Susan Carlson, Ph.D.
Associate Dean for Research
Program Director, Doctorate in Medical Nutrition Science
AJ Rice Professor of Nutrition
Department of Dietetics and Nutrition
Susan Carlson, Ph.D., is the AJ Rice Professor of Nutrition in the KU Department of Dietetics and Nutrition at KU Medical Center. In September 2017, she was appointed associate dean for research in the KU School of Health Professions and served in that role until February 2021.
Carlson received her bachelor's degree in home economics at Washington State University in 1969 and her doctorate in nutrition with minors in biochemistry and physiology from Iowa State University in 1975. She had NICHD postdoctoral fellowships at the University of Wisconsin in the Department of Pathology (1975-1977) and at the University of South Florida in the Department of Pediatrics (1978-1979).
A faculty member in several medical school departments of pediatrics, mainly in divisions of newborn medicine from 1979-1997, Carlson rose through the ranks to professor in the Departments of Pediatrics, Obstetrics and Gynecology and Biochemistry at the University of Tennessee, Memphis, Tenn. Her major research interest was on the effects of fatty acids that compose a large percent of brain membranes and found in human milk but not in vegetable oils typically used in the production of U.S. infant formulas.
Carlson moved to the University of Missouri Kansas City in 1997 and to the University of Kansas Medical Center in 1999. While at these institutions, she has continued intervention studies of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and arachidonic acid (AA) supplementation of infants and branched out into studies of DHA-supplemented pregnant women. The latter studies have been performed in collaboration with the research team led by John Colombo, Ph.D., at the University of Kansas through the Maternal and Child Nutrition and Development Laboratory.
Carlson and Colombo have been active in large clinical trials studying infant DHA supplementation and DHA administered to women entering their second trimester of pregnancy. The goal of these trials is to evaluate the effect of DHA provided pre- and postnatally on visual development and behavior of infants, toddlers and, eventually, preschoolers.
Her work having been recognized nationally and internationally, Carlson receives numerous invitations to conferences. Significant highlights include adding DHA and AA to U.S. infant formulas in 2002. Near the end of that year, she was made an honorary member of the American Dietetic Association in recognition for her pioneering work in identifying DHA as a conditionally essential nutrient for developing infants. Carlson also received the 2008 March of Dimes Agnes Higgins Award for outstanding achievement in the field of maternal-fetal nutrition at the American Public Health Association meeting in San Diego, October 2008.
In August 2017, Carlson was named a University Distinguished Professor. This prestigous honor recognizes faculty who have made significant and sustained contributions to research, scholarship, and teaching at the medical center.
Since 2002, Carlson has taken an active role in the education of U.S. pediatricians, obstetricians, nurses, and dietitians about the roles of DHA in maternal and infant health. As part of her role, she has been involved nationally and internationally in evaluating the quality of evidence and establishing best-practice guidelines for intake of DHA by infants and pregnant women.
Above: Susan E. Carlson, PhD, was named the AJ Rice Professor of Nutrition in the Department of Dietetics and Nutrition at an investiture ceremony held April 29, 2008, at KU Medical Center. Here she is shown with the AJ Rice Trustees. The ceremony celebrated AJ Rice whose wishes included increasing work to improve nutrition of mothers and their infants.
KU Researcher Receives ISU Alumni Award
Carlson was recognized fall 2009 by the Iowa State University College of Human Sciences with the Helen LeBaron Hilton Award. Established in 1976, the award recognizes a graduate for community leadership and meritorious service or distinguished achievement in the areas of family and consumer sciences. Details