Mitchell receives $2.6 million grant to study weight loss interventions in older African American women

Sunday, February 3, 2019

We are thrilled to learn this week that Nia S. Mitchell, MD, MPH, assistant professor in the division of general internal medicine, is the recipient of a National Institutes of Health (NIH) Research Project Grant (R01) from the National Institute of Aging. Mitchell’s research funding will total $2.6 million over the next 5 years for her interest and expertise in weight loss interventions for underserved populations.

The co-investigators are Jennifer Gierisch, PhD, and Matthew Maciejewski, PhD, from general internal medicine, Jane Pendergast, PhD, from general internal medicine and the Department of Biostatistics & Bioinformatics, and Connie Bales, PhD, and Kathryn Starr, PhD, from geriatrics.

Aiming to Eliminate Health Disparities

The primary goal with this study is to help obese, older African American women lose weight and improve their physical function. Compared with other groups, older African American women are more likely to be obese. Furthermore, obese, older African women are more likely to have poor physical function. Therefore, this is the population that has the most need for an intervention. The long-term goal is to eliminate the health disparities of obesity and frailty in older African American women.

Dr. Mitchell’s study will enroll individuals into the Take Off Pounds Sensibly (TOPS) program to examine its effects on weight change and physical function, cardiovascular disease risk factors, quality of life, and healthcare utilization.

"Take Off Pounds Sensibly (TOPS) is a program I’ve been studying since fellowship, and I did a pilot study in Colorado with a group of older African American women where I started three TOPS chapters. Even though the study ended in 2012, one of the chapters is still going strong today. It’s really great that they found it so valuable that they have continued with it. I hope the women in the new study will find the experience as valuable." 
Nia S. Mitchell, MD, MPH

About Dr. Mitchell

Besides research, Dr. Mitchell is a clinician-educator in the Duke Outpatient Clinic where she supervises internal medicine residents, and she sees patients at the Duke Diet and Fitness Center.

Dr. Mitchell earned her medical degree at Washington University in St. Louis. She received both her internal medicine residency and primary care research fellowship training, which included earning an MPH degree, at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. Dr. Mitchell joined Duke General Internal Medicine in 2016.

Her previous funding included a Diversity Supplement, an institutional pilot grant, and an NHLBI K award (all of which were from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus). All of those grants were key to helping her to obtain preliminary data for the current study.

Dr. Ebony Boulware, Division Chief, General Internal Medicine, tells us “Nia’s award will study critical mechanisms in obesity and aging. We are really proud to see her national leadership in this important area." 

The first R01 is a milestone in every biomedical research career, especially in today’s highly competitive environment. Please join us in congratulating Dr. Mitchell for her hard work and dedication.