Browning named first holder of Denke Professorship

Dr. Jeffrey Browning
Dr. Jeffrey Browning

Dr. Jeffrey Browning, Chair of Clinical Nutrition in the UT Southwestern School of Health Professions, has been named the inaugural holder of the Margo A. Denke, M.D. Professorship in Clinical Nutrition Research.

Established in 2016, the Professorship honors Dr. Denke’s service at UT Southwestern from 1987 to 2003 and her many accomplishments as a noted researcher in endocrinology, attentive clinician, and tenured faculty member. The endowment was created with a $100,000 gift from an anonymous donor to support clinical nutrition research.

“Dr. Browning established a research program that led to a National Institutes of Health (NIH) research fellowship from 2003-2005 as well as recognition as a Disease-Oriented Clinical Scholar,” wrote Dr. Jon Williamson, Dean of the School of Health Professions, in his recommendation letter.

Utilizing stable isotope tracers and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, Dr. Browning studies intermediary hepatic metabolism in humans.

“Important components of his research program include nutrition science methodologies such as behavioral counseling, dietary analysis, indirect calorimetry, and body composition assessment,” Dr. Williamson said. “This breadth of activity, from spectroscopy to behavioral counseling, affords Dr. Browning the opportunity to more effectively integrate and leverage research efforts between the Department of Clinical Nutrition and the Center for Human Nutrition.”

Dr. Browning said he is honored by the appointment and hopes that the endowment will make a significant impact on the Clinical Nutrition Department.

“The endowment will allow us to develop important outreach programs, like starting a nutrition clinic embedded within the General Internal Medicine Clinic,” said Dr. Browning, who is also an Associate Professor of Clinical Nutrition, Internal Medicine, and in the Advanced Imaging Research Center.

Already, the Department has launched an outreach program for incoming medical students, with support from the endowment. The funding will also aid research efforts.

“My area of research led me into the clinical nutrition realm,” he said. “I study metabolism using stable isotope tracers that allow us to track metabolic pathways in living organisms.”

These tracers enable researchers to measure metabolic functions such as glucose production or hepatic oxidation rates, Dr. Browning explained. Among the questions being investigated are how diet or lack of eating influences these metabolic pathways in humans.

Dr. Browning’s interest in medicine came from his mother, a nurse who worked with cardiac and ICU patients. He was drawn to the specialty of internal medicine during medical school rotations.

“Internal medicine seemed to be more of a thinking person’s approach to medicine – trying to figure out what are, a lot of times, not straightforward clinical problems and looking at all the data and synthesizing a solution to help people.”

The Louisville, Kentucky, native earned a B.A. in biochemistry from UT Austin and an M.D. from UT Southwestern before serving a residency in internal medicine at the University of Alabama. His fellowship in hepatology at UT Southwestern was followed by a fellowship in gastroenterology, also at UTSW. During that time he began research that led to his NIH fellowship.

After beginning as an Assistant Instructor at UT Southwestern in 2004, Dr. Browning was named Assistant Professor in 2005, Associate Professor in 2012, and then Department Chair in July 2017.