Nutritional Sciences Alumni Newsletter: Winter 2017

Food For Thought

Welcome from the Chair

Key Pharmaceutical Policy Case As we celebrate the 75th anniversary of School of Public Health this year, I'd like to mark and honor that nutrition students were among the first admitted when SPH opened its doors in 1941! Over the years, graduates from the Human Nutrition Program have taken positions in local and national health departments, clinical settings, government, business, teaching and research. Since becoming a Department of Nutritional Sciences in July 2015, our numbers have grown to nearly 90 students in our MPH, MS and PhD degree programs combined.

As student growth has continued, we have also welcomed several new faculty members. Dr. Young Ah Seo, Assistant Professor of Nutritional Biochemistry, is an expert on processes regulating minerals such as iron, manganese and copper; she will teach a new course on Nutrigenomics in the coming year. Dr. David Bridges' work focuses on how metabolism changes in response to obesity (see feature article in this newsletter). Dr. Bridges, In collaboration with Dr. Katherine Bauer, will offer a new course on Obesity, PUBHLTH 403, combining perspectives from biology and behavior, from cells to society in SPH's undergraduate program in public health, launching next fall

In addition, Dr. Julia Wolfson, Assistant Professor of Health Management and Policy at UMSPH, was newly appointed as joint faculty member in Nutritional Sciences. Dr. Wolfson conducts research on health and social policies and programs related to food and beverage choices, diet quality, and obesity and diet related disease prevention. She developed a popular interdisciplinary course on US food policy, HMP 617: US Food Policy and Public Health. Lastly, Dr. Lisa Hammer, Adjunct Clinical Assistant Professor of Nutritional Sciences, will be joining us in 2017. She currently directs IHA Breastfeeding Medicine Specialists through St. Joes Hospital in Ypsilanti and will bring her expertise in breastfeeding practices and policies and building community coalitions in a multitude of settings.

As the need for nutrition professionals grows nationwide, interest in our Didactic Program in Dietetics (DPD) and Dietetic Internship (DI) continues to increase. Motivated and inspired by feedback from recent alumni as they entered the workforce, we've made changes to core courses and the internship. This year, two new clinical lecturers joined the department. Lindsay Haas, MPH, RD (SPH '12), Culinary and Nutrition Support Specialist at MDining, teaches NUTR 585 Food service management (see Alumni Profile on Lindsay in this issue). Elizabeth Hudson, MPH, RD, is a practicing allergy and immunology dietitian at the University of Michigan, who teaches Medical Nutrition Therapy I.

In addition, Sarah Ball, MPH, RD, Human Phenotyping Core Manager for the Michigan Nutrition Obesity Research Center, was appointed Assistant DI Director in 2016. She works closely with Theresa Han-Markey to provide increased support for community-based preceptors and to secure new and interesting community-based rotation sites. We are proud to announce that both the DPD and DI received high marks and were recently accredited for the maximum period of seven years following an extensive review and site visit by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND) in 2016.

In an effort to strengthen the Department's alumni base and further connections in a multitude of ways, we've been working with Alexandra Kennedy, MPH, RD (SPH '15) on new and exciting strategies. Look forward to these being rolled out in 2017! If you have suggestions about how you'd like to stay connected with the Department of Nutritional Sciences, with each other, or with current students, please contact us: Please join the U-M SPH Department of Nutritional Sciences group on LinkedIn as well!

Yours in good health,
Karen Peterson, Sc.D
Professor and Chair
Department of Nutritional Sciences
University of Michigan School of Public Health 



Developing a More Expansive Alumni Network

The UM SPH Nutritional Sciences Department would like to establish a sustainable method for engaging alumni and establishing a broad alumni network. This will allow for: 1) easier dissemination of job postings, 2) broadcasting continuing education opportunities, and 3) engaging alumni in opportunities to reach out to each other. In order to accomplish this, we need your feedback via this survey! This will only take a few minutes of your time and we'd appreciate it greatly.

