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AdventHealth Chief Science Officer receives national award related to obesity research

The Obesity Society awarded Steven R. Smith, M.D., chief scientific officer and senior vice president of AdventHealth, the TOPS Research Achievement Award for his research on obesity, diabetes and the metabolic origins of cardiovascular disease.

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Smith is one of 15 clinicians recognized by the international professional society.

Made possible through an annual grant from the Take Off Pounds Sensibly (TOPS) Foundation, the TOPS Research Achievement Award recognizes one distinguished scientist for a singular achievement or contribution to research in the field of obesity.

At the AdventHealth Translational Research Institute, Smith and his colleagues are currently investigating the reasons people develop obesity, particularly abdominal adiposity.

“We’re working on how genes can be programmed in the womb or during development to influence where fat is stored, either in the abdomen or in the hips and thighs,” he said. “The epigenomic programming of adipose tissue has the potential to not only help develop obesity treatments, but to also prevent the downstream metabolic diseases like diabetes, cancer and heart disease that occur in people with abdominal obesity – diseases that are lower in people with a predisposition to store fat below the waist.”

In addition, Smith is specifically focused on understanding how individuals differ in their ability to adapt to diets high in fat and how obesity leads to Type 2 diabetes.

Steven R. Smith, M.D., is the chief scientific officer and senior vice president of AdventHealth.
Steven R. Smith, M.D., is the chief scientific officer and senior vice president of AdventHealth.

Using the translational medicine approach, he along with the AdventHealth Translational Research team discovered that many obese people have an inability to burn fat and a new hormonal control system to increase fat and energy metabolism. Most importantly, the team’s discovery that the inability to burn fat is programmed into muscle cells provides a novel way to identify and test new treatments for obesity and diabetes.

“The world of research inspires me to find better solutions for patients,” said Smith. “We’ve just finished an exciting study – set to be published in the coming months – that helps us understand how the gut microbiome affects energy balance. We believe this will change the way our colleagues think about the prevention of weight gain across the lifespan and help people lose weight and keep it off.”

In early 2022, Smith assumed the role of chief scientific officer, where he provides scientific as well as research oversight and operational leadership across AdventHealth’s nearly 50 hospitals in nine states.

“The Obesity Society is honored to recognize Dr. Smith for his many contributions to our understanding of the roles that dysfunction in adipose tissue and skeletal muscle play in the development of obesity and Type 2 diabetes,” said Dan Bessesen, M.D., president of The Obesity Society. “He has been a leader in obesity research for many years and continues to make fundamental scientific contributions which aim to help improve the health of people with obesity.”

Over the course of his career, Smith has contributed to over 200 peer-reviewed publications, including scientific manuscripts, reviews and chapters. He has also served as president of The Obesity Society and has been a long-time advocate for persons affected by obesity.

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