Undergraduate Student Stephanie Marble Works to Fight Childhood Obesity

An estimated 12.5 million children in the United States suffer from obesity, and a 2010 New England Journal of Medicine study found that obese children are two times more likely than their non-obese peers to die before the age of 55. Through her internship at Children’s National Medical Center (CNMC), undergraduate exercise science student Stephanie Marble is working to address the growing childhood obesity crisis. “We need to look at why this epidemic is happening. I want to bridge the gap between the medical and nutrition fields to better understand the factors that play into the crisis - from genetics to environmental factors - and how I can make a difference,” she says.

During the summer of 2013, Marble participated as a student innovator in the Developmental Pharmacology Program at CNMC. She was one of 30 students ranging in age from teens in high school to medical school students who were admitted into the program. During the first few days of the program, the students competed in a medical hackathon where teams were challenged to develop a mobile app to combat childhood obesity. Marble’s group took first place with their app that would provide a peer-networking support system for patients to work together to accomplish their goals and live healthier lives. Marble is currently working with the IDEAL Clinic within the Obesity Institute at CNMC to develop and deploy the app and gain Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval. If approved, the app would focus on children ages ten to 18 years old who are currently enrolled in the clinic.

Marble is also currently working with Exercise Science Assistant Professor Dr. Jean Gutierrez at CNMC on her study that examines genetic biomarkers in healthy African American young adults to determine if they have a higher risk of developing chronic kidney disease. She works at Children’s National for two full days a week, while enrolled in four classes at GW. Marble says the quality professors and strong community at SPHHS have supported her and helped her apply the skills learned in the classroom to her real-world internship experience. “We’re mastering skills as undergrads, which gives us a huge advantage moving forward,” she says.

Marble encourages students to take advantage of the opportunities SPHHS makes available to its students. In October 2013, she participated in an intimate salon discussion on obesity with GW President Knapp, Diane Knapp, former FDA Commissioner Dr. David Kessler, and SPHHS faculty members and Dean Lynn R. Goldman for Food Day 2013. Marble said discussing obesity with experts from varying backgrounds helped her think about the issue in new ways.  “It’s one of the greatest parts of being at GW’s SPHHS - there are so many opportunities that can expose you to new ideas, opinions or a different field,” Marble says. “It’s those experiences that can help you pinpoint where you want to be in the future.”

Stephanie Marble plans to graduate in May 2014 with a Bachelor of Science in exercise science with a pre-med concentration.