ACEND Accreditation

Both the Didactic Program in Dietetics and the Dietetic Internship Program housed with the SPH Nutritional Sciences received full accreditation to extend through June 30, 2023! The Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND) reviews programs every 7 years and puts forth the standards for which both programs must comply. Both our programs received high marks thanks to the efforts put forth by Susan Aaronson and Theresa Han-Markey!

Nutritional Sciences will soon have a Teaching Kitchen!

As part of collaboration among MHealthy, UM Digestive Diseases, UM Preventive Cardiology, UM Division of Metabolism, Endocrinology & Diabetes (MEND), and SPH Nutritional Sciences, a complete renovation of an old kitchen and collaborative teaching space at East Ann Arbor will begin this spring. Susan Aaronson's NUTR 547 will be utilizing this space for class demonstrations fall of 2017!

What to Expect in 2017

April 27, 2017 SPH 2017 Graduation

The 2017 School of Public Health graduation will be held on April 27, 2017 at 12:30 p.m. at Hill Auditorium with a reception on Ingalls Mall, adjacent to Hill Auditorium, immediately following the ceremony. The ceremony will be streamed live via the graduation website, for those who are unable to attend in person. This years' guest speaker will be Tatyana McFadden, the winner of 17 Paralympic medals. Tatyana will describe her journey and the extensive preparation that led her to become the fastest woman in the world by age 27—and what that means for our School of Public Health graduates, who are about to embark on the next phase in their own journeys.

September 22-24, 2017: Food: The Main Course to Digestive Health - Nutritional Management of GI Diseases and Disorders

The Department of Nutritional Sciences has partnered with the University of Michigan Digestive Disorders Nutrition and Lifestyle Program to deliver the 2nd annual Food: The Main Course to Digestive Health conference and practicum. This is the only comprehensive GI training program in the country directed at and delivered to Registered Dietitians looking to increase their competency and skills at delivering GI Medical Nutrition Therapy. Registration is now open!

October 23, 2017 Alumni Meet Up Event at FNCE

FNCE is in Chicago this year and we plan to be there! Join us for a reception and meet up event Monday evening. Time and location are yet to be determined, but stay tuned for more information. Hope to see you there!

Recent Events

OCT 11, 2016: MMOC Annual Symposium - Pediatric Obesity

The Momentum Center co-sponsored the Michigan Metabolomics and Obesity Center (MMOC) and Michigan Nutrition Obesity Research Center (MNORC) annual symposium that took place on October 11th. The theme this year was pediatric obesity and external speakers included Brian Wansink, Marie-France Hivert, Margo Wootan and David Ludwig, while internal speakers included Kate Bauer (NS faculty) and Darleen Sandoval (Surgery and NS faculty). Videos are available to view at your leisure!

JAN 27, 2017: SPH 75th Anniversary was Celebrated by Nutritional Sciences

On Friday, January 27, the Department celebrated UM SPH's 75th Anniversary with a special event, "Celebrating the past, present and future of Nutrition at UMSPH." We featured a keynote lecture, "Diet and Health: On the Path from Bad Axe to Veritas" by Walter Willet, MD, DrPH, from Harvard University, followed by a reflection by special guest Anita Sandretto, PhD, RD, former program director. We concluded the event with an alumni panel (Dr. Anna Arthur, Assistant Professor at University of Illinois; Dr. Lori Bestervelt, Executive Vice President and Chief Technical Officer at NSF International; Noam Kimelman, Chief Executive Officer of Fresh Corner Cafe; and John Pantel, Director of the Coordinated Program in Dietetics at University of Cincinnati), and a poster session and reception. Over 24 hours on Twitter, messaging for the #umnutrition75 hashtag and the @UM_SPH account reached more than 27,500 unique individuals!

