About Us

We aim to become a leader in obesity research, treatment and prevention. We will work to:

  • Advance obesity-related collaborative translational research within NYU School of Medicine
  • Engage key partners across the big data continuum
  • Elucidate the biological and non-biological mechanisms that influence obesity incidence and risk at the individual and population levels
  • Integrate knowledge from big data, population health, clinical trials and basic science to build evidence for efficient policies, as well as interventions to prevent, treat and manage obesity
  • Educate all levels of researchers and health care professionals to foster world-class obesity research and clinical care



Brian EbelBrian Elbel, PhD, MPH

In addition to serving as director of the new Comprehensive Program on Obesity, Brian Elbel, PhD, MPH, is an associate professor of population health and health policy at NYU School of Medicine, where he heads the Section on Health Choice, Policy and Evaluation within the Department of Population Health. He also holds a faculty appointment at the NYU Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. Featured in numerous national television, radio, and print media outlets, Dr. Elbel studies how individuals make decisions that influence their health with a particular emphasis on obesity and the role of policies and the environment. His work has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Science Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, among others. He received his PhD and MPH in health policy and health economics from Yale University.  

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Melanie JayMelanie Jay, MD, MS

Melanie Jay, MD, MS is an associate professor of medicine and of population health, and is board certified in internal medicine. She also serves as director of Research Collaboration and Mentoring for the Division of General Internal Medicine and Clinical Innovation within the Department of Medicine. Additionally, Dr. Jay holds clinical and research appointments at the New York Harbor Veterans Affairs, and she previously directed weight management programs in two public outpatient settings. Her research focuses on improving the treatment and prevention of obesity, particularly in primary care settings. She has received funding from Veterans Affairs, the National Institutes of Health and Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Initiative, among others. Dr. Jay graduated with a bachelor’s degree in the biological basis of behavior from the University of Pennsylvania and her MD and master’s degree in clinical investigation from NYU School of Medicine.

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Clinical & Education

Holly LoftonHolly Lofton, MD
Clinical Lead & Weight Management Fellowship Director

Dr. Lofton joined the NYU Langone Weight Management Program in early 2012, and has designed the popular New You weight loss program to help patients obtain results while fostering nutrition education and placing emphasis on a healthy lifestyle. In her practice, she combines scientifically proven weight loss techniques with medications and behavior modification to find each patient’s niche. She is currently involved in research pertaining to the effects of liraglutide on patients who have regained weight after bariatric surgery, and continues to educate students on diagnosing and treating obesity. Dr. Lofton completed her Internal Medicine residency at Lenox Hill Hospital, before training in Geisinger’s Nutrition Support and Obesity fellowship program, becoming board certified in Obesity Medicine, and serving as a staff physician and fellowship director at Geisinger. She has served on the bariatric medicine committee for the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery as well as on the Board of Directors for the Obesity Action Coalition, and has communicated to the general public the importance of maintaining a normal weight through lectures, workshops, and a national radio segment.

Bariatric Surgery Initiatives

Christine J. Ren-FieldingChristine Ren-Fielding, MD
Chief of Bariatric Surgery Initiatives

Christine Ren-Fielding, MD FACS FASMBS, Professor of Surgery at NYU School of Medicine, founded the NYU Langone Weight Management Program that offers both medical and surgical options under one roof. In addition, she is the Chief of Bariatric Surgery Initiatives for the NYU Langone Medical Center Comprehensive Program on Obesity. Dr. Ren-Fielding is recognized nationally and internationally for her contributions to the field of bariatric surgery. While performing over 4,000 bariatric surgeries including 2,500 gastric bands she devotes much of her time to research, having been published in 230 peer-reviewed journals including the Journal of the American College of Surgeons, and Annals of Surgery. She also serves on the Editorial Boards of Obesity Surgery, Surgical Obesity and Related Diseases, and Surgical Endoscopy. Dr. Ren-Fielding was first nominated a Top Doctor with Castle Connolly for Top Doctors: New York Metro Area in 2006 and appeared in that publication, consecutively, for many years. Dr. Ren-Fielding obtained her medical degree at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, MA, followed by a residency in general surgery at NYU Medical Center. Dr. Ren-Fielding went on to complete a fellowship in advanced laparoscopic surgery at Mount Sinai Medical Center, and now continues to be actively involved with teaching medical students and residents to be the next generation of surgeons.

