HWRN Core Members

Members represent a broad range of disciplinary expertise, including but not limited to epidemiology, exercise physiology, nutrition, pediatrics, psychology, psychiatry, public health, social work, biostatistics, and others.  Members will have made significant research and scholarly contributions to the field of obesity and/or the health of children with ASD/DD.

Rachel Blaine

Rachel Blaine, DSc, MPH, RD, is a member of the HWRN Steering Committee. She is an Associate Professor of Nutrition & Dietetics and is the Director of the Didactic Program in Dietetics at California State University, Long Beach. Dr. Blaine conducts mixed-methods research to discover innovative ways to promote nutrition and whole-person wellness for children and adults on the autism spectrum. Much of her work focuses on “health parenting” (promoting nutrition, fitness, sleep, overall well-being) and childhood obesity prevention.
About Dr. Blaine  

Diane-Boas

Diane Boas, MS, is a member of the HWRN Steering Committee. She is a Project Manager at Let’s Go! an obesity prevention initiative working with communities to create environments that support healthy choices. The program is part of the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital at Maine Medical Center in Portland, Maine. At Let’s Go! Ms. Boas develops tools and trainings for health care providers, educators and other professionals to help them include children with intellectual and developmental disabilities in their obesity prevention efforts. Ms. Boas is a parent of an adult with a developmental disability and is also a disability rights advocate.
About Let’s Go!  

Kerri Boutelle, PhD

Kerri Boutelle, PhD, is a HWRN Collaborating Research Entity Lead (University of California, San Diego) and a member of the HWRN Steering Committee. She is a Professor of Pediatrics, Family Medicine Public Health and Psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego; Director of the Center for Healthy Eating and Activity Research (CHEAR); Senior Supervising Psychologist, USCD Eating Disorder and Treatment Program and is affiliated with Rady Children’s Hospital, San Diego. Dr. Boutelle brings clinical and research expertise on family-based approaches to weight loss in children. The focus of her research is to target overeating in children, adolescents, and adults who are overweight and/or have binge eating. Dr. Boutelle works with families and individuals struggling with binge eating disorder, weight management, anorexia, bulimia, eating disorders/not otherwise specified, and other gastroenterological problems.
About Dr. Boutelle

April Bowling

April Bowling, MA, ScD, is a HWRN Collaborating Research Entity Lead (Merrimack College) and a member of the HWRN Steering Committee. She is an Assistant Professor of Health Sciences at Merrimack College, who develops and tests nutrition and exercise interventions to impact the behavioral health of children with neurodevelopmental and behavioral health disorders such as autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and anxiety. Dr. Bowling’s research aims to help implement interventions in real-world settings, so that parents and clinicians can best allocate scarce resources. This has included using technological solutions to conduct community-based, school, and home programming.   About Dr. Bowling 

Sarabeth Broder-Fingert, MD

Sarabeth Broder-Fingert, MD, is a member of the HWRN Steering Committee. She is an Associate Professor and Vice Chair of Research in the Department of Pediatrics at the UMass Chan Medical School. She is also the Associate Director of Research at the E.K. Shriver Center. Dr. Broder-Fingert is a founding member of the NIMH Autism Spectrum Disorder Pediatric, Early Detection, Engagement and Services (ASD PEDS) Network. She has conducted studies to identify the prevalence of obesity in children with autism spectrum disorder using large datasets and has also conducted qualitative and quantitative studies investigating pediatric providers’ knowledge and self-perceived efficacy in weight management for children on the autism spectrum.   About Dr. Broder-Fingert

Kirsten Davison

Kirsten Davison, MS, PhD, is a member of the HWRN Steering Committee. She is the Donahue and DiFelice Endowed Chair and Associate Dean for Research in the School of Social Work at Boston College. Dr. Davison leads a research program focused on parenting and child health outcomes, with an emphasis on underserved families in domestic settings.   About Dr. Davison