Alumni Profile 

Lindsay HaasLindsay Haas, MPH, RD, received her Masters of Public Health from the University of Michigan's Human Nutrition Program in 2012 and subsequently completed her Dietetic Internship with U-M SPH. She is currently the Culinary and Nutrition Support Specialist for MDining at the University of Michigan, where she has held a position since 2013. A career in foodservice has been a natural fit with her love of cooking and eating delicious food.

Many dietitians don't often consider a job in foodservice, but Ms. Haas thrives in this position and is inspired daily to work with many creative chefs. Ms. Haas supports the feeding of thousands of people every day and enjoys the dynamic process of making sure student dietary needs are being met, while at the same time helping to produce meals that everyone enjoys. MDining currently serves students, faculty, and staff through seven dining halls, eight markets, and eleven on-campus cafés. With an emphasis on creative, healthy foods, international cuisines and sustainability, MDining has gained national recognition and received numerous awards for their innovative online nutrition and allergy management program and their ability to accommodate students with special dietary needs. All of which, Ms. Haas has had a hand in developing and implementing.

When asked to discuss a "hot topic" in her field, she describes the current trend to eliminate soda in dining halls. While she is definitely in support of reducing or eliminating soda consumption, she admits that the idea is a little tricky when you are feeding such a large and diverse population. She feels it is more important to make healthier choices more attractive, easier to find, and just as tasty as the not-so-healthy options, so that it is easier for diners to make the healthy decision on their own. She also feels that having multiple beverage options available creates an environment of balance, which improves customer satisfaction.

Ms. Haas' everyday responsibilities include maintaining the ingredient and recipe database that informs students about menu items, counseling students with allergies and food sensitivities, and supporting culinary staff with recipe development and menu planning standards. Most recently, she has joined the Department of Nutritional Sciences as a Lecturer for NUTR 585, Foodservice Management.

"I'm pretty excited to share my experiences with the nutrition students."

When not at work or cooking herself, Ms. Haas can be found engaged in a home improvement project or teaching her cats to do tricks. If she could have any job in the world, she would pose as Anthony Bourdain's (from Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown on CNN) camera person. She attributes her current success in life to her mother,

"She always had the attitude that if someone else figured out how to do something before her, she could figure out how to do it herself. It's pretty inspiring growing up with a role model who learned how to fly planes, decorate wedding cakes, and sew intricate gowns just because she had a passion to do so."

We'd like to officially welcome Lindsay Haas aboard as a Lecturer in Nutritional Sciences! We believe her knowledge and passion for foodservice management will provide an excellent learning environment for students.

Dr. ColeFaculty Profile

Dr. Dave Bridges, Assistant Professor in Nutritional Sciences, was recently hired as one of two individuals to expand our Molecular and Biochemical Nutrition path for doctoral students. Though a native Canadian, he was excited to return to the University of Michigan, where he was a Research Fellow at the Life Sciences Institute for several years.

"The University of Michigan is an effective, vibrant, exciting place to work, with world class students, faculty and facilities that make amazing research advances every day."

Dr. Bridges received both his Bachelors of Science and Doctorate in Biochemistry from the University of Calgary and joined us from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center where he was on faculty in the Departments of Physiology and Pediatrics.

Currently, his lab ( works on the basic mechanisms of obesity and metabolic disease. He is interested in how metabolism changes in response to obesity, or how it was initially dysregulated leading to obesity. This includes how our metabolic set point is changed with obesity, how lipid storage can continue to occur even with insulin resistance and the role stress hormones play in metabolic diseases. In particular, his lab is interested in mTORC1 signaling and the connections between intracellular and extracellular signaling pathways. When asked what he would explore if he had unlimited time and resources, he replied,

"I would want to know how every cell "knows" its proper nutrient levels. Cells respond individually and together in an organism to control metabolism, and I would like to know exactly how these signals are sensed, and how the signals are propagated."

Dr. Bridges' interest in metabolism was established early on by his mentor at the University of Calgary, Dr. Greg Moorhead. He was introduced to the topic during Dr. Moorhead's undergraduate Regulation of Metabolism class and convinced him to be his Doctoral Advisor, a path he doesn't regret.

