May 17, 2018
By Greg Peters
Heather Gibbs, Ph.D., RD, has been named the winner of the 2018 Stata Norton Distinguished Teaching Award. Gibbs, an assistant professor in the Department of Dietetics and Nutrition, was honored during the School of Health Professions' Student Recognition Ceremony May 12 at Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall in Kansas City, Kansas.
The recipient of the award, which has been given out for the last 32 years, is selected through a vote of faculty and students in the School of Health Professions. The award recognizes excellence in teaching as well as outstanding contributions by the recipient in his or her field.
"For my students to have taken the initiative to write letters and organize the nomination without my knowing is deeply touching," said Gibbs who's married to an English teacher and whose mother is a retired elementary school teacher. "I hope it means that I have connected with them on a deeper level than simply the transmission of knowledge.
"I am also keenly aware that there are many faculty deserving of the award. As such, to be chosen as this year's Stata Norton recipient is a true honor."
Gibbs has been a practicing registered dietitian since 2000. She earned her bachelor's degree in nutrition and dietetics in 1999 from Olivet Nazarene University and completed a dietetic internship at Ball Memorial Hospital in Muncie, Indiana. She earned a master's degree in dietetics and nutrition in 2003 from KU, and earned her doctorate in food science and human nutrition in 2012 from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana.
Gibbs, who joined the KU Medical Center faculty in 2013, focuses her research on nutrition education and nutrition literacy. She has recently developed a tool to help address nutrition literacy among English and Spanish speakers.
The annual award honors Norton, who was dean of the School of Allied Health (now Health Professions) from 1980 to 1984, and served on the faculty of the Department of Dietetics and Nutrition and was professor emeritus of pharmacology, toxicology and therapeutics in the KU School of medicine.
"Just before my name was called, I thought of my grandmother, who was a lifetime elementary educator and proud Jayhawk fan and wished she could have been there," Gibbs said. "She passed away nearly two years ago, but she was an important role model for me as teacher and as a mother. She always beamed when introducing me to her friends as a professor of nutrition at KU, so I know she would have been proud."
Another highlight of the ceremony was the announcement of the winner of the James P. Cooney Leadership Award. Krista Eckels, a Master's of Occupational Therapy, graduate received the honor, which was initiated in 1992 by SHP Alumni Association to recognize a student who has displayed a high level of leadership and has had a significant effect on the programs, profession, community and the school.
"I was a bit stunned when I learned I had received the Cooney award," said Eckels, who earlier in the semester was one of three recipients of the Midwest Deans Legacy Scholarships, sponsored by the Association of Schools of Allied Health Professions. "I am humbled and honored to be selected as this year's recipient. I am sincerely grateful to the faculty and staff in the School of Health Professions for their support and encouragement along the way. I hope I can one day I can lead by example as they so gracefully do themselves."