Kyung (Kay) Rhee, MD, MSc, MA, FAAP

Dr. Rhee is a Professor of Pediatrics at UC San Diego School of Medicine, Vice Chair of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, and Medical Director of the inpatient eating disorder unit at Rady Children’s Hospital San Diego Medical Behavioral Unit and the UCSD Center for Healthy Eating and Activity Research (CHEAR). She has special interest in childhood eating and weight related disorders and has multidisciplinary training in childhood obesity treatment, behavior modification, parenting skills training (Incredible Years Program), motivational interviewing, epidemiology, and social psychology. 

Dr. Rhee's research focuses on the intersection of biology, cognition, and behavior and how this affects child development and health. She specifically conducts research on the behavioral, cognitive and biologic factors contributing to the development and management of childhood obesity. Her work focuses on identifying novel targets for obesity prevention and treatment including, parenting styles, parent feeding behaviors, child eating behaviors, executive functioning, genetic and epigenetic influences, and gut peptides and the microbiome. 

admin email:
Most recently, she become the Associate Director of the Master Clinician Program in the Center for Mentorship in Medicine, Sanford Institute for Empathy and Compassion and directs research activities to study the impact of these mentoring programs on physician and trainee well-being.

Throughout her work, she strives to support junior faculty and trainees in their clinical and scholarly development, and create policies that promote equity and inclusion for underserved communities and underrepresented minorities. 
+ Expand All

Undergraduate Education: Stanford University, BA in Human Biology
Graduate Degrees: Stanford University, MA in Sociology and Boston University School of Public Health, MSc in Epidemiology
Medical Degree: Temple University School of Medicine
Residency: St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children (Chief Resident)
Fellowship:  Academic General Pediatrics, Boston Medical Center/Boston University
Special Certification: Board Certified in Pediatrics, American Board of Pediatrics

Areas of Interest

2019-70030-30404 Rhee (PI) 9/15/19 – 9/14/23
USDA Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program Award
Expansion of the ¡Más Fresco! More Fresh Nutrition Incentive Program
The purpose of this proposal is to further expand the geographic reach and impact of the already successful ¡Más Fresco! More Fresh Program through the development and implementation of a next-generation, cloud-based point-of-sale system and a new online enrollment system, with the ultimate goal of improving food security and increase access to fresh F&V.

R01DK106157 Rhee (PI) 8/1/16 – 7/31/21
Parent Training Program to Improve Outcomes in Childhood Obesity Treatment
The purpose of this application is to evaluate the efficacy of a program that combines family-based behavioral therapy and comprehensive parenting training to standard family-based behavioral therapy on child BMI/BMI z-score outcomes. Mediators and moderators of child outcomes such as parenting style, parenting strategies, behavioral strategies, and child-level factors will be evaluated.

1R40MC29452-01-00 Rhee (PI) 4/1/16 – 3/31/20 (NCE)
HRSA/Maternal Child Health Bureau                        
Using a Guided Self-Help treatment model for childhood obesity management in the primary care setting
The goal of this proposal is to test the effect of health coaches providing obesity treatment in the primary care setting compared to usual care (PCP providing obesity management with the help of clinical decision support tools in the electronic health record) on changes in child BMI/BMI z-score.

2016-02563 Rhee (PI) 7/1/16 – 6/30/20 (NCE)
USDA Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive Award                 
Southern California Nutrition Incentive Program                  
The goals of this project are: (1) to develop, implement, and evaluate a multi-tiered program, which includes fruit and vegetable (FV) rebate financial incentives, FV promotions, and NEOP programming in a retail setting for SNAP participants who shop at eligible Northgate Markets in Southern California; and (2) to assess the relative feasibility, acceptability, effectiveness and cultural appropriateness of the three tiers of SCNIP.

1R01DK108686 Boutelle (PI), Rhee (Co-I) 7/1/16 - 6/30/21
NIH/ NIDDK                                                                            
Effect of Treatment Dose on Childhood Obesity
The objective of this application is to conduct a fully powered randomized controlled trial comparing a guided self-help treatment with standard family-based behavioral treatment for childhood obesity, and assess changes in child weight, parent weight, nutrition, physical activity and cost-effectiveness at post-treatment, and 6- and 18-months follow-up.

