Leading lady

Kelly Tappenden

Expanded opportunities for research, teaching and collaboration drew Kelly Tappenden from an endowed professorship at the Urbana- Champaign campus to her new position as head of the Department of Kinesiology and Nutrition at UIC.

“The opportunity to lead this department—a group with so much potential—is so exciting,” says Tappenden, who officially started July 25.

Tappenden was the Kraft Foods Human Nutrition Endowed Professor and professor of nutrition and GI physiology in the Division of Nutritional Sciences at Urbana- Champaign, where she has been a faculty member since 1997.

Previous leadership positions at UIUC include associate dean of the Graduate College and provost fellow in the Office of the Provost.

Her research in parenteral and enteral nutrition concerns intestinal failure and the inability to digest and absorb nutrients. In children, this is usually related to malformations of the intestine. In adults, problems like Crohn’s disease and inflammatory bowel disease may lead to the removal of parts of the intestine. Patients with intestinal failure must be fed intravenously, which leads to serious health problems and diminished quality of life.

“We are working to rehabilitate the intestine—making it grow bigger and able to digest and absorb more nutrients—so that patients don’t have to continue being fed intravenously and can transition back to a normal life,” explains Tappenden, also editorin- chief of the Journal of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition.

“It’s been a 20-year quest where we’ve made a lot of progress,” she says. In Chicago, she will expand her work through additional collaborations with researchers and clinicians at UIC, University of Chicago and other medical centers.

Her role as an educator is important to Tappenden, whose teaching honors include the University of Illinois Distinguished Teacher-Scholar Award.

“The College of Applied Health Sciences has such a robust undergraduate program,” she says. “I look forward to being part of an environment where teaching is so embraced.”

Tappenden earned a bachelor’s and a Ph.D. in nutrition and metabolism at University of Alberta, Canada. She is a registered dietitian and a fellow of the American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition.