Program Faculty

Jeanne Piga-PlunkettJeanne Piga-Plunkett, MS, RDN, LD
Director, Dietetic Internship Program
Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living
The University of Texas Health Science Center (UTHealth) School of Public Health

Jeanne M. Piga-Plunkett is the Director of the UTHealth School of Public Health Dietetic Internship Program and a member of the Nutrition faculty at the UTHealth School of Public Health in Houston. Her passion for nutrition began while working in wellness early in her career. She has worked as a Director of Nutrition services for the past 30 years throughout the City of Houston. She has worked in LTC/Rehab, Children's Psych, School Foodservice, PACE, and Community Settings. Throughout the 30 years, she has taken and worked with students at each facility, sharing and training our future dietitians.

One of Jeanne's passions is to work with the next generation of dietitians. She enjoys working with interns and training those individuals to be competitive in today's job market. Under her guidance and leadership, the UTHealth School of Public Health Dietetic Internship Program is going through changes that reflect the transition of our field. We have recently added new programs to our internship that include simulation and gardening with a seed to plate focus to enable interns to help their clients and patients lead healthier lives.


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Laura MooreLaura S. Moore, MEd, RD, LD
Director, Nourish Program
Assistant Director, Dietetic Internship Program
Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living
The University of Texas Health Science Center (UTHealth) School of Public Health

Laura S. Moore is the Director of the UTHealth School of Public Health Nourish Program and a member of the Nutrition Faculty at UTHealth School of Public Health in Houston. Her passion for food began with her training at Le Cordon Bleu, and her expertise is in Nutrition and Culinary Arts with emphasis in Nutritional Science, Culinary Training, and Community Garden Education. She is trained in Weight Management for Children and Adolescents with a focus in obesity prevention.

One of Laura’s passions is enabling the next generation of dietitians to have the tools they need to be competitive in today’s workforce. Under her guidance, leadership, and dedicated planning, the UTHealth School of Public Health Nourish Program has undergone significant amplification. The additional components offer students a wide range of hands-on experiences that enable them to help people to live healthier lives. This expansion includes a Research and Demonstration Kitchen (Nourish Kitchen), Medical Nutrition Therapy Simulation Classroom and the Holistic Garden.

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Headshot2Shreela V. Sharma, PhD, RD, LD
Professor of Epidemiology
Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living
The University of Texas Health Science Center (UTHealth) School of Public Health

Dr. Shreela Sharma is Professor of Epidemiology at the University of Texas, School of Public Health in Houston, TX. Dr. Sharma is a behavioral epidemiologist with specific interest in food insecurity, nutritional epidemiology and diet-related chronic diseases in vulnerable, underserved populations and has a robust, federally-funded research program in this area. Dr. Sharma has led several different studies to develop and evaluate the CATCH (Coordinated Approach to Child Health) program, including CATCH Early Childhood proven to improve obesity prevention among at-risk preschool age children, and the NIH-funded CATCH Healthy Smiles for oral health promotion to prevent dental caries among elementary age children.

More recently, Dr. Sharma is engaged in several COVID-19 related projects including a Texas state-wide COVID-19 Symptom Tracking initiative, conducting rapid analysis of COVID-19 data for the Texas Medical Center, and the local health departments, developing resources such as www.texaspandemic.org, an interactive COVID-19 dashboard providing real-time assessment of the spread of COVID-19 in Texas, assessing the impact of COVID-19 and the related financial crisis on employment, food security, and other social needs among vulnerable populations in Texas, and providing recommendations for public health decision-making. As part of these efforts, Dr. Sharma is co-investigator for the NIH-funded RADx project to increased uptake of COVID-19 testing in high-risk Texas communities.

Dr. Sharma is committed to serving the community; she is co-founder and principal investigator in the evaluation of Brighter Bites, a nationwide non-profit dedicated to providing fresh produce and nutrition education to low-income children and their families. She serves on the Board of Directors for the University of Houston Friends of Women’s and Gender Studies Program. On behalf of UTHealth, Dr. Sharma co-leads the Greater Houston Coalition on Social Determinants of Health, a Harris-county wide effort focused on mitigating food insecurity and other social determinants of health among its residents. She has a PhD in Epidemiology with a minor in biostatistics, and is a registered dietitian in the state of Texas.

