My professional training is in developmental/pediatric psychology (licensed), with a PhD from Emory University, and MA from the University of Southern California, a BA from Pennsylvania State University, and an internship from the Neuropsychiatric Institute at UCLA. I am chief of the Division of Growth and Nutrition in the Department of Pediatrics. My expertise is in the prevention/reduction of health disparities among children associated with poverty, nutritional deficiencies (including food insecurity) and other prenatal and postnatal threats. I have conducted randomized controlled trials (RCTs) to examine how multi-level interventions, extending from families to state and policies promote childrenâ?Ts growth, health, and development. My studies of children with failure-to-thrive, micronutrient deficiencies, prenatal drug exposure, abuse and neglect, adolescent mothers, and risk for obesity have yielded over 300 peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters.
I have a long history of successfully mentoring junior scholars, including 49 doctoral dissertations, 17 postdoctoral fellows, 10 NIH-supported trainees (K-awards, F-awards, diversity fellowships), over 40 capstones and medical student projects, and many junior faculty members. In 2011, I received an Excellence in Mentoring Award from the University of Maryland Clinical Science Translation Institute and in 2016 I received the inaugural J. Tyson Tilton Award for Pediatric Research.
I have four primary research interests:
Childhood undernutrition, food insecurity, and obesity prevention. I have a long history of work related to children's undernutrition and food insecurity. I direct an interdisciplinary Growth and Nutrition practice for children with growth and/or feeding problems and I have conducted a home visiting trial among children with failure to thrive. I am the Baltimore PI for Children's HealthWatch, a multi-site collaboration to monitor how material hardships (e.g., food insecurity) and policies relate to young children's health and development (www.childrenshealthwatch.com).
My work in obesity prevention is an extension from our work with underweight children where we successfully implemented family-based strategies to improve children's growth and development. We have implemented prevention trials among adolescents, among families of toddlers, among middle school girls, and recently within child care centers. Our focus extends from individual behavior through wellness policies among child care centers and schools.
Global child development. In global child development, I investigate strategies to promote the health and development of children in low and middle income countries. My work focuses on the integration between nutrition and responsive caregiving in early child development. In trials conducted in Bangladesh, India, and Guatemala, we have found beneficial effects of micronutrient supplementation/fortification on children's early development. I have participated in the publication of two series in global child development in The Lancet (2007 and 2011), edited a series in the Annals of the New York Academy of Science (2014), and am the lead author of the first paper in a third series on child development for The Lancet.
Maternal depression. I have a long standing interest in how maternal depressive symptoms relate to caregiving behavior and to child development. We have incorporated measures of maternal depressive symptoms into many of our investigations, both in the US and in low-and middle-income countries, and have shown negative associations between maternal depressive symptoms and children's growth and development, including the joint risk of obesity and symptoms of depression among low-income African American girls.
Prenatal drug exposure. We have followed children who varied in their prenatal exposure to cocaine/heroin from birth through adolescence. In systematic reviews of the long-term effects of prenatal drug exposure, we found few differences in the developmental and behavioral outcomes among school-age children or adolescents. However, in our bio-behavioral studies, we have found differences in stress reactivity (measured through cortisol) and in brain structure and functioning (measured through fMRI).
Lab Techniques and Equipment:
Public Health research. We collaborate with community partners, including the Maryland WIC Program, Maryland Office of Child Care, Maryland State Department of Education, and Maryland State Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
Pediatric psychology. I direct an interdisciplinary Growth and Nutrition Clinic for children with growth and /or feeding problems.
Grants & Contracts:
National Institute of Health (R01 HD056099)
National Institute of Health (R01 HD054727)
National Inst of Drug Abuse (R01 DA021059)
Boston Medical Center