July 17, 2017
The UAB National Alumni Society (NAS) has honored Michelle Cardel, PhD, RD, assistant professor in the Department of Health Outcomes and Policy at the University of Florida (UF), with the 2017 Outstanding Young Alumni Award in recognition of her having demonstrated exceptional achievements in her career, significant service to her community, and notable commitment to UAB. Cardel earned a master’s in Clinical Nutrition (2009) and a doctorate in Nutrition Sciences (2012) from UAB, where she also completed part of her dietetic internship. She is a former trainee in UAB’s Nutrition Obesity Research Center (NORC) and the Department of Nutrition Sciences.
Cardel distinguished herself as a UAB graduate student, winning numerous awards for her solid academic accomplishments as well as the novelty and scientific rigor of her research endeavors, including the Charles Barkley Young Investigator Award (2008 and 2009); the UAB Compass Bank Endowed Scholarship in Graduate Education for Community Services and Academic Excellence (2010); and the Outstanding Woman Graduate Student Award (2012). She was one of five finalists for The Obesity Society (TOS) Ethan Sims Young Investigator Award selected from over 900 abstract submissions and was chosen to present her oral abstract during TOS’s 2012 Annual Meeting.
As a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Colorado Denver (UCD), Cardel was among a select group of outstanding early career nutritional scientists to participate in the Dannon Nutrition Leadership Institute, designed to equip participants with the skills and perspective necessary to achieve their professional potential. Since joining UF, she has received the American Society for Nutrition Grand Prize for Young Minority Investigators Award (2015), been named a finalist for the International Life Sciences Institute Future Leader Award (2016), and was selected into the 2016–2017 cohort of the National Institutes of Health NHLBI PRIDE Research in Implementation Science and Equity program at the University of California San Francisco.
Cardel has published 24 peer-reviewed publications in high-impact journals; been primary investigator (PI), co-PI, or co-investigator on 12 grants totaling more than 9.5 million dollars; and is a reviewer for various prestigious journals. Her professional influence is recognized by her election to offices in international and national organizations in addition to her invited talks at various respected organizations and universities.
She has displayed civic leadership and forged beneficial relationships in each community she has touched throughout her scholarly endeavors, with an emphasis on improving the lives of underserved populations. During her time at UAB, Cardel was involved in several service endeavors, such as being a hospice volunteer as well as volunteering and fundraising for the Norma Livingston Ovarian Cancer Foundation and the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center. Because of her particular interest in improving pediatric obesity outcomes, she served as a volunteer public health educator for the Seed to Plate Program—which exposes inner-city children to organic farming in an urban setting—aiding in curriculum development, nutrition education, and cooking demonstrations. Additionally, for her dietetic internship specialization in 2012, Cardel sought a unique opportunity to work with underserved populations at the Alaskan Native Medical Center in Anchorage.
While at UCD, she led a regular television news segment focused on families’ and children’s health and wellness that translated the science of nutrition and obesity into easy-to-understand segments to help change diet and physical activity habits. She also founded and chaired the Diversity Initiative and Outreach Committee at the Anschutz Health and Wellness Center, in addition to arranging for families at the local Ronald McDonald House to use health and wellness facilities at no charge, giving them access to fitness facilities, a Zen garden, and classes on meditation and yoga to help distress during one of the most difficult times of their lives. Cardel also volunteered as a nutrition educator for the Healthy Happy Kids Program, Healthy Colorado Kids, and the Cooking Matters for Families Program.
At UF she continues to serve the university and community through work with the UF Health Pediatric Specialty Neuromuscular Rare Disease Clinic, providing personalized nutritional feedback to assist children struggling with weight gain due to steroid medication to achieve the healthiest state possible. Cardel has also co-developed the Obesity Research Alliance, a group that provides mechanisms for project collaboration across departments and disciplines through such regular events as a seminar series featuring renowned obesity researchers from other prolific research institutions, resulting in over 50 nutrition and obesity researchers from 11 academic units being united under one umbrella as well as increased collaboration of scientists from across the university. Furthermore, throughout her career, Cardel has mentored at a variety of different educational levels, from high school students through doctoral students.
Cardel accomplished significant achievements toward development of a more culturally diverse, competent, and inclusive university community at UAB, which was recognized by her being honored with the UAB President’s Diversity Graduate Student Award (2012). Considering UAB to be the most impactful university she has ever attended, Cardel continues to regularly collaborate with former mentors José Fernández, PhD, and David B. Allison, PhD, and to foster the connections developed at UAB by engaging in peer-review and writing with other UAB alumni obesity scientists.
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