Dr. Claudia Fox, MD MPH, has always found herself interested in nutrition and fitness. After beginning her medical school training, Dr. Fox quickly found a curiosity for the intersection of nutrition, physical activity and mental health.

During her fellowship in Academic General Pediatrics, Dr. Fox began helping out at a pediatric obesity clinic. “For me, that was a ‘wow’ moment– realizing pediatric obesity really is at the intersection of nutrition, physical activity and mental health.”

Eventually, Dr. Fox was hired on as faculty and thereafter became the Director of the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital Pediatric Weight Management Clinic. Since its inception, the program has only continued to grow. 

Working with these kids can be a challenge for many reasons, one of which being that weight can be a sensitive topic. “Nobody wants to come talk about their extra weight. So, I feel lucky and privileged that these kids trust us, that they open up and tell us what it’s like, and explain what their challenges are.”

Dr. Fox’s work focuses on treating patients who are already impacted by severe obesity. However, a common misconception is that the causes of severe obesity come from an unhealthy lifestyle. Although in reality, this disease expands so much further than daily habits.

“Severe obesity is not just about eating and activity, it really is a biological condition. It’s the obesity that is driving the extra eating. It’s the obesity that’s driving limited physical activity, not the other way around. That’s an important distinction.”

Specifically, within pediatric obesity, Dr. Fox is interested in the clinical management of severe obesity. This means she isn’t just looking at kids who are carrying a little extra weight, but rather those who are 100 to 150 pounds overweight.

“It’s important to recognize that this is an ongoing disease and they’re not going to get cured of it– that this requires constant daily management.”

Medication management and bariatric surgery are two ways that Dr. Fox might be able to help these patients with severe obesity. Other treatments could include behavioral strategies or stress reduction.  

Because pediatric obesity is such a sensitive topic for both practitioners and patients to discuss, it is important to create a safe and comfortable environment for everyone involved. “The last thing you want to do is to send your patient to a provider who is shameful and just not helpful.”

The work that Dr. Fox does on a daily basis is challenging, but to her, that is what makes it so fun. Without addressing these difficult issues head-on, they would never be solved. 

“It sounds corny, but it really is a privilege to work with these kids.”

In addition to clinical care, Dr. Fox is the Co-Director of the Center for Pediatric Obesity Medicine where she is active in research that addresses the causes and treatments of severe pediatric obesity.   

With increased awareness of the risk of childhood obesity, Dr. Fox hopes to continue to grow both the clinical and research programs to improve the lives of children with obesity.