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Julie Locher, Ph.D.

Julie Locher, Ph.D.
Department of Medicine
Division of Gerontology, Geriatrics and Palliative Care
Associate Director for Enrichment
Senior Scientist
Nutrition Obesity Research Center
Full CV

Biographical Sketch

Dr. Locher accepted a position at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) in the Division of Gerontology, Geriatrics, and Palliative Care within the Department of Medicine in 1992 as a Research Associate working on National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded projects with prominent aging researchers; earned her PhD in Medical Sociology from UAB in 1999; was promoted to Research Assistant Professor in 2000; earned an MSPH in Health Policy and Outcomes from UAB in 2005; and was promoted to a tenure-earning Assistant Professor position in 2005. In 2007, she was appointed Director of the Public Policy and Aging Program (dually supported by the UAB Center for Aging and the Lister Hill Center for Health Policy) and accepted a joint appointment with formal responsibilities in the Department of Health Care Organization and Policy in the School of Public Health. In 2008, she was promoted to Associate Professor and was awarded tenure in 2009. In 2011, she was appointed Associate Director for Enrichment of the UAB Nutrition and Obesity Research Center (NORC) (funded by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases [NIDDK]). In 2013, Dr. Locher was promoted to Full Professor.

Dr. Locher’s work in the area of nutrition and aging has been consistently supported by the National Institute on Aging (NIA) with four distinct grants awarded to her as Principal Investigator since September of 2001. Additionally, she has received extramural support from other agencies where she served as Principal Investigator (PI) (American Cancer Society and the Lucille Beeson Trust Fund) and as Co-PI or Co-Investigator from multiple agencies to support research focused on nutrition and aging. She has published or has in press more than 75 peer-reviewed data-based manuscripts on translational nutrition and aging and related topics. Dr. Locher was fortunate to be the recipient of a Mentored Research Scientist Development Award (MRSDA/K01) from the NIA that kick-started her career in the area of nutrition and aging. Receipt of the MRSDA enabled her to conduct a longitudinal observational study of nutritional behaviors and outcomes of older adults who had recently experienced an acute medical event or an exacerbation of a chronic condition that necessitated the use of home health services. Concomitant with that award, she received a smaller NIA R03 grant to study nutritional concerns of older adults diagnosed with cancer along with their caregivers and doctors using in-depth qualitative interviews. Based upon findings from the MRSDA, she was able to secure additional R21 funding from NIA to conduct a randomized controlled trial (RCT) evaluating a Behavioral Nutrition Intervention in Community Elders (B-NICE) targeted at addressing heightened nutritional risk that occurs during a home health encounter (especially following a hospitalization) that may contribute to a downward spiral leading to frailty and poor health outcomes, including increased health services utilization and mortality. She was awarded a five-year R01 in 2009 to conduct another RCT examining the effects of a lifestyle intervention on multiple outcomes (disease risk, function, health service utilization, and quality of life) in obese community-dwelling older adults with co-morbid conditions. Beginning in August, 2012, Dr. Locher began work on a grant from the National Cancer Institute focused on Food and Eating Behaviors of Head and Neck Cancer Patients. Work on the latter three studies is ongoing.

In 2010, Dr. Locher was invited to participate, as part of a select group of investigators, in a Researcher Roundtable convened by the AARP Foundation (Washington, DC) to identify research priorities related to food security and hunger issues of older adults residing in the community. Also, in 2010, Dr. Locher was invited to serve as a member of the Centers for Disease Control Healthy Aging Research Network’s Nutrition Workgroup. In 2011, she was invited to serve as a member of the Institute of Medicine's Planning Committee for A Workshop on Nutrition and Healthy Aging in the Community (The workshop was held in October, 2011.). Dr. Locher serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Nutrition in Gerontology and Geriatrics. Since 2004, she has served with Dr. Connie Bales as Co-Convener of the Nutrition Interest Group of the Gerontological Society of America (GSA). In 2013, Dr. Locher was awarded Fellow status in the GSA. Dr. Locher has served on several ad hoc NIH and American Cancer Society Study Sections from 2009 to the present.