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Sue DayR. Sue Day, PhD, MS
Professor of Epidemiology
Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living
The University of Texas Health Science Center (UTHealth) School of Public Health

Dr. Day’s journey to public health began in Lubbock, TX, her hometown. After graduating from pre-med, home economics and secondary education studies at Texas Tech, she worked as a home economist and nutrition educator in Midland and Odessa, TX. Originally, Dr. Day came to Houston to meet faculty at the medical school, thinking she would go into medicine. She accidentally walked into the UT School of Public Health and a recruiter convinced her to study public health instead. She has been at the school 34 years. “Obviously they won me over!” Remembering her time as a nutritionist, she decided she really wanted to understand prevention of disease through nutrition.

Currently, she focuses on overweight and obesity’s effect on cardiovascular disease among firefighters. Dr. Day explains, “I often get asked, ‘why study firefighters?’, because many people think they must all be fit, muscular and have great dietary habits.  Unfortunately, the majority (78.4%) of firefighters are overweight or obese. Given how many firefighters struggle with their weight, it is no surprise they also suffer from a high rate of diseases related to obesity. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of firefighter line of duty death, accounting for almost half of deaths. I am so excited that we have just been funded by FEMA to implement the first health and wellness intervention for a national sample of volunteer firefighters with a focus on healthy eating, fitness and hydration.  This project is a great example of the type of public health work I hoped to do when I started my career at UTSPH.  Studies like this allow me to work directly with the people benefiting from the project and are indeed one of my passions.”

Click to read CBS and CNN’s take on Dr. Day’s research.

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2019-UTHealth-Austin-3Deanna M. Hoelscher, PhD, RD, LD
John P. McGovern Professor in Health Promotion
Director, Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living
The University of Texas Health Science Center (UTHealth) School of Public Health in Austin

Dr. Hoelscher has always been interested in food, nutrition, science, and math. She started studying Chemical Engineering at Texas A&M, but after touring a chemical plant and visiting with a career counselor, she decided to study Food Science and Technology. While pursuing her Masters in Nutrition at UT Austin, she became a Registered Dietitian, refining the skills researchers need (detail-oriented, resourceful, self-motivated, hard worker); and enabling her to connect, interact, and communicate with people from diverse backgrounds. She had many leadership opportunities, including taking taking the lead on the Academy’s Position Paper on Child Overweight and Obesity. After earning her PhD in Biological Sciences she worked on CATCH, leading her to a tenure-track job at UTSPH. In 2006, when UTSPH received a grant from the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, she moved to Austin and became the Center Director.

Currently, Dr. Hoelscher is working on many projects including: interventions, epidemiologic surveys, and policy – analysis. One of those projects is the Texas Childhood Obesity Research Demonstration (Texas CORD) project. She explains, “This is a multi-component project linking many of my previous studies into one intervention program. I am really excited about the links we are building between primary care physicians and community programs for families of diverse, low-income children who are overweight and suffer from child obesity. These families need resources and assistance, and we provide them through the Texas CORD project. I especially like reading our

success stories about families who have achieved better health through our program- that’s the true impact of public health and what I do.”

If you are interested in Texas CORD, click to see a CDC overviewUT School of Public Health Overview.

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McWhorter.HeadshotJ. Wesley McWhorter, MS, RD, LD, CSCS
Nutritionist Supervisor
The University of Texas Health Science Center (UTHealth) School of Public Health

Wesley McWhorter is a professionally trained chef, registered dietitian, and certified strength and conditioning specialist. His experience includes corporate wellness, sport’s dietetics, school and hospital foodservice, fine dining, and working as a private chef. He holds degrees in culinary nutrition, dietetics, and nutrition and metabolism additionally he is pursuing a doctorate in public health with an emphasis in Health Behavior. Wesley currently teaches the Culinary Medicine courses at the UTHealth School of Public Health. His research interests are in closing the divide between culinary literacy and nutrition education and policy.

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Shannon Weston, MPH, RDN, LD, CDE
Nutritionist Supervisor

The University of Texas Health Science Center (UTHealth) School of Public Health

Shannon is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator. Her past work experiences include diabetes education, outpatient nutrition counseling, private practice and research.