Gurka Elected to Society for Pediatric Research

gurka-cropped-for-webMatthew Gurka, Ph.D., was elected for membership in the Society for Pediatric Research (SPR), a professional organization dedicated to research that advances the health and well-being of children and youth worldwide. The SPR provides an international forum for presenting and disseminating innovative ideas and child health research. Academic researchers accepted for membership in the SPR are recognized by their peers for making outstanding contributions to pediatric research.

In 2015, Gurka joined the faculty at UF as Early Childhood Preeminent Professor with a dual appointment in the Department of Health Outcomes & Policy and the Anita Zucker Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies. He is also the associate director for the Institute for Child Health Policy.

Gurka currently serves as the lead researcher of a collaborative study funded by the National Institutes of Health investigating the predictive power of a metabolic syndrome severity calculator to identify which patients with the metabolic syndrome face a greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease later in life. Metabolic syndrome refers to a cluster of risk factors, including high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol levels that can substantially increase the risk of heart disease and other health problems, such as diabetes. His team includes Mark DeBoer, M.D., associate professor of pediatrics at University of Virginia’s School of Medicine, and Thomas Pearson, M.D., MPH, Ph.D., a renowned cardiovascular epidemiologist and UF Health executive vice president for research and education.

According to Betsy Shenkman, chair of the Department of Health Outcomes & Policy, director of the Institute for Child Health Policy (ICHP) and a member of the SPR, Gurka’s expertise as both a biostatistician and child health researcher position him at the forefront of a new area of study that leverages the statistical power of big data to address important child health issues, particularly in early childhood.

“Whether he is working independently or as part of a research team, Dr. Gurka has demonstrated that he is a creative thinker, a dedicated and prolific child health researcher, a conscientious scientist, a productive and inclusive collaborator, and an effective leader with a strong record of hypothesis-driven clinical research,” Shenkman said. Shenkman, together with ICHP Assistant Director for Clinical Research Lindsay Thompson, M.D., sponsored Gurka’s application for membership in the SPR. Thompson, an associate professor in the department of pediatrics at UF’s College of Medicine, is also a member of the SPR.

Gurka said he is looking forward to becoming actively involved with this prominent network of child health researchers.

“I am grateful for Dr. Shenkman’s and Dr. Thompson’s nomination and am honored at my election to this esteemed society,” Gurka said.  “I especially am excited to seek opportunities for UF to collaborate with researchers throughout the SPR.”