Solmaz Institute

The Solmaz Institute works to address the epidemic of child and adolescent obesity by providing nutrition education, counseling and fitness coaching to children and adolescents who are overweight or 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 and the dietetic internship program) who provide services to youth.

All services are free of charge to youth and family in the region.

Referral for Services

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 and evaluation. It is helpful to make this available in advance of the appointment.


Appointments are offered after school hours Monday-Thursday, 3-7 p.m. Daytime hours are available for home-schooled youth. Youth are asked to commit to a minimum number of nutrition counseling and fitness session visits to more effectively evaluate progress in health behaviors.

For an appointment, please contact Kimberly Pennington at or 828.328.7886.

A one-hour “Let’s Get Started” class is offered to prospective youth and their families several evenings throughout the month from 6-7 p.m. Interested families should call in advance for scheduled times and to register.

Health Care Providers

If you are a health care provider and desire to refer a patient (ages 4-18) to the Solmaz Institute, please contact the program director for a referral form that can be faxed or emailed to the institute.

Once a referral is received, we will reach out to the child’s parent to set up appointments and notify them of programs and upcoming sessions.

Clinic services include fitness sessions in addition to nutrition counseling, so providers should indicate if the child has physical restrictions or limitations.

Establishment of the Institute

The Solmaz Institute was established in 2011 thanks to a $3 million donation from Gungor and Diana Solmaz of Denver, North Carolina. A native of Turkey, Solmaz was a businessman who wanted to do something positive for the healthy living of his adopted country and local community.

The Lenoir-Rhyne University Board of Trustees has renewed the contract of Dr. Fred Whitt, LR president, for a six-year term. The board unanimously approved the new contract at its meeting in November; the contract became effective Jan. 1 and will continue through Jan. 1, 2028.

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After graduating with her bachelor’s degree in public health, Hannah Fowler initially thought she was done with school. But, after working in a doctor’s office, she realized her love for the clinical side of health care.

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