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Arnold School of Public Health


Brie Turner-McGrievy wins Early Career Investigator and Early Career Mentorship Awards from the Society of Behavioral Medicine

April 6, 2016 | Erin Bluvas, bluvase@sc.edu 

Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior’s (HPEB) Brie Turner-McGrievy received both the Early Career Investigator Award and the Early Career Mentorship Award from the Society of Behavioral Medicine at their 2016 Annual Meeting and Scientific Sessions in Washington D.C. The assistant professor received the awards in recognition of her total achievements made thus far during the early stage of her career as well as her dedication to mentoring graduate students.

After her master’s program in nutrition (University of Alabama), Turner-McGrievy held roles as a clinical research coordinator and a registered dietitian. She decided to marry these two sets of experiences with a Ph.D. in Nutrition from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and then a Postdoctoral Fellowship in their Interdisciplinary Obesity Center. Both her dissertation and postdoctoral research focused on ways to deliver traditional face-to-face behavioral interventions using mobile technologies.  

Turner-McGrievy joined the Arnold School of Public Health in 2011 and quickly established herself as an expert in discovering ways to help people eat healthier, lose weight and prevent chronic disease. In particular, her research explores ways to use emerging technology to assist with dietary self-monitoring and physical activity tracking (e.g., mobile apps, fitness trackers) as well as building social support through social media tools (e.g., Twitter) to aid these endeavors.

For example, she recently published a paper entitled, Tweet for Health, in Translational Behavioral Medicine that details a study through which Turner-McGrievy investigated weight-related behavior patterns in diet, fitness and health. Her widely-cited findings demonstrate that examining health-related patterns in social media could be a useful tool to time behavioral interventions when motivation for behavior change is high.

She also examines dietary approaches that do not require dietary self-monitoring, such as vegan and vegetarian diets. Because her research is widely relevant, she is often asked to comment on her published studies or provide her expert opinion in popular press (e.g., Wired, Huffington Post, Prevention) and broadcast media.

Through her Behavioral Research in Eating (BRIE) Lab, Turner-McGrievy and the lab’s project coordinators and doctoral students use innovative approaches to research poor nutrition and low levels of physical activity—public health issues that have plagued populations worldwide, but particularly in the United States, for decades. Her productive and inventive team members bring a range of backgrounds and perspectives to their work, which has helped contribute to their success.

In fact, one of Turner-McGrievy’s doctoral students and mentees, Danielle Schoffman (HPEB), won the Distinguished Student Award-Research Excellence from the Society for Behavioral Medicine last year. Another one of her students was also recognized this year. Caroline Dunn (HPEB) received both a Citation Abstract Award and a Meritorious Student Abstract Award for Excellence in Research.

All of her students recognize how fortunate they are to have Turner-McGrievy as their leader. The Early Career Mentorship Award requires just one letter of support by a student who wishes to nominate a mentor. Not one, but five doctoral students lined up to submit enthusiastic letters of support for her. “Dr. Turner-McGrievy has always approached me as a colleague in the research process, which challenges me to step up to the table and be prepared to discuss and defend my ideas but also allows me incredible freedom and independence that is rare for a doctoral student,” writes Schoffman. “She has broken the typical mold of what an early career professor is able and willing to do in terms of mentoring doctoral students—setting a new standard and role model for all of us.”

Though it’s been a record couple of years for her team with the Society of Behavioral Medicine, this isn’t the first time Turner-McGrievy herself has been recognized for her pioneering approach to researching health and fitness—nor is it the first year she has received an award from the Society of Behavioral Medicine. She received their Excellence in Research Award for her dissertation research, which proposed an entirely mobile-based behavioral intervention. That particular research has served as a springboard for Turner-McGrievy’s career track—a track that has evolved to include widely applicable and highly sought after research findings by an investigator who is rapidly rising in her field. It’s also a path that helped lead to her current awards.

“Dr. Turner-McGrievy has already proven that she has the initiative and insight to make an impact in the field of public health,” says Sara Wilcox, a professor of exercise science at the Arnold School as well as a Fellow in the Society of Behavioral Medicine and Turner-McGrievy’s own mentor. “These two awards reflect this drive, and her commitment to behavioral research and mentorship will ensure that she continues to be an innovator and a leader in the field.”