President's Award for Excellence in Research
Making a Difference through Research
According to the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, 33 percent of adolescents and 28 percent of children in Louisiana are overweight or obese. Approximately 24,000 more children in Louisiana may become obese by 2020 if the trend continues. Holly Kihm, associate professor of Family and Consumer Science and this year’s recipient for the President’s Award for Excellence in Research, is determined to change that trend.
“Researchers have identified several strategies to address overweight youth,” Kihm said, “but more work is needed in classrooms to teach university students the necessary skills to become real-world ready for working with children and adolescents struggling with weight management.”
Kihm’s research interests were sparked by her work as a child life specialist. Prior to her graduate work and coming to Southeastern, she worked in a children’s hospital where her role was to assess the psychosocial well-being of pediatric patients and implement developmentally appropriate care plans to facilitate effective coping during their hospital stays.
“I worked with many patients who had varying degrees of chronic and acute illnesses,” she said. “Though I enjoyed working with all of my patients, I became particularly interested in researching obesity and the psychosocial issues related to it during childhood and adolescence.”
As Kihm spent more time in the clinical setting, she began to see more children admitted to the hospital for obesityrelated issues and continued her research in that area. She has published 17 peer-reviewed articles as first author and seven peer-reviewed articles as co-author. She also maintains an active profile at professional conferences, having made 31 national, six state, two regional, and 20 local presentations on topics in her area of expertise. She currently has two manuscripts under review for publication.
Additionally, Kihm actively seeks funding to support her research projects and has obtained numerous grants, including a Board of Regents Traditional Enhancement Grant that supported the creation of the Interactive Physical Activity Lab (IPAL) within the Health and Human Sciences Department. Created in partnership with the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, the IPAL is a teaching space where faculty and students can work with local youth and their families to develop healthier lifestyles.
“Dr. Kihm uses her research to enhance her teaching and give back to her students. The IPAL provides a wonderful opportunity to involve students in both the research experience and to gain real-world ready experience through internships in the lab,” said Jacqueline Guendouzi, department head of Health and Human Sciences. “This facility has provided family and consumer science students with the opportunity to conduct research that was later presented at state and national level conferences.”
Through the lab, undergraduate and graduate students have the opportunity to enroll in an IPAL course. Each semester students engage in 14 weeks of activities designed to prepare them to work with children/youth and their families.
“The students learn how to communicate effectively with the children/youth on issues related to nutrition; physical activity; problem-solving; coping with bullying, teasing and stress; and making good choices to help them achieve health goals,” Kihm said. “Because each child is unique, students learn techniques for working with children of different ages and development stages, as well as different genders, cultures, and family dynamics.”
Southeastern graduate and Kihm’s former student Callie Lambert said she benefitted greatly from her experiences in IPAL and working with Kihm.
“Dr. Kihm taught me important life lessons, as well as the skills necessary to work in a lab,” Lambert said. “The information and experience I gained from working with her have prepared me for the future in ways I did not anticipate.”
“Holly’s ongoing research agenda has brought notoriety to Southeastern, as well as the Family and Consumer Sciences program,” said Center for Faculty Excellence Director Mary Ballard. “She is passionate about her work, and her research is an extension of herself, which makes it all the more meaningful.”