About Us

The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) School of Public Health Nourish Program is an 8-week culinary medicine elective designed to teach McGovern Medical School and Baylor Medical School students about food and nutrition through hands-on training.

Laura Moore, MEd, RD, LD is the director of the Nourish Program. The faculty and team at the Nourish Program includes registered dietitians: Ms. Moore, Ms. Piga-Plunkett, Ms. Weston, Mr. McWhorter,  Dr. Sharma and Dr. Hoelscher, trained chefs: Ms. Moore, Mr. McWhorter, and nutrition researchers with collective experience of over three decades in community-based research Dr. Sharma and Dr. Hoelscher.

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

Ms. Piga-Plunkett has worked as a Director of Nutrition services for a variety of facilities throughout the City of Houston for the past 30 years.  She has worked in LTC/Rehab, Children’s Psych, School Foodservice, PACE,  and Community Settings.



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Laura MooreLaura S. Moore, MEd, RD, LD

Director, Nourish Program
Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living
The University of Texas School of Public Health

Laura S. Moore is the Director of the UTSPH Dietetic Internship Program and a member of the Nutrition Faculty at UT 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 UTSPH Dietetic Internship 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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Shreela SharmaShreela V. Sharma, PhD, RD, LD
Associate Professor of Epidemiology
Assistant Director, Dietetic Internship Program
Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living
The University of Texas School of Public Health

Dr. Sharma is a trained dietitian and physical therapist. As a health professional, she strongly felt she was treating preventable diseases stemming from poor lifestyles: heart disease, diabetes, and hypertension. She saw the repercussions were devastating the community. Her love for teaching, academics and the community led her to purse a PhD in public health, focusing on epidemiology. Her interest is in nutrition and physical activity-based interventions to address obesity via school, family, and the community, predominantly in low-income minority populations. She co-found Brighter Bites, a partner program of the Houston Food Bank, and serves on the Mayor of Houston’s Go Healthy Houston Task Force.

She is currently working on Healthy Eating Active Living (HE/AL). Dr. Sharma explains, “HE/AL is designed to promote healthy birth outcomes and prevent maternal and childhood obesity among low-income Medicaid patients. The project will use evidence-based strategies from Brighter Bites, Legacy of Health and The Happy Kitchen/La Cocina Alegre to promote breastfeeding and physical activity among pregnant women and women with infants. Families will receive free group education classes (nutrition, cooking, and exercise) and 30 lbs of fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables weekly for 12 weeks. We will be tracking the effect of the program on maternal weight gain during pregnancy, gestational diabetes, pregnancy induced hypertension, infant birth weight, breastfeeding, and infant weight gain in the first year of life.”

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Sue DayR. Sue Day, PhD, MS
Professor of Epidemiology
Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living
The University of Texas 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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Deanna HoelscherDeanna M. Hoelscher, PhD, RD, LD
John P. McGovern Professor in Health Promotion
Director, Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living
The University of Texas School of Public Health, Austin Regional Campus

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 obese. 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, or UTHealth HealthLeader article.

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McWhorter.HeadshotJ. Wesley McWhorter, MS, RD, LD, CSCS
Nutritionist Supervisor
The University of Texas 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 profile picShannon Weston, MPH, RDN, LD, CDE
Nutritionist Supervisor
The University of Texas 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.