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Physician-scientist Silvana Obici, MD, sees the brain’s actions as the foundation for understanding obesity.

Physician-scientist Silvana Obici, MD, sees the brain’s actions as the foundation for understanding obesity.
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Publish Date: 11/21/12
Media Contact: AHC Public Relations, (513) 558-4553
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Focus on Research With Silvana Obici, MD

Silvana Obici, MD, associate professor in the division of endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism, has been named scientific director of the College of Medicine’s Reading Campus operations—a position reporting to Stephen Strakowski, MD, senior associate dean for research.

In her role as scientific director, Obici will serve as the primary representative of the College of Medicine programs based at UC’s Reading Campus, including the programs collectively recognized as the Metabolic Diseases Institute.

Obici’s own research is focused on the study of metabolic disorders.

How long have you been at UC, and what brought you here?
"I moved to UC in 2006 and was attracted here by the outstanding research that is carried out in Cincinnati involving the study of metabolic disorders."

Tell us about your current research focus.
"In the past two decades, groundbreaking discoveries have brought into the limelight the pivotal role of the brain as orchestrator of metabolism.

"My studies have shown that circulating nutrients and hormones, such as leptin and insulin, normally attenuate hunger and keep glycemia under control via specific sensing pathways located in the brain. Genetic and environmental factors that cause obesity and diabetes impair the function of these neural pathways.

"My long-term goal is to study how these pathways work in physiology and why they are impaired in obese individuals. More recently, I have become interested in the beneficial effect of physical activity for the prevention and treatment of obesity and diabetes. Regular exercise is beneficial not only because it helps to burn excess calories and decrease weight gain, but also because it stimulates brain pathways that in turn regulate appetite and improve glucose metabolism.

"I believe that by learning how physical activity helps the brain maintain a lower body weight we can find new ways to prevent and treat obesity and diabetes."

How did you become interested in metabolism and obesity?
"Hormone action has always fascinated me and I was privileged to work with great teachers, mentors and colleagues since my early years of medical school in Naples, Italy, and throughout my postdoctoral training in molecular endocrinology in New York. My experience as clinical fellow of endocrinology has exposed me to the devastating impact of obesity and diabetes on our health, quality of life and mortality.  So, as a physician-scientist, I decided to put to use my combined experience in basic science and clinical endocrinology toward the study of metabolic diseases."

Tell us what you think about your new role as scientific director on UC’s Reading Campus.
"I am very excited to serve in the new role of scientific director. The Metabolic Diseases Institute located at the UC Reading Campus is composed of a highly productive and collaborative group of scientists focused on the study of metabolic diseases. Their research programs extend well beyond the walls of the Reading Campus, with extensive collaborative interactions within and outside of the College of Medicine. My goal is to maintain and continue the record of excellence of the Metabolic Diseases Institute in education, research and health. In addition, I will represent a common voice for the Reading Campus scientific community. I intend to work hard to establish even stronger collaborative ties with the College of Medicine and across UC."

Tell us a bit about yourself. Any hobbies or interests?
"I love music, opera in particular. I also love to cook and use my imagination in the kitchen."
Anything about you that people don’t know or might be surprised by?
"My friends would not be surprised at all when I say that my dream is to open a cooking school. I already have a name for it, "The Healthy Gourmet.” In my dream, this school would bring together my personal and professional life: teaching, experimenting with food and reconciling the pleasure of eating with a healthy lifestyle."

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