R01 DK111106 Boutelle (PI), Rhee (Co-I) 12/18/17 – 12/31/21
Cue-Reward Learning and Weight Gain in Youth                              
The purpose of this application is to evaluate whether healthy weight children at risk for overweight (two overweight parents) learn neural relationships between innocuous cues and food faster and/or have higher levels of brain reward to the taste of food compared to healthy weight children who are not at risk for overweight (no overweight parents).  We will follow these children for two years, and track weight gain and behavioral measures of reactivity to food cues. 

R01DK114794 Boutelle (PI), Rhee (Co-I) 9/1/17 -6/30/22
Behavioral Phenotypes of Reward and Inhibition in Parent-Child Weight Loss
For this supplementary project, we propose to add assessments of reward and inhibition that include both self-report and task-based measurements among 260 parent/child pairs participating in two R01 projects evaluating 6-month FBT programs. The primary aims of this study are 1) to determine behavioral and psychological phenotypes of reward and inhibition at baseline in children and parents and 2) to evaluate whether these phenotypes predict weight loss in both children and parents at 6-, 12- and 24-month timepoints.

R01DK116616-01A1 Boutelle (PI), Rhee (Co-I) 7/1/18-4/30/23        
Targeting Emotional Eating and Weight Loss in Adolescents
The goal of this proposal is to evaluate the efficacy of a novel treatment on the target adolescent’s weight compared to family-based therapy over the 18 months of the study.

#60106B Rhee (PI) 9/1/18 – 8/31/20 (NCE)
UCSD Pediatrics – Discovery to Clinical Care
Using an innovative technology to characterize and differentiate gastrointestinal symptoms in patients with eating disorders and tailor therapeutics
The goal of this proposal is to characterize changes in GI motility/function with the High Resolution-Electro GastroGram (HR-EGG) in patients with severe eating disorders who are admitted for medical stabilization and nutritional rehabilitation.

Most Relevant Publications

  1. Rhee KE, Lumeng J, Appugliese D, Kaciroti N, Bradley R. Parenting Styles and Overweight Status in First Grade. Pediatrics. 2006; 117: 2047-2054.
  2. Rhee KE. Childhood Overweight and the Relationship between Parent Behaviors, Parenting Style, and Family Functioning. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. 2008; 615: 12-37.
  3. Rhee KE, DeLago C, Arscott-Mills T, Mehta S, Davis R. Factors Associated with Parental Readiness to Make Changes for Overweight Children. Pediatrics. 2005;116 (1): e94-e101.
  4. Boutelle KN, Norman GJ, Rock CL, Rhee KE, Crow SJ. Guided Self-Help for the Treatment of Pediatric Obesity. Pediatrics. 2013 May;131(5):e1435-42. doi: 10.1542/peds.2012-2204. Epub 2013 Apr 1. PMID: 23545372
  5. Rhee KE, Jelalian E, Boutelle K, Dickstein S, Seifer R, Wing R. Warm parenting associated with Decreasing or Stable Child BMI during treatment. Childhood Obesity. 2016 April. Vol 12, No 2. doi: 10.1089/chi.2015.0127. PMID: 26895374. 
  6. Rhee KE, Kessl S, Manzano MA, Strong DR, Boutelle KN. Cluster randomized control trial promoting child self-regulation around energy-dense food. 2019. Appetite 133; 156-165. NIHMS 1511823. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2018.10.035. PMID: 30391226.
  7. Eichen D, Mestre Z, Strong D, Rhee KE, Boutelle KB. Defining and Identifying Predictors of Rapid Response to Pediatric Obesity Treatment. Pediatric Obesity. June 2020. Vol 15, Issue 6. e12621.

