Nada A. Abumrad, Ph.D., was recently installed as the first Dr. Robert C. Atkins Professor of Medicine and Obesity Research.
The professorship was made possible by a gift from the Dr. Robert C. Atkins Foundation. The Atkins chair is the first professorship in the United States specifically devoted to supporting the study of obesity.
Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton and Larry J. Shapiro, M.D., executive vice chancellor for medical affairs and dean of the School of Medicine, recently announced the professorship.
“Endowments like this one have a lasting impact on the University’s ability to attract and retain outstanding faculty,” Wrighton said. “This professorship helps address a growing problem that is robbing millions of Americans of good health.”
Shapiro added the professorship will strengthen the University’s position as a major center for nutrition and obesity research and treatment.
Abumrad studies fatty acid transport and its role in diabetes, atherosclerosis and obesity. She is exploring the role of a cell membrane protein she was the first to identify as a facilitator of fatty acid uptake and in fat utilization, energy balance and predisposition to metabolic diseases.
Abumrad did her undergraduate work at the Faculte Des Sciences and the American University of Beirut in Lebanon, and she earned a doctorate in pharmacology from State University of New York (SUNY) Medical Center.
After a year as a research associate at Syracuse University, she went to Vanderbilt University, where she was an associate professor of molecular physiology and biophysics. In 1992, she moved to SUNY at Stony Brook, before coming to Washington University this year to assume the Atkins chair.
“Dr. Abumrad’s research will help us understand the fundamental cellular mechanisms that can explain why obesity causes metabolic diseases such as diabetes,” said Samuel Klein, M.D., the William H. Danforth Professor of Medicine and Nutritional Science, chief of the Division of Geriatrics and Nutritional Science and director of the Center for Human Nutrition.
Veronica Atkins, wife of the late Robert C. Atkins, M.D., and chair of the board of directors of the Atkins foundation, explained that this professorship will advance the foundation’s goals by enabling University researchers to test nutritional hypotheses in rigorous scientific studies that will identify better ways to fight obesity.
“The foundation was formed to sustain my husband’s lifelong efforts to combat the obesity epidemic in America,” she said. “We believe the Atkins professorship will play an important role in furthering his objectives.”
Atkins was a cardiologist with an innovative perspective on nutrition and health. His 1972 book, Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution, gave diet advice contrary to the recommendations of most nutritional experts at the time.
The Atkins diet has become increasingly popular since the 1992 publication of Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution.
Atkins died in April 2003 after sustaining injuries from a fall.
Veronica Atkins is a gourmet cook and co-author of Dr. Atkins’ Quick and Easy New Diet Cookbook. She is involved in extending her husband’s legacy through the work of the Atkins foundation.
The foundation was established in 1999 to ensure that Robert Atkins’ focus on the role of nutrition in health would continue.
The foundation has assets of approximately $40 million, and it collaborates with professionals and organizations concerned about the devastating impact of the obesity epidemic in America.