Dr. Locher’s leadership activities as a teacher extend to: 1) formal classroom instruction; 2) mentorship of junior faculty, post-doctoral fellows, and pre-doctoral fellows; and 3) translational training and education. Dr. Locher teaches graduate level courses in Patient-Based Health Outcomes and Aging Policy and is a frequent guest lecture in numerous venues throughout the Schools of Public Health, Medicine, and other Schools. She currently mentors (and previously has mentored) pre-doctoral students, post-doctoral fellows, and junior faculty. Dr. Locher was the recipient in 2011 of the UAB Graduate Dean’s Award for Excellence in Mentorship. She has developed curricula focused specifically on nutrition and aging targeted at various community constituencies and the professional workforce. She has worked steadfastly to build community partnerships that direct attention toward key aging policy concerns. Under Dr. Locher’s leadership, UAB has sponsored since 2008 an annual Aging Policy Conference in collaboration with AARP Alabama that brings together leading national experts with local policy makers, politicians, and key stakeholders in the community. In 2010, Dr. Locher was awarded the Champion for Change award by AARP in Alabama. Dr. Locher served at the state-level on a committee to develop a new “State Plan on Aging” for Alabama that was approved in 2013; in 2010-11 worked with the Florida Department of Elder Affairs to revise their programs related to Geriatric Nutrition and Community Service Provisions; and in 2013 worked with a local Area Agency on Aging in Vermont on a project to reduce hospital readmissions through provision of meals and social support in clients they serve. In 2011, Dr. Locher was awarded the UAB Center for Aging Faculty Service Award in recognition of her collaborative research efforts with community partners. Dr. Locher served on an International Panel of Experts convened by Nestlé Nutrition Institute in 2012 to examine ‘Quality of care improvement: Designing a comprehensive patient management protocol for early screening and intervention among at-risk and elderly patients’.


- Professor of Medicine, UAB
- Professor of Public Health, UAB
- Associate Director for Enrichment, Nutrition Obesity Research Center
- Director of the Public Policy and Aging Program, UAB Center for Aging and Lister Hill Center for Health Policy
- Professor, Special Graduate Faculty; University of Guelph; Guelph, Ontario
- Graduate School Faculty

Research Interests

Dr. Locher’s primary area of research focuses on social and environmental factors (including especially the roles of social support and community and health care practices and policies) that affect eating behaviors and nutrition-related health outcomes in older adults and in cancer patients and survivors. Most of her work has been observational, but it also includes interventional research and health services research utilizing large databases. A second and related area of interest focuses on examining practices and policies that affect the overall well-being of older adults and cancer patients and survivors, particularly those diagnosed with head and neck cancer, and identifying ways to best deliver quality care and services within the community, especially that related to nutritional well-being, to these populations over the long term.

Principal research activities include:

  • Evaluation of the effectiveness of providing meals to older adults who have been recently discharged from the hospital to prevent hospital readmissions.
  • Studying: 1) eating behaviors and nutrition issues of older adults in community and hospital settings and 2) the various dimensions through which nutrition affects patient-centered outcomes in older adults (including mobility trajectories and health service utilization).
  • Comparing the effects of changes in diet composition alone or combined with weight loss with an exercise only control intervention on body composition, disease risk function, and quality of life in obese older adults.
  • Examination of practice variation associated with prophylactic PEG tube placement in the treatment of head and neck cancer patients, factors associated with practice variation, and outcomes associated with prophylactic PEG tube placement using SEER-Medicare Data.
  • Exploration of food and eating behaviors of head and neck cancer patients and survivors with an emphasis on the role of social support and learned non-use.

Representative Publications Accepted for Publication in 2013/2014 (Mentees underlined)

  • Buys DL, Ritchie CS, Roth DL, Sawyer P, Hovater M, Allman RM, Locher JL. Nutritional risk and body mass index predicts health service utilization and mortality in older adults participating in the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Study of Aging. Journal of Gerontology: Med Sci. [PMID: In Process/PMCID: In Process]
  • Flagg LA, Sen B, Kilgore ML, Locher JL. The influence of gender, age, education and household size on meal preparation and food shopping responsibilities. Public Health Nutr. [PMID: 23988018/PMCID: In Process 07.28.13]
  • Locher JL, Vickers KS, Buys DL, Ellis AC, Lawrence JC, Newton L, Roth DL, Ritchie CS, Bales CW. A randomized controlled trial of a theoretically based behavioral nutrition intervention for high-risk older adults: The B-NICE Trial. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 2013 Dec;113(12):1675-82.[PMID: 24021733/PMCID: PMC3834184]
  • Dover S, Buys DR, Locher JL. Farmers’ market produce delivery program for mitigating nutritional risk in older adults. Hunger and Environmental Nutrition. 2013 Jan;8(1):106-108. [PMID: 23935771/PMCID: PMC3738207]