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Our Science Board

The Science Board was formed in 2003 to ensure that the messages and programs of the Council are scientifically sound. The Board includes scholars who have made significant contributions to the research and science of physical activity, health, sports, and nutrition.

Chhanda Dutta, Ph.D.

Dr. Dutta is Chief of the Clinical Gerontology Branch at the National Institute on Aging under the National Institutes of Health. She is an internationally recognized expert in physical activity/exercise, muscle physiology, energy metabolism, and nutrition in older adults. Dr. Dutta oversees the development of new research related to how aging changes in the cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, and metabolic systems. She also has studied aging related body composition changes, and the long-term effects of physical activity/exercise throughout the life span. Dr. Dutta played a leadership role in translating the scientific evidence of the benefits of exercise and physical activity for older adults into the award-winning NIA Exercise Guide, which has been distributed to more than 1 million older Americans. She currently leads the NIA Task Force on Exercise and Physical Activity, which has updated the NIA Exercise and Physical Activity Guide. Dr. Dutta received her Ph.D. in Pharmacology from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland. She also serves on a number of national advisory committees and panels on physical activity and nutrition for older adults.

Robert Eckel, M.D.

Dr. Eckel is a Professor of Medicine in the Division of Endocrinology, Metabolism and Diabetes and Division of Cardiology as well as a Professor of Physiology and Biophysics at the University of Colorado Denver Anschutz Medical Campus. He also holds the Charles A. Boettcher II Chair in Atherosclerosis at the Medical Campus. Dr. Eckel’s research is focused on the relationship between nutrition, insulin action, energy balance and body weight regulation with experiments carried out in both humans and genetically modified mice. Clinically his research and practice relates to nutrition, metabolic diseases such as diabetes, and their relationship to cardiovascular disease. Dr. Eckel has been president of a number of national organizations, including the American Heart Association, the Western Society for Clinical Investigation, the North American Association for the Study of Obesity (aka The Obesity Society), and the Association for Patient Oriented Research. He is currently on the Board of Directors for the American Diabetes Association.

Eloise Elliott, Ph.D.

Dr. Elliott is the Ware Distinguished Professor in the College of Physical Activity and Sport Sciences at West Virginia University and an adjunct clinical professor in the WVU School of Medicine. Her role includes leading service initiatives to improve the health and well-being of the citizens of WV. Those initiatives include the first WV Physical Activity Plan, the first WV Physical Activity Symposium, Active Academics, a web-based teacher resource to include physical activity in the PreK-5 classroom, and a web-based instructional module for middle school and high school students, Take Charge! Be Healthy! to enhance the health curriculum. Her primary research focus is on the development, implementation, and evaluation of interventional strategies to change children's behaviors related to physical activity, and on comprehensive school physical activity strategies. Eloise is the Chair for the 2017 Science Board.

Jennifer Etnier, Ph.D.

Dr. Etnier is a Professor of Sport and Exercise Psychology in the Department of Kinesiology at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Dr. Etnier is interested in the potential benefits of physical activity for cognitive performance. In particular, Dr. Etnier is interested in the potential benefits of physical activity for the slowing of age-related cognitive decline and for the prevention of dementia. Dr. Etnier is also pursuing research related to the potential benefits of physical activity for ADHD children, the benefits of a single bout of exercise for cognition, and the benefits of chronic physical activity in chronically ill populations. She adopts a life-span approach and has explored this research question with children, adults, and older adults. She is particularly interested in understanding the mechanisms and moderators of the effects, and her long-term goal is to learn how to best prescribe physical activity to specifically benefit cognitive performance.

Adam Gazzaley, M.D., Ph.D.

Dr. Gazzaley is a Professor in Neurology, Physiology and Psychiatry at the UC San Francisco, the founding director of the Neuroscience Imaging Center, and director of the Gazzaley Lab, a cognitive neuroscience laboratory. His laboratory studies neural mechanisms of perception, attention and memory, with an emphasis on the impact of distraction and multitasking on these abilities. His unique research approach utilizes a powerful combination of human neurophysiological tools, including functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), electroencephalography (EEG) and transcranial magnetic and electrical stimulation (TMS & TES). A major accomplishment of his research has been to expand our understanding of alterations in the aging brain that lead to cognitive decline. National Awards and honors for his research include the Pfizer/AFAR Innovations in Aging Award, the Ellison Foundation New Scholar Award in Aging, and the Harold Brenner Pepinsky Early Career Award in Neurobehavioral Science.

Kevin Guskiewicz, Ph.D., ATC

Dr. Guskiewicz is the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences as well as the Kenan Distinguished Professor, Athletic Trainer, and founding director of the Matthew Gfeller Sport-Related Traumatic Brain Injury Research Center at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where he has served on faculty since 1995. Over the past 22 years, his clinical research program has focused on sport-related concussion. He has investigated the effect of sport-related concussion on balance and neuropsychological function in high school and collegiate athletes, the biomechanics of sport concussion, and the long-term neurological effects of concussion in retired professional football players. More recently, his work is aimed at identifying biomarkers for determining the potential risk factors that predict symptom onset and progression of neurodegenerative disease in athletes who have played contact sports. He has been awarded Fellowship in the American College of Sports Medicine in 2003, the National Academy of Kinesiology in 2006, and the National Athletic Trainers’ Association in 2008. In September 2011, he was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship, given annually to individuals who "show exceptional merit and promise for continued and enhanced creative work."