Dr. Bridges team teaches NUTR 630, Principles of Nutrition, with Dr. Olivia Anderson. This is the first graduate metabolism course in the Nutritional Sciences program and students come from a wide range of background. At a graduate level, the students have excellent ideas, questions and suggestions so it's really invigorating to discuss these topics with these students.

"I love going back to the fundamentals of how macronutrient metabolism is controlled, and re-evaluating why (we think) we know what's happening and clarifying the things we don't yet totally understand."

Recently Dr. Bridges was awarded the Society for Endocrinology Journal Award on behalf of this author group for their paper, "Gene expression changes in subcutaneous adipose tissue due to Cushing's disease," published October 2015 in the Journal of Molecular Endocrinology. The Journal Awards recognize excellence in endocrine research and practice and a contribution to the wider biomedical and biological sciences field. Papers were selected on the basis of originality, scientific content, presentation and contribution to the field.

When not in his lab or busy preparing for class Dr. Bridges can be found jogging or biking around Ann Arbor or enjoying a good book. We look forward to Dr. Bridges' contributions to the Department and his growing body of research on metabolism!

Student Profiles

Jim Casey James Casey, MS came to UM SPH with interests in obesity and diabetes research. The son of a pediatric endocrinologist, Jim had observed an alarming trend in his father's practice.

"My father...specialized in type 1 diabetes, but I have seen that his practice has slowly but steadily changed to one with more and more kids with type 2 diabetes and obesity."

Jim is interested in contributing to the fight against obesity through nutrition and exercise. His current research in nutrition plus his background in education and exercise make him well equipped for the challenge.

Prior to coming to Ann Arbor, Jim had earned a Master's degree in Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Kansas. He spent 14 years teaching science and coaching track and field at a high school in Winnetka, Illinois. He came to Ann Arbor in 2011 with an interest in pursuing a PhD in obesity and nutrition research. First, he received a second Master's degree in exercise physiology at Eastern Michigan University. He then worked as a researcher in the Michigan Nutrition and Obesity Research Center's Physical Activity Lab looking at obesity and exercise.

Currently, Jim is investigating how specific diets affect the microbiome in humans. He is also looking at how specific diets affect certain metabolites in humans, and if those metabolites can accurately predict dietary intake.

Erica Cooper Erica Cooper, MPH, RDN returned to UM SPH in 2014. Previously, she received her MPH and completed the UMSPH Dietetic Internship in 2007.

As a Registered Dietitian, she worked as a Public Health Nutritionist for the Navajo Area Indian Health Service in Chinle, Arizona. In that position, she became interested in food security and child nutrition programs. This interest led her to the West Virginia Department of Education where she served as Child Nutrition Coordinator helping the State implement several USDA Child Nutrition Programs.

Erica expanded her work in child nutrition at the Nemours Office of Policy and Prevention in Washington, D.C., an organization that promotes policies and practices to improve the health and well-being of children nationwide.

"Child food insecurity has significant developmental, health, educational, and economic implications, both domestically and globally," says Erica. "My experience in working with child nutrition programs shaped my interest in wanting to help evaluate and research how to make these programs the best they can possibly be."

Sam Hahn Samantha Hahn received a dual degree in Human Biology and Nutritional Sciences from Michigan State University in 2015 and decided to continue her studies here in UM SPH Nutritional Sciences. Since entering the program in the fall of 2015, she has since decided to add the MPH/RD degree as well.

As an MSU student, Sam took advantage of an opportunity to work in research with a local Emergency Room physician. Through that experience she decided that she would have a more positive and potentially larger impact working on prevention of disease through nutrition research. From there, she worked under Dr. Jenifer Fenton at MSU on metabolomics projects in both obesity and stunting.

When asked what drew Sam to UM SPH, she stated that it was the perfect marriage of her hard science background and interest in prevention research, especially surrounding the topic of disordered eating.

