Popkin named Chamblee Distinguished Professor of Global Nutrition

January 11, 2007

Photograph of Barry M. Popkin, PhD

Photograph of Barry M. Popkin, PhD

Barry M. Popkin, PhD , has been named the first Carla Smith Chamblee Distinguished Professor of Global Nutrition by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Board of Trustees, effective Jan. 1, 2007.

The professorship was endowed by the late Carl M. Smith to honor his daughter, Carla Smith Chamblee, a Carolina graduate with a strong belief in the benefits of good nutrition and a great interest in advancing nutritional research. The professorship is to be awarded to a faculty member who focuses on global nutrition.

Popkin, who has been a Carolina School of Public Health faculty member since 1977, is director of the University’s Inter-Disciplinary Obesity Center and a fellow with the Carolina Population Center.

“Dr. Popkin is renowned worldwide for his expertise on obesity in the United States and globally and the dietary and other factors responsible for obesity,” said Dr. Barbara K. Rimer, dean of the UNC School of Public Health. “His research over the past three decades has significantly advanced our understanding of nutrition around the world. He was one of the first researchers to signal the clarion call about global changes in diet and physical activity that would presage a worldwide obesity epidemic. Barry is a tireless global researcher and a strong advocate for dietary changes that will lead to improved health. We are so grateful to the late Carl Smith and his daughter Carla for their vision and generosity.”

Popkin conducts global research on the patterns and determinants of shifts in dietary intake, physical activity and body composition that are occurring in the developing world, collectively called the nutrition transition. He has studied these trends in many countries, including China, Russia, the Philippines, South Africa and Brazil. He also has an equally large set of research activities on similar topics in the United States.

A major focus of Popkin’s research is the transition from a stage of receding famine to the emergence of nutrition-related, non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Once referred to as diseases of affluence, these chronic diseases are increasing at all income levels, particularly among the poor, according to Popkin’s research in lower- and middle-income countries. Specializing in the study of environmental, social, demographic and economic factors that influence the way people eat, Popkin uses large-population, longitudinal studies to examine dietary intake, physical activity and body composition patterns.

“Dr. Popkin is an esteemed colleague who richly deserves this honor for which he is well-suited,” said Dr. June Stevens, Chair of the Department of Nutrition and AIRC distinguished professor. “We are grateful to the late Carl Smith for this generous donation in honor of his daughter’s belief in the importance of good nutrition and her commitment to advance nutrition research as a fundamental part of improving the public’s health.”

Carla Chamblee Smith (ABEd ’58 and MEd ’63) was a guidance counselor at Smithfield-Selma High School, Chowan College and at Johnston Community College in Smithfield, N.C. She is retired and lives in Montezuma, N.C.

Carl M. Smith (’44, MA, mathematics) established a provision in his will that created the professorship. Mr. Smith died March 6, 2006, at age 93. A long-time Chapel Hill resident, Mr. Smith was a retired stockbroker, a former North Carolina state legislator, a former member of the Orange County Board of Commissioners and a former Chapel Hill School Board member. An article about the family appeared in the Winter 2005 issue of Carolina Connections (http://carolinafirst.unc.edu/connections/winter2005/smith.html).

Popkin received two master’s degrees, from the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Wisconsin, and a PhD in Agricultural Economics from Cornell University in 1974. He serves on several scientific advisory organizations and is chair of the Nutrition Transition Committee for the International Union for the Nutritional Sciences. He has published more than 250 journal articles and numerous book chapters and books. More details of his research activities can be found at www.nutrans.org.


For more information, contact Ramona DuBose, director of communications for the UNC School of Public Health, by telephone at 919-966-7467 or by email at ramona_dubose@unc.edu.