Beavers receives prestigious NIH award

Kristen Beavers, assistant professor of health and exercise science, has been awarded a prestigious National Institutes of Health (NIH) K01 Mentored Research Scientist Development Award. It’s the first K01 awarded to a junior research faculty member on the Wake Forest campus.

Wake Forest new faculty headshots, Thursday, August 14, 2014. Kristen Beavers.

K01 awards are designed to promote the career development of the recipient based on their past training and career stage. The award provides support and protected time for an intensive, supervised career development experience in the biomedical, behavioral, or clinical sciences – ultimately leading to research independence.

Beavers’ K01 award is in the amount of $473,549 for four years and requires a 75 percent research commitment. Broadly, her areas of study and research interest include nutrition and exercise as they relate to the prevention of disease and disability in older adults. During the K01 award, her research will specifically focus on bone health of older adults. To do so, she has developed an ancillary study to the Cooperative Lifestyle Intervention Program II (CLIP II), an ongoing 18-month randomized clinical trial evaluating the effect of exercise modality during weight loss on muscle function and strength in 249 obese older adults with cardiovascular disease or metabolic syndrome.

Beavers will be studying how weight loss affects bone health in a subset of these older adults by collecting baseline and 18-month computed tomography scans to look at changes in bone thickness, density and strength.

Prior to joining the Wake Forest faculty two years ago, Beavers was a postdoctoral research fellow at the Wake Forest School of Medicine in the Section on Gerontology and Geriatric Medicine and worked on several research studies involving weight loss in older adults and its effect on muscle and fat.

“By focusing this research project on the effect of weight loss on bone health, this opportunity will help me round out my prior experience and knowledge of the clinical effects of weight loss on body composition in older adults,” said Beavers.

Beavers’ primary mentor is Stephen Kritchevsky, principal investigator of the Wake Forest Claude D. Pepper Older Americans Independence Center, one of 13 such centers supported by the National Institute on Aging. He is an epidemiologist specializing in nutrition, chronic disease and physical function in older adults and has led many multi-center observational studies and clinical trials focused on the functional health of older adults. Her mentoring team also includes W. Jack Rejeski, professor of health and exercise science at Wake Forest who is the principal investigator of the CLIP II trial. He is an NIH investigator on more than 10 randomized clinical trials, studying aspects of health weight loss and physical activity in older adults.

“Bone health is a strategic priority for our Aging Center and was specifically identified by our external advisory board as an area for development,”Kritchevsky wrote in a letter of support for the award. “I couldn’t be more pleased that a scientist of Kristen’s caliber is taking it on.”

Beavers has received numerous grants, published in multiple journals, and has contributed to a textbook on nutritional supplements in sports and exercise.  She is also a registered dietician and is certified as a personal trainer through the American College of Sports Medicine.