Forging Opportunities for Better Health Faculty Feature: Get to Know Dr. Robert Newton, Jr

Forging Opportunities for Better Health
Faculty Feature: Get to Know Dr. Robert Newton, Jr

Released: Friday, February 23, 2018

You may have heard the phrase, "Do what you love, and never work a day in your life."

Our Dr. Robert Newton Jr., Associate Professor in our Physical Activity & Ethnic Minority Health Laboratory, embodies that ideal. Dr. Newton's research stems from a personal history of physical activity and sports. He also realized early in his undergraduate college years that African Americans suffer disproportionately from health disparities—that is, they lack access to health facilities and services.

His mission? Addressing those health disparities and, through community interventions, forging a pathway to better health for this population.

During his 16 years at Pennington Biomedical, Dr. Newton has consistently come closer to his goal with the help of persistence and old-fashioned hard work.

Dr. Newton is thus far most proud of his receipt of an R01 grant (the original and oldest grant mechanism used by the National Institutes of Health [NIH]).  The study name:  "Aerobic Plus Resistance Training and Insulin Sensitivity in African American Men (ARTIIS)."
The ARTIIS study was one of the first to investigate the effects of aerobic and resistance training on insulin sensitivity in African American men.

"There's a lot of rejection in this industry," he says. "There will be a lot of naysayers. There will be doubters, and people will tell you your idea is no good."

The key to success, he divulges, is resilience.

"You have to have a tough skin, and you have to be persistent in pursuing the kind of research you want to pursue – not something someone thinks you should do because of your area of knowledge," Dr. Newton says. "Trust me; you will be much more driven to write a grant proposal for something you truly love."  

Dr. Newton also points out that the ability to work in teams is crucial to success. "Convergence" and "collaboration" are two words he says mold much of the research at Pennington Biomedical – on nearly every study, somebody is in need of someone else's expertise, he explains.

As an example, he notes his collaboration with Dr. Owen Carmichael, Director of our Biomedical Imaging Center.  The two joined forces to develop the study "Exercise Intervention to Reduce Alzheimer's Risk in African Americans."  This study will determine if physical activity in elderly African Americans can improve cognitive function as they age.

Dr. Newton is developing the physical activity program, and Dr. Carmichael will assist in assessing cognitive function in the participants. The study will begin actively enrolling volunteers in the spring of 2018.

"Exercise Intervention to Reduce Alzheimer's Risk in African Americans" is funded by the BrightFocus Foundation.

About Dr. Newton:

  • His favorite Baton Rouge restaurant is Ruffino's
  • Favorite community event: White Light Night, but he also enjoys Live after Five and Restaurant Week
  • He couldn't pick just one favorite movie, so he picked four: His favorite comedy is "Coming to America;" his favorite drama is "Backdraft;" his favorite sci-fi film is "Interstellar;" and his favorite Marvel movie is the first "Spider-Man."
  • He began his undergraduate college career as an architecture major but switched within two weeks of classes.
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