COVID-19 Updates

Visit UC San Diego's Coronavirus portal for the latest information for the campus community.

Sheila Gahagan, MD, MPH, FAAP


Dr. Sheila Gahagan is Chief of Academic General Pediatrics, and holds the Stein Chair in Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics at the University of California, San Diego. She has expertise in developmental origins of health and disease, focusing much of her work on early life nutrition and long-term health consequences. One line of research focuses on the role of iron on infant neurodevelopment and its long-term effects. In addition, she is an expert on children’s growth, development of obesity and its consequences. She expects her research to inform early life prevention of childhood and adult disease. Throughout her career, Dr. Gahagan has sought out interdisciplinary collaborations seeing the importance of approaching complex questions from multiple paradigms. Since 2001, Gahagan has participated in research with the Santiago Longitudinal Study, a Chilean cohort originally evaluated as part of an iron deficiency anemia preventive trial. Since 2001, she has had NIH funding including as the Principal Investigator of a multi-institution, interdisciplinary, international project to study “Biopsychosocial Determinants of Obesity/ Cardiovascular Risk”. She has also served as PI in multiple PI leadership plans on three other projects involving the same cohort. Dr. Gahagan is sought out as a coinvestigator for her expertise related to obesity, developmental processes, and health disparities.


  • Undergraduate Education: Bachelor of Zoology, Michigan State University
  • Medical Degree: Michigan State University, College of Human Medicine
  • Residency: Pediatric Residency and Chief Residency, Case Western Reserve University Hospitals
  • Graduate Education: Masters of Science in Epidemiology, University of Michigan School Public Health
  • Special Certifications: Board-Certified, Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics, American Board of Pediatrics

Areas of Interest

  • Developmental Origins of Health and Disease
  • Early-life Risk Factors for Developing Obesity and Cardiovascular Disease
  • Infancy Iron Deficiency Anemia Prevention and Long-term Outcomes
  • Socioeconomic Health Disparities

Ongoing Projects

  • Biopsychosocial Determinants of Adolescent Obesity/Cardiovascular Risk; This project aims to understand biological and psychosocial risks and circadian patterns on the development of obesity and metabolic risks in a cohort of Chilean young adults studied since infancy. 5R01HL088530-09; NIH/NHLBI; Role:  Principal Investigator
  • Neuromaturational Delays in Iron Deficient Anemic Infants; The proposed project will determine long-term neurobiological effects of IDA in infancy, adult functional outcomes related to preventing IDA in infancy, and long-term effects of giving iron to iron-sufficient infants. 2R01HD033487-2; NIH/NICHD; Role: Multiple Principal Investigator (Gahagan, Lozoff)
  • Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics Training Program; To educate DBP leaders who will use a lifecourse framework in approaching clinical care, medical education, research and advocacy. 5 T77MC257340200; HSRA, Maternal Child Health Bureau; Role: Principal Investigator
  • Prevention of Lower Urinary tract Symptoms (PLUS) Research Consortium; Prioritize modifiable risk factors for LUTS that matter to women and girls by evaluating factors available from existing federally funded research cohorts and exploring the urogenital microbiome as targets for future studies. U01DK10682; NIH/NIDDK; Role: Co-Investigator (PI- Lukacz)
  • The ESPINA Study Follow-Up Examination in 2016: Environmental Pollutants and Child/Adolescent Development; ESPINA 2016 addresses how pesticide exposure relates to mental health symptoms longitudinally, including repeated assessments of short-term neurobehavioral changes in children. 5R01ES025792-02; NIH/NIEHS; Role: Co-Investigator (PI - Suarez)
  • Pesticides and Mental Health Among Adolescents in Ecuadorian Agricultural Communities; In 80 12- to 17-year olds in Ecuador, we are estimating the prevalence of pesticide exposures (organophosphate, carbamate, neonicotinoid), and the association with externalizing symptoms, school problems and increased thyroid hormone levels. 5  R21ES026084 0; NIH/NIEHS; Role: Co-Investigator (PI - Suarez)

