Take 5 with Virginia Uhley, Ph.D.
Headshot of Virginia Uhley, Ph.D. wearing a blue blazer

As a way to learn more about the diverse educators who share their expertise with our medical school students, OUWB presents a special interview series called “Take 5.” Let us know what you think.

Assistant Professor Virginia Uhley, Ph.D., RDN, joined the Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine in 2012 where she teaches nutrition and is responsible for the development, integration, and assessment of the longitudinal nutrition curriculum to M1 through M4 students. She holds graduate degrees in nutrition and food science with a minor in physiology from Wayne State University and completed her postdoctoral fellowship in clinical laboratory biomarkers associated with human health risks in the Department of Internal Medicine at the Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit. Prior to joining OUWB, Dr. Uhley held faculty, clinical, and research appointments at Wayne State University and the University of Michigan. At the University of Michigan Medical School, she was the Director of the Longitudinal Nutrition Curriculum from 2004-2012. Dr. Uhley’s expertise is in nutrition assessment methodology, measurement of clinical laboratory biomarkers associated with dietary intake and health risks, and medical nutrition therapy for the prevention, treatment and maintenance of health. Her research focus is on obesity, diabetes, and cancer.

What do you enjoy most about your job?
Sharing my passion about nutrition with students. I enjoy the opportunity to interact with students, especially when the conversation is about nutrition concepts and wellness.

Do you recall a moment when you decided you wanted to be a professor?
Actually, I do. I was working in a clinic and was asked to teach residents in the Internal Medicine Department and medical students about nutrition and obesity management. Up until then I had no idea that very little nutrition information was integrated into the medical school curriculum. So, it became my mission to help fill that gap. I started with teaching in residency and then later at the University of Michigan where I was given the opportunity to design and integrate nutrition education into the medical school curriculum.

What about your current research most captures your interest?
I think the best way to describe what really intrigues me right now is investigating new food products that are supplemented with all sorts of dietary antioxidants and phytochemicals. We have very little evidence about the impact these products have on health. It’s very confusing for people to try to pick which food will best support their health. We really need more research that is focused on the impact that food choices have on health risks.

Did OUWB’smissionresonate with you?
Nutrition fits right with OUWB’s mission, which is focused on the health and support of the community.

What about nutrition do you think people misunderstand the most?
I think the main misunderstanding is the idea that if you can identify nutrients that are missing from someone’s diet, you can simply add a multivitamin/mineral supplement to support their health without any risks. We really don’t have enough research evidence to support this practice.

If you had a fact about nutrition you’d like to share, what would it be?
I think that many of the facts about nutrition are misunderstood. Especially the information on nutrition and health, which is focused on the caloric content of the food we eat, and not on the micronutrient content. The micronutrient content of food choices can have a significant impact on an individuals’ health and this is missed when only the caloric content is considered.

Some of your research involves cancer patients and weight: What role do you think weight plays in cancer?
The increasing prevalence of obesity in the general population is associated with increased risks of developing various types of cancers. Weight gain has also been shown to increase the risk for cancer recurrence. From the research evidence collected thus far, it is clear that in order to prevent cancer occurrence/recurrence, maintaining a healthy body weight and consuming enough fresh fruits and vegetables are critical. I’m currently updating a book chapter on nutrition and weight management for cancer survivors.

Have any exciting plans for the summer?
My biggest plans for the summer are to spend time on the lake. I love to waterski and spend time with friends and family.

What is something many people don’t know about you?
Probably that I used to compete in water skiing tournaments. Also, that I still compete during the winter in alpine skiing events. I’m currently the president of the Michigan Alpine Competition Committee, which host ski racing events at Boyne Mountain. I am also a member of the National Ski Patrol.