"I'm hoping to further investigate the intersection between obesity and disordered eating and use the findings for prevention of both weight related disorders."

She currently works under Dr. Kendrin Sonneville examining shared risk factors for obesity and disordered eating.

Vivienne Hazard Vivienne Hazzard, MPH, RD began her academic career studying Psychology at UC Davis. After exploring various health fields during undergrad, Vivienne decided to focus on the field of Public Health and hoped to explore the power of preventative health. It was a conversation with her Varsity rowing coach at UC Davis that directed Vivienne towards UM SPH as she looked to earn her MPH. She entered into the program as a Varsity rower with plans to become an RD. An early injury kept Vivienne out of the water, but her academic interests continued to accelerate as she went on to complete the Dietetic Internship through UM SPH in 2015.

Vivienne was inspired early in the Dietetic Internship by interactions with patients suffering from eating disorders. In reading the research interests of Dr. Kendrin Sonneville (NS faculty), she found the opportunity to further her research in preventative health and made the decision to pursue her PhD. Her current focus is the association between disordered eating and obesity, through research on serotonin transporter genes and early life stress, as well as potential peripheral factors that might mitigate that relationship. Vivienne hopes to continue her career in academia, aiming to aid individuals plagued by unhealthy relationships with food.

Hot Topic: Lead

On December 14, 2015 the mayor of Flint, MI, declared a state of emergency due to elevated lead levels in the city's water supply. This event sparked a state and national discussion about the public health ramifications of high lead exposure in humans.

The effects of high and repeated lead exposure are multifactorial and vary by population group. Lead affects every organ in the body with children 6 years old and younger and pregnant women at greatest at risk for the health effects of over-exposure. High blood lead levels in children can lead to behavior and learning problems, lower IQ and hyperactivity, slowed growth, hearing problems and anemia. In adults, there are possible cardiovascular effects, decreased kidney function and reproductive problems. When pregnant women are exposed to high levels of lead, it can lead to reduced growth of the fetus and premature birth.

Fortunately, certain nutrients and eating patterns can help mitigate the effects of high lead exposure; however, they do not completely reduce the lead burden in affected individuals. Three nutrients in particular – calcium, iron and vitamin C – are helpful in preventing and/or combating the effects of high lead exposure.

While calcium is required for vascular contraction and vasodilation, muscle function, nerve transmission, intracellular signaling and hormonal secretion, its primary function is to support the structure and function of bones and teeth. Bones are an active tissue and calcium is absorbed and released on a regular basis. In support of growth and development, children are in more of an absorptive phase, while older adults release more calcium from the bones to maintain tightly controlled levels of plasma calcium. Lead can be stored and released from your bones as well. During conditions of inadequate calcium intake, more lead is released from the bones with calcium, increasing concentrations in the blood and therefore the organs.

As with calcium, inadequate iron consumption can increase blood lead levels. Iron competes with lead in the small intestine for absorption into the bloodstream. Adequate iron levels can reduce lead-induced brain and kidney damage and lessen the impact of lead-induced anemia. When iron stores are low, more transport sites become available in the small intestine to increase absorption allowing for increased lead absorption at the same time. Our body use iron to make hemoglobin, which carries oxygen from the lungs to all parts of the body.

Vitamin C (also called ascorbic acid) is required for the biosynthesis of collagen, L-carnitine, and specific neurotransmitters. It is also a potent physiological antioxidant that limits the damaging effects of free radicals and regenerates other antioxidants in the body. Vitamin C's role in lead toxicity is preventive; it increases how much iron and calcium are absorbed in our small intestine. In addition, vitamin C has chelating properties, which may increase lead excretion, but this impact hasn't been consistently demonstrated.

Certain foods are more likely to be contaminated with lead and should be avoided. Food stored in lead-soldered cans, glazed ceramic dishes or crystal, and foods stored in printed plastic bread bags (ink used for the wrapper may contain lead). In addition, vegetables grown in lead-contaminated soil and foods that could have picked up lead dust residue, such as food fallen on the floor.

