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Nutrition researcher honored with prize named for Friedman founding dean

by Mark Sullivan

Cheryl Gilhooly, N02, M02, N07, who received her Ph.D. from the Friedman School this year for research on food cravings and the weight-loss challenges they pose, has won the first annual Stanley N. Gershoff, Simon J. and Arpi A. Simonian Prize for Research Excellence in Nutrition Science and Policy.

The prize, named for Dr. Gershoff, founding dean of the Friedman School, and for two of his former students is awarded to a Friedman scholar who exemplifies Dr. Gershoff's creativity and dedication to the discipline of nutrition.

The prize's benefactors are Dr. Simon Simonian, emeritus president of the Vein Institute and emeritus clinical professor of surgery at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, D.C., and his wife, Arpi, author of Slimmer and Trimmer: Daily Tips for Permanent Weight Loss. Former students of Gershoff's at the Harvard School of Public Health, the Potomac, Md., couple made a gift endowing the prize as a tribute to their mentor.

Gershoff made the presentation April 23 at an annual Friedman School symposium in his honor. He said the prize is "recognition that nutrition, in both its laboratory and social science aspects, is important." For the Simonians, who established the prize, he said he has "great affection."

Dr. Simonian, a surgeon and scientist, has had a distinguished career as a kidney transplant specialist and professor of surgery at teaching hospitals in Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit, and Washington, D.C. He said the prize was established to celebrate the mentor-student bond, the source for the development of new mentors and students and new knowledge. "Dr. Gershoff was excellent as a teacher, as a scientist, and as a friend," he said.

Inaugural recipient Gilhooly received her master's in nutrition and master's in public health from Tufts in 2002, followed by her Ph.D. in nutritional biochemistry and metabolism this spring. She now works in the Energy Metabolism Laboratory at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts.

"I am so honored and thrilled to have been chosen," Gilhooly said. "I have such tremendous respect for the work Dr. Gershoff has done, and it truly is an honor to receive this award in his name. I am also extremely grateful to Dr. and Mrs. Simonian for their generosity in establishing this prize."

Part of her research focuses on food cravings. "We don't fully understand how food cravings affect food intake or weight management," she said. "We wanted to know more about what kind of foods people crave and how those cravings may affect weight loss.

"We found food cravings, especially cravings for high-calorie foods, to be very common in the group of overweight women we studied, and cravings did not go away during weight loss. However, we found limiting the times one gives in to cravings—and the sizes of portions when one does—may have an important effect on weight management.

"The message is that it seems very normal to experience food cravings both before and after weight loss," she said, "but in order to keep calories and weight down, we may need to decrease portions of craved foods and reduce the number of times we give in to those food cravings."