Mark Huffman, MD, MPH
• Assistant Professor of Preventive Medicine and Medicine-Cardiology
• Adjunct Faculty, Northwestern Center for Global Health
Tell us a bit about your background.
I was born and raised in St. Louis as the youngest of seven children. I received my undergraduate degree from University of Notre Dame; MD/MPH degrees from Tulane University; internal medicine training from University of Michigan; and cardiology training, including T32 post-doctoral research fellowship in cardiovascular epidemiology here at Northwestern University/McGaw Medical Center. I also served as a NIH Fogarty International Clinical Research Fellow at the Centre for Chronic Disease Control in New Delhi, India from 2009-10.
You recently made headlines for a study on rising obesity rates. Can you tell us more about it?
The American Heart Association’s Strategic Impact Goals Committee set forth the target of improving cardiovascular health of all Americans by 20% by the year 2020. We asked, “If current trends continue, will we get there?” We used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey over a 20-year time span (1988-2008) and made forward projections based on previous trends. Based on current trends, CV health will only improve by 6%, far short of the AHA’s goal. Looking specifically at overweight and obesity, our projections suggest that by 2020, 83% of men and 72% of women will be overweight or obese. Currently, 72% of men and 63% of women are overweight or obese. We also project that by 2020, 77% of men and 53% of women will have dysglycemia (either diabetes or pre-diabetes). Currently, 62% of men and 43% of women have dysglycemia.
Do you have any recommendations for us on reaching and maintaining a healthy weight?
Reducing calorie intake on a mass scale requires social, political, and economic solutions that are derived from local, regional, and national communities. Yes, policies such as penny-per-ounce sugarsweetened beverage taxes and restricting advertising of junk food to children should have a substantial impact on reducing intake of nutrient poor foods (and may improve weight and subsequent comorbidities), but communities must engage the socio-political process to drive such changes. Get involved through advocacy organizations such as the American Heart Association, Building a Healthier Chicago! or the Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children (CLOCC). As a physician, I strongly encourage my patients to reduce their caloric intake, eat healthy foods (fruit/vegetables, baked/broiled fish, whole grains, e.g.) and increase their physical activity to maintain a healthy body weight. Nonetheless, it is a difficult climb for many, so a combined individual-level and population-level approach is required.
How has your adjustment been from fellow to faculty member? Where can we find you after hours?
I’m still learning -- the fellow-to-faculty transition is a busy time where one wants to perform well. My mentoring team, which includes Drs. Don Lloyd-Jones and Bob Bonow here at Northwestern and Dr. D. Prabhakaran at the Centre for Chronic Disease Control in New Delhi, have been tremendously helpful. Dr. Bonow often says that the three most important keys for a young investigator are, “Mentor, mentor, mentor.” The next three are, “Focus, focus, focus.” I still have plenty of work to do on the second one but am very grateful for their guidance and support.
My wife Katie and I are new parents, so we’re spending most of our time with our daughter, Virginia. We have a great network of family and friends with whom we cook, see plays and concerts, and share dinners out. Some of our favorite theaters include the Goodman and Timeline; some of our favorite restaurants include Telegraph, Vincent, and Big Star.