Joseph Donnelly, EdD

Joseph Donnelly, EdD, is a HWRN Collaborating Research Entity Lead (University of Kansas Medical Center) and a member of the HWRN Steering Committee. He is a Professor of Internal Medicine, Director, Division of Physical Activity and Weight Management, Director, Energy Balance Laboratory, at the University of Kansas Medical Center. Dr. Donnelly is an exercise physiologist by training and has over 30 years of experience with exercise, diet, and weight management. Since 1986 he has been the Director of the “Weight Control Research Project” a behaviorally-based and theoretically-grounded program providing weight loss and maintenance in many previously funded projects. Dr. Donnelly’s areas of research focus include, but are not limited to, child nutrition and fitness, obesity and chronic disease risk, effects of exercise on weight loss and maintenance, and weight loss and maintenance for individuals with autism spectrum disorder/developmental disabilities.   About Dr. Donnelly

Richard Fleming, PhD

Richard Fleming, PhD, is a member of the HWRN Steering Committee. He is a Professor Emeritus of Exercise and Health Sciences at the University of Massachusetts-Boston. Dr. Fleming previously was on faculty at the UMass Chan Medical School-Shriver Center. He is a psychologist whose broad interests lie in health-related behavior change and interventions for individuals with autism spectrum disorder/developmental disabilities.   About Dr. Fleming

Tawara Goode, MA

Tawara Goode, MA, is a member of the HWRN Steering Committee. She is the Director of the Georgetown University National Center for Cultural Competence (NCCC) and the Georgetown University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities, and an associate professor in the Department of Pediatrics, Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, DC. Her primary focus is on national level efforts to advance and sustain cultural and linguistic competence within an array of settings including institutions of higher education, health, mental health, and other human service systems. Professor Goode conducts research on cultural and linguistic competence and its role in addressing health and health care disparities.   About Ms. Goode

Sandra Hassink, MD

Sandra Hassink, MD, is a member of the HWRN Steering Committee. She is a pediatrician and the Director of the AAP Institute for Healthy Childhood Weight which is focused on translating research into practice for pediatric health care providers, families, and children. Dr. Hassink is the founding Director of the Childhood and Adolescent Weight Management Clinic, Nemours/A.I. duPont Hospital for Children and Emeritus Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Jefferson Medical College. She is a past president of the AAP and the Director of the Nemours Obesity Initiative, working in patient care, prevention, and policy development. Dr. Hassink has served on the IOM committee on Accelerating Progress on Obesity Prevention.

Susan L. Hyman, MD

Susan Hyman, MD, is a HWRN Collaborating Research Entity Lead (University of Rochester Medical Center/Golisano Children’s) and a member of the HWRN Steering Committee. She is a developmental-behavioral pediatrician specializing in autism spectrum disorder/developmental disabilities, a Professor in the Department of Pediatrics, University of Rochester Medical Center, and the Division Chief of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, Golisano Children’s Hospital. Dr. Hyman’s research focuses on medical problems of children and youth with autism spectrum disorder with a major focus on diet, nutrition, and feeding behaviors. She serves as the Co-PI of the Rochester site of the Autism Care Network which has enabled her to collaborate across the network on projects related to feeding, nutrition, and behavioral interventions.   About Dr. Hyman

Winston Kennedy, DPT, MPH

Winston Kennedy, DPT, MPH, is a member of the HWRN Steering Committee. He is a PhD student in the Kinesiology program, Adapted Physical Activity option, at Oregon State University and a licensed and practicing physical therapist. Dr. Kennedy is an active member of the Disability Section of the American Public Health Association (APHA), and his doctoral dissertation seeks to evaluate the relationship between physical therapists’ attitudes toward people with disabilities and physical activity promotion.   About Dr. Kennedy

Tanja Kral, PhD

Tanja Kral, PhD, is a HWRN Collaborating Research Entity Lead (University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing) and a member of the HWRN Steering Committee. She is the Ellen and Robert Kapito Endowed Professor and Professor of Nutrition Science at Penn Nursing and the Perelman School of Medicine. She also serves as Associate Program Director of the Graduate Nutrition Program at Penn Nursing. Dr. Kral is a nutrition scientist with training in the study of human ingestive behavior. Her research focuses on the cognitive, sensory, and nutritional controls of appetite and eating in children and adults and their relevance to obesity.   About Dr. Kral

