Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Selected from a pool of nominations of alumni who graduated in the past 10 years, Kara Whitaker has been awarded the Gerry Sue Arnold Alumni Award from the University of South Carolina Arnold School of Public Health.

Kara Whitaker
Kara Whitaker

Whitaker is an assistant professor in the University of Iowa Department of Health and Human Physiology, where her research focuses on 24-hour activity-rest patterns and maternal-child health. She received a master of public health in physical activity and a PhD in exercise science, both from the University of South Carolina.

As a member of the Behavioral and Biomedical Interface Program (an NIH-funded T32 training program) and a researcher with the University of South Carolina Prevention Research Center’s Health in Pregnancy and Postpartum (HIPP) Study, Whitaker built a foundation as a scientist in the field. After graduating from the University of South Carolina in 2015, she completed a postdoctoral fellowship in cardiovascular disease epidemiology and prevention at the University of Minnesota before accepting her current position at Iowa.

In 2020, Whitaker was awarded her first R01 grant from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to support The Pregnancy 24/7 Study. Working with members of her Physical Activity & Women’s Health Lab, Whitaker is examining how 24-hour activity-rest patterns are associated with hypertensive disorders during pregnancy. The team is using its findings to develop evidence-based lifestyle interventions, such as the INSPiRE Study, an intervention designed to increase physical activity among pregnant women.

Whitaker’s work has resulted in more than 70 peer-reviewed articles, much of it highly cited and published in high-impact journals. She is a Fellow in the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association and recently won the Early Career Scholars of the Year Award from Iowa. 

“Dr. Whitaker has distinguished herself as an emerging leader in cardiovascular disease epidemiology and physical activity,” says Sara Wilcox, professor of exercise science and Whitaker’s mentor at the University of South Carolina. “Her performance and contributions are at a caliber not often seen, and this exceptional performance also occurred while she was a junior professor during the COVID-19 pandemic. I am so proud of all she has accomplished, and I see a continued bright future.”

Designed to recognize outstanding alumni whose work has made a difference to the profession and in the health of an identified community or population, the Arnold School of Public Health Alumni Awards are conferred at the annual hooding ceremony.