LRU News

Director hired for Solmaz Institute

Thu Dec 3 2009

Lenoir-Rhyne University has hired Michelle King Rimer as director of its new Solmaz Institute for Obesity.

Michelle RimerIn this position, Rimer will work with families, school districts, hospitals and other agencies to help children achieve and maintain a healthy weight. “All of my career has been based around treating and preventing childhood obesity,” she said. “This is a dream job.”

Rimer holds a master’s of public health and a master’s of nutrition from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, and has completed a dietetic internship. She has a bachelor’s degree in dietetics from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. She is a registered dietitian, a certified professional food manager, and is certified in child and adolescent weight management.

She has worked for more than 10 years in the prevention and treatment of childhood obesity, including employment with the Navajo Tribe in Arizona and several school districts in Wisconsin. She moved to Hickory from Mineral Point, Wisc., with her husband, Matthew, and their two children, Nora Kate, 4, and Nils, 18 months.

Obesity is a difficult problem to address because it is influenced by a multitude of factors, including genetics, culture, lifestyle and available resources. For example, some neighborhoods have limited access to fresh fruit and vegetables, although they do have many fast-food restaurants. In some communities, parks may not be safe enough for children to use. Other neighborhoods do not have sidewalks, discouraging people from walking. “We need to create communities that are wellness-oriented,” Rimer said.

The Solmaz Institute was recently established with a gift of $3 million from Gungor and Diana Solmaz of Denver, N.C. Gungor Solmaz, a native of Turkey, is a businessman who wanted to do something positive for his adopted country.

The Solmaz Institute will involve various programs already established at Lenoir-Rhyne, including counseling, physical education, nursing and athletic training. It will have a clinic to help children and their families. Services will be provided to families regardless of their ability to pay. Rimer said it will probably be about six to nine months before the clinic is ready to start seeing its first clients.

The Solmaz Institute will also provide an internship required for students wishing to become licensed as registered dieticians. Rimer explained that there is a shortage of internship opportunities. All students must have received a bachelor’s degree from a U.S. regionally accredited university or college and completed course work approved by the Commission on Accreditation for Dietetics Education of the American Dietetic Association. At this time, Lenoir-Rhyne does not offer such a degree program. More information about the steps involved in becoming a registered dietitian is available from the American Dietetics Association at

The first interns may arrive at Lenoir-Rhyne in the spring semester of 2011, Rimer said. The Solmaz Institute will provide a unique dietetic internship in that it will focus on the prevention and treatment of childhood obesity in addition to meeting the basic competencies set forth by the ADA.

Rimer said she is now meeting with people in the Hickory metro who are already working on this issue. “Everyone has been very excited and impressed by Mr. Somlaz’s generousity,” she said. “They see Lenoir-Rhyne as a place that really supports the community. This is another example of L-R’s commitment to serving our community.”

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