Gordon-Larsen named Carla Smith Chamblee Distinguished Professor

February 8, 2021

Dr. Penny Gordon-Larsen

Dr. Penny Gordon-Larsen

Penny Gordon-Larsen, PhD, associate dean for research at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, has been honored for her work in the field of nutrition with the Carla Smith Chamblee Distinguished Professorship.

This professorship recognizes a respected teacher and scholar who, per the Smith Chamblee family, “believes in the power of good nutrition” and makes nationwide and global contributions to nutritional science research.

“Dr. Gordon-Larsen embodies the qualities that we in the Gillings School seek to recognize with the Carla Smith Chamblee Distinguished Professorship in Global Nutrition,” said Dean Barbara K. Rimer, DrPH. “She has been a dynamic partner in advancing our research portfolio and efforts, and she delivers excellence and impact, with respect and enthusiasm, to constituents and stakeholders at all levels.”

Gordon-Larsen is a leading nutritional science researcher who studies obesity as a complex, multifactorial disease. Her work explores the genetic, environmental, societal and behavioral factors that contribute to obesity, and she leads the Obesity Creativity Hub – a diverse group of more than 27 researchers from nutrition to behavioral health to data science who work collaboratively to solve the challenge of obesity.

Her research portfolio focuses primarily on susceptibility to obesity and its cardiometabolic consequences. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) have funded much of her work related to the study of ethnicity, disparities and development of obesity. She is also a member of the advisory council for the NIH National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Her contributions have positioned her as a thought leader and have made a sustained impact on the elimination of health inequities and improved health outcomes both locally and globally.

“Dr. Gordon-Larsen has made truly important contributions to our field as a function of her incredibly strong research portfolio, her thoughtful and impactful mentoring of students and junior faculty, and her high-level contributions to professional societies and to the NIH,” said Beth Mayer-Davis, PhD, Cary C. Boshamer Distinguished Professor and chair of the Department of Nutrition. “I count myself and my department among the many who have benefited from her incredible experience and insights.”

In 2015, Gordon-Larsen served as president of The Obesity Society, the leading national organization that provides advocacy in obesity science, education and policy, and in 2020, she was named the recipient of the George A. Bray Founders Award. This award honors an individual for significant contributions that advance the scientific or clinical basis for understanding or treating obesity and for extensive involvement with The Obesity Society.

“I am deeply honored to receive the Carla Smith Chamblee Distinguished Professorship in Global Nutrition,” said Gordon-Larsen. “I am driven to identify the structures, lifestyles and biological mechanisms that can be leveraged to use the power of good nutrition to improve people’s health and well-being in North Carolina and across the globe.”

Gordon-Larsen joined the Gillings School in 1998 as a Dannon Institute Postdoctoral Fellow in Interdisciplinary Nutrition Science and later joined the faculty in 2002. Since 2018, Gordon-Larsen has served in the role of associate dean for global research, where she provides leadership and vision for the research initiatives at the Gillings School, which receive approximately $200 million in annual funding.

“The Gillings School, University, state and world will continue to benefit from her stellar research, scholarly acumen, teaching, mentoring and service for years to come,” said Rimer.


Contact the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health communications team at sphcomm@unc.edu.

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