Most Relevant Peer-Reviewed Presentations

  1. Changing Microbiomes for Health Symposium, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, UC San Diego, CA. “Early Childhood Gut Microbiome and Risk for Obesity.” December 15-17, 2017.
  2. 2017 Annual Pediatric Academic Society Meeting, San Francisco, CA. “Addressing Pediatric Obesity: Using an Acute Hospitalization as an Opportunity for Intervention.” May 8, 2017.
  3. UCSD Department of Pediatrics, Grand Rounds. “When is it more than just picky eating: the ins and outs of Eating Disorders.” July 13, 2018.
  4. Rhee KE, Herrera ML, Kang-Sim E, Strong D, Knight R. Examining the Effects of Probiotics and Diet on Inflammatory Markers and Adiposity in Children.  Pediatric Academic Societies’ Annual Meeting. Platform Presentation. May 5, 2018.
  5. American Public Health Association National Meeting. “Advancing Healthy Food Access and Affordability Through Innovative Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) Programs: An innovative nutrition incentive program utilizing point-of-sale technologies in a large-scale retail setting.” Nov. 13, 2018.

Complete List of Published Work in My Bibliography:


  • 2010 – present UCSD Pediatric Hospital Medicine Fellow’s Research Working Group (Academic General Pediatrics, Developmental Pediatrics, Pediatric Hospital Medicine)
  • 2010 – present Pediatricians and Community Collaborating Together (PACCT) rotation, UCSD Pediatrics Residency Program
  • 2010 – present UCSD School of Medicine Independent Student Project, primary mentor
  • 2012 – present Clinical preceptor for medical students and residents in the Rady Children’s Hospital Medical-Behavioral Eating Disorder Inpatient Unit at Rady Children’s Hospital
  • 2016 – present SOMC-243: Epidemiology, Biostatistics, and Clinical Informatics
  • 2018 – present UCSD Pediatric Fellow Research Seminar Series
  • 2018 – present UCSD Pediatrics Resident Academic Project, primary mentor


  • 2018 – present Leadership Council, San Diego County Childhood Obesity Initiative, funded by HHS


  • 2012 – present Rady Children’s Hospital Pediatric Residency Selection Committee
  • 2014 – present UCSD Pediatric Hospital Medicine Fellowship Selection Committee
  • 2013 – 2016 Co-lead, Taskforce on Women in Pediatrics. UCSD
  • 2013 – present Reviewer for NIH Study Section
  • 2016 – 2019 Leadership Committee, Center for Community Health, UCSD
  • 2016 – present Data Safety Monitoring Board for several NIH-funded grants
  • 2017 – 2019 Chair, Women in Pediatrics Taskforce, UCSD
  • 2017 – 2019 Co-Chair, Women in Health Sciences, Awards and Recognitions Sub-Committee, UCSD
  • 2018 – present UCSD Academic Senate, Committee on Diversity and Equity
  • 2018 – present UCSD Health Committee on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
  • 2018 – present Review and Appraisal Committee, UCSD Department of Pediatrics
  • 2018 – present Faculty Mentor Training Program: Optimizing Health Sciences Faculty Mentoring Relationships at University of California, San Diego.  Conducted by Dr. Angela Byars-Winston, Professor in Department of Medicine, CIMER Faculty Affiliate, Center for Women's Health Research and Dr. Christine Pfund, CIMER Director, Wisconsin Center for Education Research, Researcher in Department of Medicine, Institute for Clinical and Translational Research (ICTR) and Center for Women's Health Research at University of Wisconsin-Madison.
  • 2018 – present Mentor, Hispanic Center of Excellence, UCSD School of Medicine
  • 2018 – present Invited Member, National Collaborative for Childhood Obesity Research (NIH, CDC, RWJF)
  • 2018 – 2019 Chair, Search Committee for Academic General Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine faculty
  • 2019 – present Division Liaison for UCSD Pediatrics Resident Academic Projects
  • 2020 – present Invited Member, Healthy Eating Research Expert Panel, Promoting the development of healthy eating behaviors among young children age 2-8 years (RWJF)

Show additional content areas below