Selected Publications

  • Martinez SM, Castillo M, Lozoff B, Gahagan S. Socioeconomic Status and Internalizing Symptoms in Chilean Children: Does Reserve Capacity Matter? J Child Adolesc Behav. 2015 Oct;3(5). pii: 254. Epub 2015 Oct 21. PMID: 2712347
  • East P, Delker E, Lozoff B, Delva J, Castillo M, Gahagan S. Longitudinal associations among infant iron deficiency, childhood emotion and attention regulation, and adolescent problem behaviors. Child Dev. 2017 Epub Feb 23. doi: 10.1111/cdev.12765. PMID: 28233303
  • East P, Lozoff B, Blanco E, Delker E, Delva J, Encina P, Gahagan S. Infant Iron Deficiency, Child Affect, and Maternal Unresponsiveness: Testing the Long-Term Effects of Functional Isolation. Dev Psychol. 2017 Sep 21. doi: 10.1037/dev0000385. [Epub ahead of print] PMID: 28933876
  • Pacheco LS, Blanco E, Burrows R, Reyes M, Lozoff B, Gahagan S. Early Onset Obesity and Risk of Metabolic Syndrome Among Chilean Adolescents. Prev Chronic Dis. 2017 Oct 12;14:E93. doi: 10.5888/pcd14.170132. PMID: 29023232
  • Suarez-Lopez JR, Checkoway H, Jacobs DR Jr, Al-Delaimy WK, Gahagan S. Potential short-term neurobehavioral alterations in children associated with a peak pesticide spray season: The Mother's Day flower harvest in Ecuador. Neurotoxicology. 2017 May;60:125-133. doi: 10.1016/j.neuro.2017.02.002. Epub 2017 Feb 7. PMID: 28188819
  • Reyes M, Burrows R, Blanco E, Lozoff B, Gahagan S. Greater early weight gain and shorter breastfeeding are associated with low adolescent adiponectin levels. Pediatr Obes. 2017 Mar 16. doi: 10.1111/ijpo.12212. [Epub ahead of print] PMID: 28303690
  • Complete listing of published works 

Selected Presentations

  • “Long-term developmental outcomes - Infants randomized to iron-fortified vs low-iron formula: 16-year Cognitive Outcomes”. Nutrition and Child Development: Through the Lens of Iron. University of Michigan Symposium. University of Michigan, June 3, 2016.
  • “Randomized controlled trials and observational studies: Why conclusions differ - Recent meta-analyses and systematic reviews.” Nutrition and Child Development: Through the Lens of Iron. University of Michigan Symposium. University of Michigan, June 3, 2016.
  • “Iron-fortified vs low-iron infant formula: Cognitive outcomes at 10 and 16 years”. International BioIron Conference Society Conference. Los Angeles, CA. May11, 2017.
  • “Pediatrics Pearls, Infancy to Preschool”. San Diego Academy of Physicians 59th Annual Postgraduate Symposium. San Diego, CA. June 23, 2017
  • "Early Life Factors and later Cardiometabolic Risk”. University of Michigan Department of Pediatrics & Communicable Diseases. Grand Rounds. Ann Arbor, MI. September 12, 2017.


  • Professor of Pediatrics, UC San Diego
  • Community Pediatrics/PACCT Rotation, UC San Diego
  • Adjunct Assistant Professor, San Diego State University
  • Adjunct Research Professor, Center For Human Growth and Development, University of Michigan


  • American Academy of Pediatrics
  • Society of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, Advocacy Committee


  • San Diego Mid-City Community Advocacy Network – Networking Council
  • Respira Sano:  Imperial County Asthma CER Project Data Safety Monitoring Board. Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PACORI) in partnership with Committee Civico del Valle, Clinicas de Salud del Pueblo and SDSU IBACH Institute.
  • UC San Diego Department of Pediatrics, Women’s Task Force
  • UC San Diego Department of Pediatrics, Review and Appraisal Committee


  • Division Chief, Academic General Pediatrics, Child Development and Community Health, UC San Diego
  • Vice Chair, Faculty Development, Department of Pediatrics, UC San Diego
  • Program Director, Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics Fellowship, UC San Diego
  • Martin T. Stein Endowed Chair in Developmental-Behavioral