Creators of the World's First Dietary Inflammatory Index™

Our Team


Dr. James R. Hébert

Dr. James R. Hébert – Dr. Hebert’s professional focus for the past several years has been on developing and refining the Dietary Inflammatory Index (DII™). Since 1988, Dr. James R. Hébert has been the Principal Investigator (P.I.), co-P.I., or subcontract P.I. on 48 federal grants with budgets totaling ~$81 million. He has published over 330 peer- reviewed papers in high-impact medical journals, with most of these focusing on various aspects of diet on health including methodologic issues encountered in the measurement of diet. Dr. Hébert’s primary administrative role is as the Director of the Cancer Prevention and Control Program (CPCP), based at the University of South Carolina in Columbia.  His primary academic appointment is in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics in the Arnold School of Public Health of the University of South Carolina. He also holds adjunct appointments in the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine in the USC School of Medicine and in the Department of Medicine at the Medical University of South Carolina. Dr. Hébert has established strong collaborations around the world in the areas of public health, cancer prevention and control, and epidemiology & biostatistics as a nutritional and cancer epidemiologist. Over the past seven years, Dr. Hébert has spent considerable effort developing the DII™, which has now been established as an effective research tool.


Dr. Nitin Shivappa

Dr. Nitin Shivappa has collaborated with Dr. James Hébert and other members of the research group at the CPCP to modify and improve the DII™. He has translated his intimate working knowledge of the DII™ into established cooperative agreements with over 120 research institutions from all around the world. Their interests in utilizing the DII in research studies with a variety of outcomes range from inflammatory markers to disease end points such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and arthritis. These include Harvard University, Columbia University, University of Minnesota, Karolinska Institute, University of Central London, Ghent University, University of Sao Paolo, and University of Queensland, to mention a few. He has worked extensively along with Mr. Thomas Hurley and other members of the CPCP research group in creating the codes that are required to calculate DII™. Dr. Shivappa has a sound knowledge and experience in using statistical software such as SPSS® and SAS®, which was used to develop the scoring algorithm for DII™. He is also  knowledgeable in currently available diet and health-related apps, some of which fall short in realizing behavioral changes relative to dietary interventions.

