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Solmaz Institute

The Solmaz Institute is a unique framework for the provision of clinic services, outreach programs and interdisciplinary internship opportunities for students in the College of Health, Exercise, and Sports Science on the Lenoir-Rhyne University Hickory campus. The main emphasis is on addressing the dilemma of obesity in children and adolescents in this region.

The Institute offers a post baccalaureate Dietetic Internship training for those applicants who wish to become licensed as registered dietitians. Interested students should complete a Dietetic Internship application.

The institute was established in 2011 with a generous gift of $3 million from Gungor and Diana Solmaz of Denver, NC. A native of Turkey, Mr. Solmaz, was a businessman who wanted to do something positive in the way of healthy living for his adopted country and local community. Mr. and Mrs. Solmaz were very concerned about the health of youth and the prevailing problems of obesity.


“To address the issue of childhood obesity by providing nutritional, exercise, and co-morbidity management/counseling to children and their families in the Hickory, NC community with attention given to persons who are economically disadvantaged, while providing academic and professional opportunities for student learning and service”

Clinic Services & Appointments

The program provides nutrition counseling and fitness coaching to children and adolescents who are overweight/obese. The clinic is staffed by registered dietitians who oversee individual and group services as well the Lenoir-Rhyne interns in various programs (exercise science, nursing, occupational therapy, dietetic, etc) who provide services to youth. All services are free of charge to youth and family in the region.

Clients may be self-referred or referred by their health care providers, however a child’s health history is important for a thorough nutrition assessment/evaluation. It is helpful to make this available in advance of the appointment.

Appointments are offered after school hours from Monday-Thursday from 3:00-7:00. There are also daytime hours available for home schooled youth. Youth are asked to commit to a minimum number of nutrition education/counseling and fitness session visits to more effectively evaluate progress in health behaviors.

A one hour “Let’s Get Started” Class is offered to prospective youth and their families on several evenings throughout the month from 6-7pm. Interested families should call in advance for the times and to sign up.

For an appointment, please call 828.328.7886 or email Kimberly Pennington.

Clinic services are staffed by the director who is a registered dietitian, evening clinic registered dietitian (part time), dietetic interns, and other students from the College of Health Sciences.

Information for Health Care Providers

Providers who wish to refer their patients (ages 4-18) to the Solmaz Institute clinic should use our referral forms that can be faxed or emailed. Contact Kimberly Pennington to request a form.

Once a referral is received, the child’s parent will be contacted by phone, email, or letter, to set up appointments and notify them of upcoming information sessions and group programs. Clinic services do include fitness sessions in addition to nutrition counseling, so providers should indicate if the child has physical restrictions or limitations.


Kimberly Pennington

Director of the Solmaz Institute, Instructor of Health, Exercise, and Sport Science
Hickory Campus
School: 828.328.7473
School Fax: 828.328.7435
McCrorie 237; LR Box 7155