Neumark-Sztainer awarded a McKnight Presidential Professorship

Martha Coventry | October 22, 2020

The University of Minnesota has awarded School of Public Health (SPH) Professor Dianne Neumark-Sztainer one of its highest faculty honors: a McKnight Presidential Professorship. She is the first professor in the School of Public Health to be so honored and joins only 17 other University faculty members who have received the professorship since its establishment in 2002. As a McKnight Presidential Professor, her name will join her colleagues on the monuments that line the Scholars Walk.

The professorship is bestowed for extraordinary scholarly achievements and for contributions that advance the prominence of the University of Minnesota. Neumark-Sztainer’s work has broken new ground across several areas of study, including adolescent and young adult nutrition and health, eating disorders and healthy weight promotion, and the intergenerational transmission of eating patterns. She focuses primarily on young people from racially and ethnically diverse low-income backgrounds. 

“I am so honored to receive this award,” says Neumark-Sztainer. “I have worked in the School of Public Health Division of Epidemiology and Community Health for 25 years. My career has flourished due to the support that I have received from my students, colleagues, and mentors. I share this award with all of them! Together we have worked to have a positive impact on the lives of young people, specifically on issues related to body image, eating disorders, and obesity.”

When Neumark-Szaitner began her work in the 1980s, the research into eating disorders was extremely limited. Since then, her prolific research has resulted in approximately 550 publications on young adult eating behaviors and health outcomes, and she is among the top 1% of most cited researchers in her field. She is the recipient of a National Institutes of Health Outstanding Investigator Award that provides her with research funding for seven years. She has also recently been awarded a grant aimed at training the next generation of scientists to address the broad spectrum of eating and weight-related problems in youth and families from ethnically and racially diverse and low-income backgrounds.

In 1997, Neumark-Sztainer founded Project EAT, the U.S.’s largest and most comprehensive longitudinal body of research into what predicts eating- and weight-related problems in young people. Its continuing work informs strategic policies and interventions, and helps young people guide themselves into healthier lives. Her work has given her colleagues in public health, medicine, psychology, and nutrition insight into disordered eating and excessive weight gain, allowing them to address these issues with more knowledge and skill.

“Dianne has brought profound understanding of how young people’s eating patterns shape their adult health and future well-being,” says SPH Dean John Finnegan. “Her devotion to setting up young people for good health as they age is extraordinary and her scholarship in this area is unmatched. We are immensely proud that the University chose her for this honor.” 

Neumark-Sztainer, who heads the Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, has received numerous awards from the School of Public Health and the University, including membership in the Academy for Excellence in Health Science Research.

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