LaVerne L. Brown, Ph.D., Director, Resilience and Health Studies Program

LaVerne L. Brown, Ph.D., is the Director of the Resilience and Health Studies Program at the NIH Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS), where she is interested in research that explores the impact of dietary supplement use on resilience and health in diverse populations. Dr. Brown’s work focuses on elucidating mediators of resilience to help gain a better understanding of how recovery from or adaptations to environmental and biological stressors may impact nutrient status and overall health status in individuals. In addition, Dr. Brown chairs the Trans-NIH Resilience Working Group and has led the group through the development and harmonization of a resilience definition, Resilience Conceptual Model, and Resilience Research Design Tool.

Dr. Brown contributes to the ODS research portfolio via collaborations with the Consortium for Health and Military Performance (CHAMP) and members of the Department of Defense Food and Nutrition and Dietary Supplement Subcommittees.

Dr. Brown first joined ODS as an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science & Technology Policy Fellow in August 2016. In this role, she led a project to explore the vitamin D paradox in Black Americans. The paradox is that, despite markedly low measures of vitamin D status in Black Americans, the incidence of falls, fractures, or osteopenia is significantly lower compared to White American counterparts with similar vitamin D status. A 2017 forum on the topic (which Dr. Brown organized in collaboration with the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, National Institutes on Aging, and National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases) provided insight into the state of the science with respect to key knowledge gaps impacting vitamin D status and bone health. There was agreement among the panelists that Black Americans gain no skeletal benefits from high doses of vitamin D supplementation and that high levels of the biomarker of vitamin D status, serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D, in this population are almost certain to result in adverse effects.

Dr. Brown has worked closely with ODS colleagues to help build collaborations with the Veteran’s Administration to explore the use of electronic health records for determining the prevalence of use, benefits, and risks of selected dietary supplements with respect to specific health outcomes and dosages.

She is a former Associate Professor of Medicinal and Organic Chemistry. Her research interests have included the isolation and chemical characterization of active molecules from natural products as well as the design and synthesis of novel small molecules to better understand the role of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors in neurological disorders.

Dr. Brown received her B.S. in chemistry from Old Dominion University, her Ph.D. in organic/natural products chemistry from Virginia Commonwealth University, and postdoctoral training in medicinal chemistry at the National Institute on Drug Abuse at NIH.