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CNRC - Abrams Lab

Houston, Texas

Images depicting the Abram lab's research work
Steven Abrams' Micronutrient Research Lab
not shown on screen


Steven Abrams, M.D.

Steven Abrams holding a girlProfessor of Pediatrics
Baylor College of Medicine

Attending Physician
Section of Neonatology
Texas Children's Hospital

Our research is focused on the determination of mineral requirements in infants and children. Using stable isotopes we have studied calcium, zinc, iron, magnesium and copper requirements and physiology in children of all ages.

A major area of our interest is in calcium requirements of children. The goal of this work is to evaluate methods for optimizing bone mass in childhood using stable isotopes to measure calcium absorption and bone kinetics. We perform these studies in infants, toddlers and older children as well as adolescents. We collaborate with others in studies of calcium metabolism in adults. Our second area of interest is in identifying the optimal forms and amount of iron and zinc to provide to small children, especially those who live in developing countries. In these countries, iron deficiency anemia and zinc deficiency are extremely common and strategies must be developed for fortifying food sources and providing complementary foods with adequate amounts of bioavailable minerals.

We conduct our research both in the US and in approximately 14 foreign countries over the last five years. We continue to collaborate with NASA, the IAEA, UNICEF, PAHO and numerous other agencies in our research efforts. Our team is also involved in nutrition and neonatology education on a global basis. We have conducted educational symposiums in Peru and Panama recently to educate nursery staff on the medical, nursing, and nutritional management of at-risk infants and children.

Dave Hilmers, M.D.

Dave Hilmers M.D. standing with a group of childrenAssistant Professor
Departments of Pediatrics and Internal Medicine
Baylor College of Medicine
Colonel, USMC (retired)

B.A., Mathematics, Cornell College, 1972
MSEE, Naval Postgraduate School, 1977
Degree of Electrical Engineer, Naval Postgraduate School, 1979
M.D., Baylor College of Medicine, 1995
M.P.H., University of Texas, Houston Health Sciences Center, 2002

I have had a lifelong interest in international medicine. My aspirations in medicine were “temporarily” interrupted by a stint of 20 years in the U.S. Marine Corps of which the last 12 years were spent at NASA in the astronaut corps. I finally achieved my dream of becoming a physician in 1995 and after completing the combined internal medicine and pediatrics residency program in 1999.

I joined the faculty at Baylor College of Medicine in 1999. In addition to clinical duties at Texas Children’s Hospital and the Harris Health System, I worked for nearly two years on international HIV/AIDS programs and more recently on a wide range of nutritional research projects with Dr. Abrams’ group in the CNRC. I also have an interest in tropical medicine and in medical relief programs, participating in volunteer programs several times each year. I am an enthusiastic, although not especially fluent, student of Spanish.

Penni Hicks

BS, Human Nutrition & Foods, University of Houston, 1999
Ph.D., Nutrition, University of California – Davis, 2006
Instructor of Pediatrics, CNRC

After graduating from University of Houston, I completed a dietetic internship at Texas Woman’s University. I worked at the CNRC for 3 years (from undergrad – through my dietetic internship) then left to attend UC Davis. After 2 years of course work, I have returned to the CNRC to complete my dissertation projects. I evaluated Ca and Fe absorption in infants consuming formula or breast milk and also evaluating Ca, Fe and Zn absorption using an in vitro digestion/Caco-2 cell culture model. My primary research focus is assessing nutrient metabolism in children using stable isotopes.

Amy Hair, M.D.

Dave Hilmers M.D. standing with a group of childrenBS, Biology, University of Georgia, 2002 
M.D., Medical College of Georgia, 2006
Pediatrics Residency, University of Virginia, 2009
Postdoctoral Fellow, Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine and CNRC

After graduating from The University of Georgia, I went to medical school at Medical College of Georgia and then completed my pediatrics residency at University of Virginia. I am currently a 3rd year postdoctoral fellow in Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine. My primary research focus is assessing growth and electrolyte abnormalities in premature infants who have received donor human milk products in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. We are currently conducting a follow-up study evaluating post-discharge growth and neurodevelopment in these infants.

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