Overall, a healthy lifestyle can help protect us against the effects of lead exposure. Eating regular meals and snacks allows for more efficient use of the nutrients in food and choosing a variety of nutrient dense foods will better ensure nutrient adequacy.

Faculty members in Nutritional Sciences have been conducting lead related research in lab settings to provide biological evidence and support for lead prevention efforts. Based on prior research demonstrating that perinatal lead exposure leads to increased food consumption and body weight in mice, Dr. Dana Dolinoy (joint faculty in Nutritional Sciences and Environmental Health) and colleagues examined whether the changes in gut microbiota could explain lead induced weight gain in adulthood. They added lead to the drinking water of female mice prior to breeding through weaning their offspring. They found that both adult males and females exposed to lead had fewer aerobes and significantly more anaerobes in their intestines than the control mice. This research brings attention to the importance of maintaining a healthy gut environment and may provide potential solutions for obesity prevention among a lead exposed population.

To further explore the biological impact of heavy metals on humans, Dr. Dolinoy's team explores the epigenome of animals and humans. Since epigenomes are modifiable, Dr. Dolinoy has researched the impact of diet on epigenetic expression, assuming good nutrition might be able to prevent epigenetic damage. Her team has published several interesting findings based on the Early Life Exposures in Mexico to Environmental Toxicants (ELEMENT) cohort, a longitudinal birth cohort of over 2,000 mother-child dyad pairs started in 1994 and headed by Dr. Karen Peterson (Nutritional Sciences Chair). Over 30 articles have been published based on findings from the ELEMENT cohort and through Dr. Dolinoy's lab on lead. In addition, evidence from ELEMENT cohort studies have also informed U.S. lead exposure guidelines, including the 2005 American Academy of Pediatrics Policy Statement, "Lead Exposure in Children: Prevention, Detection, and Management," the 2005 CDC report, "Preventing Lead Poisoning in Young Children," the 2007 "Recommendations of the CDC's Advisory Committee on Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention", and the 2010 "Guidelines for the Identification and Management of Lead Exposure in Pregnant and Lactating Women".

Recently, a number of Nutritional Sciences faculty and staff have been involved in initiatives to help educate the public on the effects of lead exposure and the nutrients of concern for protection against exposure, in light of the Flint Water Crisis. The Michigan Public Health Training Center (PHTC) and the UM SPH Flint Task Force met with community partners, including the Genesee County Health Department, to identify needs in response to the water crisis and 'training' rose to the top. As a first step, the Michigan PHTC partnered with Dr. Sue Cole, PhD (NS faculty) and Rachael McClellan, MPH, RD (NS class of 2013) to develop a pilot training on nutrition and lead designed for community health workers, childcare workers, parents, and others who interact with children ages 2-6. Content reviews how iron, calcium, and vitamin C help mitigate the impacts of new exposure to lead. Plans are underway to implement the training fall of 2016.

In addition, The UM Children's Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Research Center (CEHC), directed by Dr. Peterson and managed by Robin Lee, MPH, RDN (NS class of 2015), has been working with community partners in Grand Rapids (Healthy Home, Head Start, and the Kent County Health Department) to develop educational materials for parents. The CEHC created a survey for Head Start parents in order to engage them on the topic of lead. These results will be used to raise awareness of issues children face in Grand Rapids, as well as develop educational materials on housing options and nutrition relevant to the population in Kent County, MI. Furthermore, the CEHC created a children's health asset map for the Grand Rapids community, addressing various health concerns, including environmental health and lead exposure that will be circulated through community partners to provide a wider network of resources for parents and families.


To find out more about what makes our program stand apart from others, watch our video. Also, please join our new LinkedIn group, U-M SPH Department of Nutritional Sciences.

If you are a current RD/RDN and have an interest in becoming a Preceptor for one of our U-M SPH Dietetic Interns, either locally or nationally, please contact Theresa Han-Markey, Dietetic Internship Director at