Pediatric Initiatives

Mary MessitoMary Jo Messito, MD
Clinical Associate Professor

Mary Jo Messito, MD, is a Clinical Associate Professor of Pediatrics, the Associate Director of the General Academic Pediatric Fellowship at NYU School of Medicine, Director of the Pediatric Obesity Program at Bellevue Hospital Center and a general pediatrician for nearly 25 years. She is the PI of the Starting Early Program (StEP), a randomized controlled trial of a primary care-based child obesity prevention program beginning in pregnancy. She has had leadership roles on multiple projects related to infant feeding, disparities in child obesity and early obesity prevention including: Greenlight, an NIH-funded multi site RCT of a low literacy obesity prevention tool for pediatricians; It’s Never Too Early: Feeding Your Baby Well, a healthy feeding video for WIC clients developed by Public Health Solutions; and the Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program® from Wholesome Wave, an innovative collaboration between health care providers and farmers markets to promote healthy eating and reduce obesity.

Data Science

Yindalon AphinyanaphongsYindalon Aphinyanaphongs, MD, PhD
Research Assistant Professor

In addition to developing the Comprehensive Program on Obesity’s DataBridge, Dr. Aphinyanaphongs is a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Population Health, Division of Healthcare Delivery Science at NYU School of Medicine. He is also the Director of Predictive Analytics for the Center for Healthcare Innovation and Delivery Science (CHIDS), led by Dr. Leora Horwitz. Before coming to NYU, he earned BS and MS degrees in engineering, and later an MD, and MS and PhD degrees in Biomedical Informatics at Vanderbilt University. Dr. Aphinyanaphongs research interests include information retrieval and machine learning, in support of Evidence Based Medicine. He has pioneered applications of machine learning for filtering both the WWW and PubMed according to complex quality and content criteria.

Narges RazavianNarges Razavian, PhD
Research Assistant Professor

Narges Razavian, PhD, is a Research Assistant Professor in the Predictive Analytics Group in the Department of Population Health and the Center for Healthcare Innovation and Delivery Science, and is leading development of the Comprehensive Program on Obesity’s DataBridge. Her research focuses on bridging the gap between machine learning and healthcare, in particular, using most advanced computational models to help with clinical research, including, but not limited to, biomarker discovery, early detection, care quality control, patient similarity, and prediction of future outcomes. From the machine learning point of view, she is excited to work with diverse patient information and high dimensional data (electronic health records, images, text, social, genomics), especially in forms of time series. From 2013 to 2016, Dr. Razavian was a postdoc at the clinical machine learning lab at New York University’s Machine Learning group and collaborated with Dr. David Sontag on the topic of data-driven early disease detection and prediction. Before that, from 2009 to 2013, Dr. Razavian completed her PhD at Carnegie Mellon University in the computational biology department.



Courtney AbramsCourtney Abrams, MA
Acting Administrative Director

Courtney Abrams, MA, serves as the acting administrative director for the NYU Langone Comprehensive Program on Obesity. She is also the program director for the Section on Health Choice, Policy, and Evaluation in the Department of Population Health, where she oversees administration, as well as research and evaluation activities. Prior to joining NYU School of Medicine in 2009, Ms. Abrams studied the influence of public policy on the choices made by low-income individuals and worked at several nonprofit organizations. In addition, she was as a research scientist at the NYU Silver School of Social Work for the New York Services Study—a longitudinal investigation of services used by individuals who were homeless, mentally ill and/or chemically addicted. She holds a master’s degree in sociology from NYU and a BS in design and environmental analysis from Cornell University.

Bariatric Surgery Initiatives

Christopher BatesSally Vanegas, PhD
Research Program Manager

Sally Vanegas, PhD, serves as Research Program Manager for the NYU Langone Comprehensive Program on Obesity. She obtained her doctorate degree in the Biochemical and Molecular Nutrition program at the Friedman School at Tufts University. She conducted her dissertation project at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, where her research focused on the effects of whole grains on gut microbiota and immune function. During her academic tenure, she received the Pre-doctoral fellowship award from the American Society for Nutrition (ASN) and the Pre-doctoral Training Research Award from the National Research Service Award (NIDDK T32) in Nutrition and Chronic Disease. Sally is dedicated towards investigating the synergistic effect of lifestyle modifications along with clinical treatment on the impact of disease management and treatment, specifically focused on obesity and type 2 diabetes.