Meet UNMC Distinguished Scientist Terry Huang, Ph.D.

Image with caption: Terry Huang, Ph.D.
Terry Huang, Ph.D.
NOTE: This profile is part of a series to highlight the 16 researchers who will be honored April 30 at a ceremony for UNMC's 2012 Scientist Laureate, Distinguished Scientist and New Investigator Award recipients.

  • Name: Terry Huang, Ph.D.
  • Title: Professor and chairman, Department of Health Promotion, Social & Behavioral Health, College of Public Health
  • Joined UNMC: 2010
  • Hometown: Taipei, Taiwan and Burnaby, Canada

Describe your research briefly in layman's terms.

'Obesity is one of most significant health risks today. It also contributes significantly to the economic cost of health care.'

Terry Huang, Ph.D.

My work has focused on the determinants, consequences and prevention of childhood obesity. In the past six years, I have spearheaded nationally what is known as a "systems approach" to childhood obesity prevention. Based on this "systems approach," I am interested in how individuals interact with their environment to create change in norms and behaviors around diet, physical activity and obesity. My recent research activities include working with architects to build schools that promote and facilitate healthy eating and active living, as a way to foster a culture of wellness from a young age. In Omaha, I lead an effort that incorporates youth advocacy, community development, social marketing and social media to increase the community's capacity to address obesity and diabetes. Both of these examples focus on innovative ways that combine environmental and individual strategies to shift culture toward better health.

How does your research contribute to science and/or health care?

Obesity is one of most significant health risks today. It also contributes significantly to the economic cost of health care. Most of us know how difficult it is to lose weight once we gain the pounds. Therefore, preventing obesity starting in childhood is key to a healthier population. My work at the policy level also has led to significant shifts in the way researchers and policymakers think about obesity prevention and has helped expand the theoretical foundations of public health in general.

What is the best piece of advice anyone ever gave you, professional or personal?

At the start of my Ph.D., my father, a professor in plant genetics, said to me that perseverance, not intelligence, is key to getting a Ph.D. His words have stayed and resonated with me to this day.

List three things few people know about you.

  • I spent part of my childhood in Ames, Iowa.
  • I grew up speaking English, French and Mandarin, and learned Spanish as an adult.
  • I went to school in Ames, Taipei, Vancouver, Montreal and Los Angeles.


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May 01, 2013 at 11:41 AM

Congratulations Terry! I'm very proud of you.

Paula Cooper
April 25, 2013 at 8:57 AM

Congratulations Dr. Huang!