Wirth Dr. Michael Wirth is currently a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics and Core Faculty at the Cancer Prevention and Control Program within the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina. He has worked closely with Dr. Shivappa and others at the CPCP with respect to the DII™. He is first author on several DII™-based manuscripts that are currently under review at top peer-reviewed occupational and environmental health journals. His focus on circadian biology has evolved to incorporate the effect of diet on inflammatory outcomes through pathways related to circadian rhythmicity. The CPCP sees the connection to circadian biology as essential to this work because the most common sequelae of stress is disturbance in sleep, which in turn has dire implications for health-related behaviors such as diet and physical activity. The DII™ has evolved to become a major component of this research. Indeed, his work on the relationship between sleep, stress, and the DII™ (and diet more generally) will inform the current study in important ways. His experience in statistical software programs (e.g., SAS®, which was used to develop the DII™ and has formed the basis for virtually all DII™-dependent analyses) and database management has been an important part of analyzing and maintaining datasets through which DII™ results have been generated.
 shoaibi2 Dr. Azza Shoaibi, MPH is a Research Assistant of the Biomedical Informatics Center at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, South Carolina. Azza holds a PhD in Epidemiology and Biostatistics from the University of South Carolina, Columbia. In 2011, she joined the PhD program as a Fulbright scholar from the West Bank in the occupied Palestinian territory. She received her Masters degree in Public Health with a focus on health economics at Birzeit University, Ramallah in 2010. Azza has been working with the CPCP team to investigate the effectiveness of different diet and physical activity interventions to improve health outcomes including chronic inflammation and overweight indicators. Azza’s dissertation work aims to develop a nomogram to screen for prostate cancer while distinguishing high risk prostate cancer.
 Hurley Thomas G. Hurley, Senior Research Associate, Cancer Prevention and Control, is the Director of the Dietary Assessment Research Unit (DARU) and the Data Management and Analysis Unit (DMU), which are located in the CPCP. Mr. Hurley joined USC in 1999. Prior to coming to South Carolina, he was director of the Epidemiology and Biostatistics Unit in the Division of Preventive Medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He has over 20 years experience in the collection, management and analysis of research data.  At the University of South Carolina, he developed the interview scheduling and data management system for conducting 24-hour recall dietary interviews. He and Dr. Hébert have published nearly 60 papers together, including the two that describe the development and validation testing of the DII™.
Houston Julia Houston holds a Masters of Social Work (MSW) degree from the University of South Carolina. She has vast experience working in the non-profit sector with patient and cancer advocacy organizations. As founder of The Brain Tumor Awareness Organization, she developed a patient navigation tool for brain tumor patients and their caregivers. In addition, she developed a website of resources, a resource guide and a patient resource project which was distributed in the Hollings Cancer Spine and Brain Tumor Program, a NCI-Designated Cancer Center. Her ability to organize cancer advocacy organizations resulted from the utilization of technological communication platforms and engaging each stakeholder in a strategic communications campaign to navigate cancer survivors to resources for support and self-care. For over 35 years, she owned and managed small businesses and her responsibilities included marketing, sales, web  development, client recruitment and retention. Ms. Houston is the Regional 1 North Coordinator of the Geographical Management of Cancer Health Disparities Program within the Center to Reduce Cancer Health Disparities Program of the National Cancer Institute and also the Director of the Diet and Other Lifestyle Intervention Unit (DOLIU) within the CPCP at USC. Her ability to build coalitions and engage stakeholders around health disparities is of significance to her role in CHI as Project Coordinator.
Sofege Jameson Sofge is a doctoral student in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics within the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina. Jameson received his Bachelor of Science in Biology from the University of Georgia in 2007. He received his Master of Science in Biomedical Sciences from Auburn University in 2014. He has been working with members of the state wide cancer prevention and control program (CPCP) examining the effect of sleep quality and variability on c-reactive protein levels.
Collins Brian Collins, MA– For more than 25 years, Mr. Collins has earned his stripes in a variety of creative positions within the ranks of corporate America. He is, among other things, an award-winning writer and video producer and a former Walt Disney Imagineer, where he helped create the magic for virtually all of Disney’s Florida theme parks. At various times in his career, Brian has produced work for Virgin Atlantic Airways, Anheuser Busch Theme Parks, The Orlando Shakespeare Festival, The Miami Dolphins, The Tribune Co., and AAA’s (the American Automobile Association) National Office. Brian is also a passionate educator, having taught at several colleges and universities. Through his consulting company, “The Brainstorm Institute,” he has provided marketing strategy and coached business owners and executives on a variety of business-related issues. Brian attended the University of Florida and received his undergraduate degree from Texas Tech University.  He also earned a Master’s Degree in Marketing from Webster University, where he was a distinguished graduate.
Collaborators And Consultants Who Will Be Materially Involved In This Work:
 Ockene Dr. Ira S. Ockene, M.D. is the Director of Preventive Cardiology at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He is a long-time collaborator of Dr. Hébert’s including on a number of diet-intervention and observational studies that have had a significant impact on the fields of preventive cardiology, preventive medicine, nutrition, and public health.  Dr. Ockene, a thought leader in the field for many decades, also has been on the forefront of patient-centered counseling, including the use of communication technologies to improve patient-provider communications.
 Tatum Tyler Tatum has over 15 years of experience starting and running technology and service companies. In his last venture, Brainlike, Inc., Mr. Tatum was able to bring in over $4M in research and development funding from the Department of Defense. Brainlike, Inc. was a software company delivering sensor-based solutions to the military and commercial markets.
 Jaggi  Neha Jaggi, MPH graduated from the University of South Carolina with a degree in Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior, along with a Certificate of Graduate Study in Health Communications. Neha began her career working as a Research Assistant for GMaP Region 1 North, along with other positions overlooking aspects of health disparities and health communication. Currently she is working as an ORISE Fellow in the Office of the Director, Office of Strategic Communications and Partnerships in the Division of Foodborne, Waterborne, and Environmental Disease within the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases (NCEZID) at the Center for Disease Control.
 garmon Ron Garmon is CEO of VueLogic LLC, a Customer Intelligence and marketing technology company, focusing on companies with web centric customer bases. He has been a senior executive and business leader in the financial services industry in the U.S. and international markets for over 20 years. Prior to founding VueLogic Mr. Garmon enjoyed a 20 year career with Equifax Inc., most recently serving as Chief Information Officer, where he improved quality and performance by using global outsourcing for data centers, application development and application maintenance. Before that, he successfully transformed Equifax Secure, the Consumer Identity and Digital Certificate division of Equifax, by aligning the business strategy with customer’s requirements. Mr. Garmon holds a Bachelor of Business Arts degree from North Georgia College, and a Juris Doctor from Woodrow Wilson College of Law.