Today, at the Pediatrics Academics Society (PAS) Annual Meeting, the March of Dimes presented Dr. Nancy Krebs from the University of Colorado School of Medicine the 2021 Agnes Higgins Award for her pioneering research on nutrition for moms and infants. Dr. Krebs’ research has focused on the impact of nutrition and feeding on infants and young children in the U.S. and international settings. In particular, Dr. Krebs demonstrated that complimentary feedings that include essential micronutrients like zinc, iron and copper should be introduced to breastfed infants by six months of age to maintain nutrient sufficiency and preserve organ development, particularly brain development.
For more than 20 years, the Agnes Higgins Award has recognized the distinguished achievement of leaders in research, education or clinical services in the field of maternal-fetal nutrition.
“As a research scientist, teacher and subject matter expert, Dr. Krebs has dedicated her life’s work to advancing the field of maternal-infant nutrition and improving the health of our nation’s moms and babies,” said Dr. Emre Seli, Chief Scientific Officer at March of Dimes. “She exemplifies what the Agnes Higgins prize is all about and we are grateful to her for her many contributions, including advancing our understanding of micronutrient nutrition in fetal and postnatal immune and brain health.”
Dr. Krebs is a leader in her field, with more than 20 years of experience and 350 research and scholarly publications. She currently serves as the Head of the Division of Nutrition and Associate Vice Chair of Academic Affairs in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. She received her Doctor of Medicine from the University of Colorado, and is board certified in General Pediatrics, Clinical Nutrition and Pediatric Gastroenterology. Her research has ranged from detailed metabolic studies of trace mineral metabolism across the life cycle to large scale nutrition randomized control trials. The intention of these studies has been to define dietary zinc requirements and to characterize homeostasis, including metabolic regulation and adaptation to different physiologic states in the average infant, specifically those who are breastfed, as well as pregnant and lactating women.
Her work has also addressed populations with low breastfeeding rates and supported breastfeeding initiation and continuation, and she has conducted extensive research applying zinc and iron requirements in vulnerable populations consuming supplements, micronutrient powders and biofortified foods. Most recently, she conducted international research investigating the impact of pre-conception maternal nutrition intervention to improve fetal and infant growth in low resource settings.
Considering how critical micronutrient nutrition is for fetal and postnatal immune and brain health, Dr. Krebs’s work in micronutrient nutrition has influenced organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO), American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and the National Institutes of Health, who funds her work. She has also advised the World Health Organization, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and UNICEF.
“I am profoundly honored and humbled to join the esteemed group of Agnes Higgins award winners, many of whom I have looked up to throughout my career. This award affirms the value of rigorous research in expanding and refining the evidence base to impact the well-being of women, children and infants,” said Dr. Krebs. “My career in academic medicine has offered me incredible opportunities to be an inquirer, learner and teacher, and I hope more young people are inspired to continue to pursue their passions for equity and sustainability in nutrition, diet and health.”
Established in 1980, the March of Dimes Agnes Higgins Award honors the late Agnes Higgins of the Montreal Diet Dispensary for her innovation and years of service to the cause of improved maternal nutrition. Find more information about the Agnes Higgins Award here.