I believe we can accomplish this at UAB. It is both, knowing what to do and how to do it, so you bring in the science of behavioral change, nutrition, physical activity, sleep medicine, etc. This is a tremendous opportunity to coalesce our resources and make UAB a destination that shows you can use lifestyle to prevent and manage chronic diseases.”
From 2008 to 2010, Hill served as president of the American Society for Nutrition. He has also served as president of the North American Association for the Study of Obesity and as vice president of the International Association for the Study of Obesity. He was elected to the National Academy of Medicine in 2014.
Hill is co-founder of the America on the Move program, a nonprofit fitness program that works with people to make small lifestyle changes — like adding 2,000 steps or eliminating 100 calories each day — in order to help them improve their health and manage their weight. In 1994, he co-founded the National Weight Control Registry, which today is the largest prospective investigation of long-term successful weight-loss maintenance, tracking more than 10,000 people who have lost a significant amount of weight and kept it off for an extended amount of time.
Hill’s first official day at UAB was Dec. 1.