Abby C. King, Ph.D.

Dr. King is a Professor of Health Research & Policy and the Stanford Prevention Research Center in the Department of Medicine at Stanford University. Dr. King's research focuses on the development, evaluation, and dissemination of public health interventions to reduce chronic disease risk and enhance health. Her current research focuses on expanding the reach and generalizability of evidence-based interventions through use of state-of-the-art communication technologies; community-based participatory research perspectives to address health disparities among disadvantaged populations; and policy-level approaches to health promotion.

Rebeccah R. Rodriguez, D.O.

Dr. Rodriguez is a board certified family medicine and sports medicine physician specializing in dance medicine. She completed her sports medicine fellowship training at San Diego Sports Medicine and Family Health Center (SDSM) and is currently in practice at SDSM. Dr. Rodriguez is a graduate from the Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine and completed her family medicine residency in Phoenix, Arizona. Her passion of the performing arts allows her to serve as the company physician for the San Diego Ballet and she continues to care for many athletes and professional ballet dancers from all over the USA. Dr. Rodriguez is also a USA Team Physician at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista. Along with team coverage, Dr. Rodriguez serves as Women’s Health Director at San Diego State University, team physician for the San Diego Surge women’s Pro football team, and the San Diego Derby Dolls. She also serves on the AOASM Board of Directors, California Society of the ACOFP, and is on national ACOFP Committees.

Dale Ulrich, Ph.D., FNAK

Dr. Ulrich is a Professor of Kinesiology and Director of the Center on Physical Activity and Health in Pediatric Disabilities at the University of Michigan. Dr. Ulrich conducts research to translate principles of basic and developmental science and to use this knowledge to design and test innovative interventions to improve health, functioning, participation and quality of life in infants and young children with Down syndrome and autism spectrum disorders. He works closely with parents in their home in his research. He is an elected Fellow in the National Academy of Kinesiology.

Jaci L. VanHeest, Ph.D.

Dr. VanHeest is an Associate Professor of Educational Psychology in the Neag School of Education with a joint appointment in the Department of Kinesiology at the University of Connecticut. She serves as the Faculty Director of the Public Health Learning Community at the University. Her research specialization is in the area of endocrine control of body weight and metabolism. Prior to her tenure at UCONN, Dr. VanHeest was the exercise physiologist for USA Swimming researching factors impacting both developmental and Olympic level athletes. Beyond her research publications, she has published numerous book chapters and lay articles on the developing athlete. Dr. VanHeest utilizes basic and applied science techniques in her work with overweight children and competitive athletes.

Connie Weaver, Ph.D.

Dr. Weaver is Distinguished Professor and Head of the Department of Nutrition Science at Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana. She is an elected member of The National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine since 2010 and a member of the Food and Nutrition Board. She is a member of the FDA Science Advisory Board and the NIH Advisory Committee on Research on Women’s Health. She is founder and director of the Women's Global Health Institute (WGHI) at Purdue University. The mission of the WGHI is to improve the health of women globally through research and training by proactively identifying the causes and prevention of diseases related to women. She is Deputy Director of the National Institutes of Health funded Indiana Clinical and Translational Science Institute since 2008. Her research interests include mineral bioavailability, calcium metabolism, and bone and cardiovascular health. Dr. Weaver was appointed to the 2005 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee for Americans. She has published over 390 research articles to date. Dr. Weaver received a Bachelor of Science and Master of Science in food science and human nutrition from Oregon State University. She received a Ph.D. in food science and human nutrition from Florida State University and holds minors in chemistry and plant physiology.

Michael Willett, Ed.D.

Dr. Willett is the Associate Chair of the Department of Kinesiology at the School of Public Health at Indiana University. As Associate Chair, Dr. Willett is responsible for directing over $10 million in budgets annually. He is also the Director of The Updyke Center on Physical Activity and Fitness and was Director of the President’s Challenge Program, a program of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, & Nutrition, for 29 years. Dr. Willett is a faculty member in the Sport Management Program and teaches Financial Principles in Sport. His academic background includes a master’s degree in Sport Management and a doctorate degree in Higher Education Administration with a focus on Incentive Based Budgeting systems. His research interests include youth fitness, obesity, and high level sports funding.

Gail Woodward-Lopez, MPH, RD

Ms. Woodward-Lopez is Associate Director of the Nutrition Policy Institute at the University of California Berkeley. The focus of her current work is the evaluation of school and community based programs to prevent childhood obesity. She has served on the evaluation team for two multi-sector, place-based obesity prevention initiatives and the national Healthy Community Study and has lead various statewide and multi-state projects to evaluate school wellness policy implementation and school nutrition legislation. She is bilingual, has worked extensively with the Latino community in California and Latin America, and has served as a consultant for several international agencies. She recently served on the IOM Committee on Physical Activity and Physical Education in the School Environment. In addition to publications of her research findings, she published a book on the determinants of obesity and several comprehensive literature reviews on the effectiveness of nutrition and physical activity interventions to improve academic performance, behavior and health outcomes.

Content created by Assistant Secretary for Health (ASH)
Content last reviewed on January 26, 2017