Sharon Akabas, PhD

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I received a Ph.D. in Nutrition Science from Columbia University and am currently Director of an MS in Nutrition at Columbia University’s Institute of Human Nutrition, and Associate Director for Educational Initiatives. I have taught for over 35 years at Columbia University, first at Teachers College, and currently at The Institute of Human Nutrition. In 2010, I was awarded the Presidential Award for Outstanding Teaching, Columbia University. The courses ranged from Advanced Nutrition, Growth and Development, to Nutritional Ecology, Women and Weight, and Obesity: Etiology, Prevention and Treatment, and Essentials of Nutrition Counseling and Medical Nutrition Therapy. I have organized several symposia in recent years; the goal of the symposia has been to convene national and international experts on controversial topics, and to make recommendations for research, practice and policy. I have also worked nationally on the integration of nutrion within inter-professional education. Most recently I have focused on childhood obesity with an emphasis on working with communities to develop prevention strategies. I have also acted in a consulting capacity to sports teams, government agencies, and private industry on issues relating to the translation of science to public policy and to clinical and public health settings.

Another focus of my work has been the Integration of nutrition into inter-professional education. Though nutrition contributes to six of the ten leading causes of death in the U.S., few schools have any effective curricula that integrate nutrition into training of their health professionals. At Columbia I teach at least one nutrition related lecture in every health professional school and in many cases, I am the only nutrition lecturer for the students’ entire training. Nationally I have participated in efforts to increase the presence of nutrition in the training of health professionals.

In the past few years I have focused on food systems teaching from a systems thinking perspective. Along with Dr. Eleanor Sterling of the American Museum of Natural History, we have organized a Community of Practice (CoP) dedicated to the pedagogy of food systems teaching. Our emphasis on systems thinking has led to collaborations across more than 26 universities in the US, and to active sharing of curricula, assessments and tools to determine whether or not teaching systems thinking improves learning. The initiative has strong ties to programs that emphasize the importance of sustainability and that recognize the centrality of our food system to the health of the planet and to human health.

Academic Appointments

  • Associate Professor of Nutrition (in Pediatrics and in the Institute of Human Nutrition)

Administrative Titles

  • Director, MS in Nutrition


  • Female

Credentials & Experience

Education & Training

  • BS, 1978 Biology and Religion, Oberlin College
  • MA, 1980 Applied Physiology, Teachers College, Columbia University
  • MS, 1982 Nutrition, Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons
  • PhD, 1988 Nutriti, Columbia University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, NY

Honors & Awards

1985 Helen and Daisy Yen Wu Research Fellowship Award

2010 Presidential Award for Outstanding Teaching, Columbia University