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Cynthia J. Johnson, PhD
Director of Development Communications

Kevin J. Foyle, MBA, CFRE
Vice President
for Development

Cultivating nutrition education

Don Sanders and Laura Moore

Don Sanders and Laura Moore

When it comes to preventive health and one of its key components—nutrition—The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) School of Public Health is rapidly emerging as a national leader. The UTHealth School of Public Health has always had a longstanding commitment to nutrition education, research and community-based interventions through its Human Nutrition Center, now the Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living. It is now poised, however, to elevate the study of nutrition with a set of innovative projects that will not only serve the school’s students and the community, but will also establish UTHealth as a national educational leader in this critical field.

Thanks to a $650,000 pledge from Don Sanders and his wife Laura Moore, the School of Public Health is now ready to enhance the school’s Dietetic Internship Program with projects that are both innovative and aligned with national recommendations calling for more emphasis on nutrition education. By increasing the emphasis on healthy eating and physical activity in the program’s curriculum, public health professionals, nursing, dental and medical practitioners will be better prepared to address these issues with their patients.

Led by registered dietitian and UTHealth faculty member Laura Moore, The Dietetic Internship Program will be one of only nine Master of Public Health programs in the nation with a central mission to educate and train future health leaders to address preventive nutritional health initiatives. With a strong culinary background and valuable teaching experience, Moore’s work is fueled by a personal passion to change lives and improve health through diet.

With rates of nutrition-related chronic diseases, including hypertension and type II diabetes soaring in Houston and the nation in both children and adults, the timing for expanding the capabilities of the program couldn’t be better. The implications are staggering, in both human terms and health care costs. 

Plans for new garden in Grant Faye Park

Location in Grant Faye Park where the new community garden will be planted.

Three key elements planned to enhance the Dietetic Internship Program are:

  • A community garden planted in Grant Faye Park, located next to the School of Public Health’s Reuel A. Stallones Building. The garden will be  available to the community and students as a site for teaching seed-to-plate nutrition.
  • A demonstration kitchen available for education and research. The kitchen is already slated to be used for weekly nutrition and cooking classes to promote prenatal health among pregnant women who are Medicaid patients at UT Physicians clinics. Using a train-the-trainer approach, the kitchen will also add an important capability to the school’s efforts to assist organizations and health care providers in developing recipe modules that target specific chronic diseases.
  • A simulation classroom located in the School of Public Health to be used by students and other UTHealth professionals. The lab/classroom will offer capabilities for webinars, professional development and much more.

While Moore has been addressing nutrition as an educator and dietitian throughout her professional life, her husband is equally passionate about the topic, stepping forward with financial support to jumpstart this groundbreaking program. He is also interested in seeing UTHealth become the hub of nutrition education in the Texas Medical Center.

Spend a few minutes with Sanders and you’ll quickly see his enthusiasm for programs that make a difference and meet important societal needs. He has funded four scholarship programs at the School of Public Health.

“I like supporting initiatives that are important—especially initiatives like this that take strong programs to a higher level to meet major needs with visible results. UTHealth plays an important role in this community, and these new initiatives as a package have the potential to create a model program.”

The Sanders/Moore pledge of $650,000 along with contributions from the School of Public Health and the UTHealth Office of the President will go a long way toward the $1.3 million overall price tag for the project. Notes UTHealth President Giuseppe N. Colasurdo, MD, “The generosity of Don Sanders and his wife in partnership with UTHealth means a great deal to the university and the students whose education and training will be significantly enhanced.”

More funding is needed, however, to complete the program. Currently UTHealth seeks additional philanthropic support to underwrite the cost of developing all three initiatives. For more information on the project and giving opportunities, contact Erin Meade, Director of Development, UTHealth School of Public Health, 713-500-9059.