Sandra

Sandy Magaña, PhD, MSW, is a HWRN Collaborating Research Entity Lead (University of Texas at Austin) and a member of the HWRN Steering Committee. She is a Professor in Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disabilities at the Steve Hicks School of Social Work, University of Texas at Austin. Dr. Magaña’s research focuses on the cultural context of families who care for persons with disabilities across the life course. She researches racial and ethnic disparities, and the pathways from identification and diagnosis to evidence-based treatment for underserved children with autism spectrum disorder and their families.   About Dr. Magaña

Angela Odoms-Young, PhD, is a HWRN Collaborating Research Entity Lead (Cornell University) and a member of the HWRN Steering Committee. She is an Associate Professor, Division of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell University and the Director of the New York State Expanded Food and Nutrition Program. Dr. Odoms-Young’s research explores the social and structural determinants of dietary behaviors and related health outcomes in low-income populations and black, Indigenous and people of color. Her work also centers on developing culturally responsive programs and policies that promote health equity, food justice, and community resilience.   About Dr. Odoms-Young

Lauren Ptomey

Lauren Ptomey, PhD, RD, is a HWRN Collaborating Research Entity Lead (University of Kansas Medical Center) and a member of the HWRN Steering Committee. She is an Associate Professor, Department of Internal Medicine at the University of Kansas Medical Center. Dr. Ptomey’s research has focused on the use of technology for the promotion of weight management and physical activity in individuals with autism spectrum disorder/developmental disabilities as well as the impact of diet and physical activity on body composition, cognition, and metabolism in individuals with cognitive disabilities. A secondary research focus is the use of technology to improve dietary intake assessments.   About Dr. Ptomey

Katherine Rancaño, MS

Katherine Rancaño, MS, is a member of the HWRN Steering Committee. She is a nutrition doctoral student at Tufts University School of Medicine. Ms. Rancaño assists the network with secondary data analyses, including exploring secondary data sets, data management activities, data analysis, and literature searches and literature reviews.   About Ms. Rancaño

Amanda Russell

Amanda Russell is a member of the HWRN Steering Committee. She is the Founder, President, and Executive Director of Verge Inclusive Athletics, an organization that provides inclusive community running and fitness programs for children and youth with and without autism spectrum disorder and other developmental challenges in Massachusetts.   About Ms. Russell

William Sharp, PhD

William Sharp, PhD, is a HWRN Collaborating Research Entity Lead (Emory University School of Medicine) and a member of the HWRN Steering Committee. He is a psychologist and Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Emory University School of Medicine and the Director of the Multidisciplinary Feeding Program at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and the Marcus Autism Center. Dr. Sharp leads a multidisciplinary team focused on interventions for children with pediatric feeding disorder and avoidant restrictive food intake disorder. His Autism MEAL Plan, a parent-training curriculum to manage eating aversions and limited variety among children with autism represents the first randomized-controlled study of a feeding intervention in autism spectrum disorder. Dr. Sharp and his colleagues are devoted to developing and evaluating innovative, community-viable methods of treatment delivery based on the need to expand access to effective interventions in community settings.   About Dr. Sharp

Linmarie Sikich, MD, MA

Linmarie Sikich, MD, MA, is a HWRN Collaborating Research Entity Lead (Duke University) and a member of the HWRN Steering Committee. She is a child and adolescent psychiatrist, Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Duke University, and Associate Director of the Duke Center for Autism and Brain Development. Dr. Sikich’s current research interests are in developing and optimizing new treatments for autism spectrum disorder, including evaluating the efficacy and tolerability differences among pharmacologic agents from the same class, as well as the influence of psychotropic medications on the propensity for weight gain.   About Dr. Sikich

Heidi Stanish, PhD

Heidi Stanish, PhD, is a member of the HWRN Steering Committee. She is a Professor in the Department of Exercise and Health Sciences at the University of Massachusetts-Boston and holds an adjunct faculty position at the UMass Chan Medical School-Shriver Center. Dr. Stanish’s line of research focuses on physical activity and fitness promotion for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. She is a Fitness Advisor for Special Olympics International.   About Dr. Stanish