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

Kyung E. Rhee is an Associate Professor of Pediatrics with special interest in childhood eating and weight related disorders. She believes it is important to understand and address the social, behavioral, cognitive, and biologic aspects of child growth and development in order to promote greater health and well-being. Dr. Rhee is the Medical Director of the Medical Behavioral Unit/Eating Disorder Unit at Rady Children’s Hospital San Diego, Research Director of Pediatric Hospital Medicine, and Medical Director of the Center for Healthy Eating and Activity Research.  Dr. Rhee has multidisciplinary training in pediatric hospital medicine, childhood obesity, eating disorders, behavior modification and therapy, parent-child interactions, parenting skills training (Incredible Years Program), motivational interviewing, epidemiology, and social psychology.


  • Undergraduate Education: Bachelor of Human Biology
  • Graduate Education:
    • Masters of Sociology, Stanford University
    • Masters of Science in Epidemiology, Boston University School of Public Health
  • Medical Degree: Temple University School of Medicine
  • Residency: Pediatric Residency, St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children
  • Fellowship Training: General Academic Pediatrics, Boston Medical Center

Areas of Interest

  • Childhood Obesity
  • Parenting Styles
  • Parent Feeding Behaviors/Child Eating Behaviors
  • Eating Disorders
  • Executive Functioning
  • Behavior Change
  • Epigenetics
  • Microbiome

Ongoing Projects

Parent training program to improve outcomes in childhood obesity treatment -

  • 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.
    • Funder: NIDDK
      Grant Number: R01DK106157
      Investigator: Kyung Rhee, Principal Investigator
  • 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.
    • Funder: HRSA/Maternal Child Health Bureau
      Grant Number: 1R40MC29452
      Investigator: Kyung Rhee, Principal Investigator
  • 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.
  • 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). Children are followed for two years, with weight gain and behavioral measures of reactivity to food cues tracked. Results of this study could provide a novel hypothesis as why certain people overeat as well as insight into the risk factors associated with weight gain in children, to ultimately develop targeted prevention and intervention efforts.
    • Funder: NIDDK
      Grant Number: 1R01DK111106
      Investigator: Kerri Boutelle, Principal Investigator
  • The goal is to develop an unobtrusive sensing and awareness system to help families improve family routines. Family routines improvement can lead to various wellness improvements, including child obesity prevention. The system will use mobile phones to detect family routines (screen viewing activities, sleep, family dinner frequency), and children participants will wear wearable devices to sense physical activity level. These sensor data will be visualized as a virtual garden / farm that gives awareness to children about their daily routines. The system collects all family users’ data and strategically shares them among families to increase motivation for family routine improvement.
    • Funder: NSF
      Grant Number: 1622626
      Investigator: Jina Huh, Principal Investigator

Selected Publications

Click here to view complete list of published works.

Selected Presentations

  • Policy Briefing. Russell Senate Office Building. Washington, D.C. “Overweight and Obesity in America’s Children: the role of parenting”. January 23, 2008
  • RI Department of Health and Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University sponsored conference “Childhood obesity and overweight: Prevention and treatment in private practice”. Motivational Interviewing: Effective communication for pediatric weight management (CME). January 12, 2009.
  • 30th Annual Advances in the Practice of Pediatrics, San Diego, CA: “Obesity: Current Behavioral and Cognitive Treatments for Childhood Obesity”. March 11, 2016.
  • 59th Annual Postgraduate Symposium: Family Medicine Update: 2016, San Diego, CA. “Improving Recognition and Treatment of Pediatric Eating Disorders”. June 24, 2016.
  • 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.


  • Pediatric Hospital Medicine research core
  • Community Pediatrics/PACCT rotation
  • Advocacy


  • Women in Pediatrics Taskforce, Chair
  • Women in Health Sciences, Honors and Recognitions Sub-Committee, co-Chair


  • Medical Director, Medical Behavioral Unit, Rady Children's Hospital San Diego/UCSD
  • Research Director, Pediatric Hospital Medicine
  • Medical Director, Center for Healthy Eating and Activity Research