Academic journal article Human Ecology

Powerful Medicine: A Lifelong Passion for Nutrition Fuels Adam Rotunda

Academic journal article Human Ecology

Powerful Medicine: A Lifelong Passion for Nutrition Fuels Adam Rotunda

Article excerpt

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When Dr. Adam Rotunda '96 visited his clinical professor's dermatology practice, he was fascinated by a set of photographs. As a young UCLA dermatology resident focusing on skin cancer surgery, he was amazed to see images of research subjects who'd been injected with a substance that seemingly melted the fat under their eyes. A decade later in 2015, that substance--after research and refining by Rotunda--reached the market as Kybella, the first injectable medication approved by the Food and Drug Administration to reduce fat under the chin.

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With Kybella, physicians can now offer patients an alternative to surgery. For Rotunda--who continues to specialize in Mohs micrographic surgery--Kybella's approval is a dream come true after years of research. It's also inextricably linked to a life and career powered by nutrition.

It started with Rotunda's father, a bodybuilder who gave him protein pills as treats so he'd sit still during church. Rotunda looked up to him, and to an overweight older brother who'd transformed himself during a summer spent lifting weights and eating well. Starting at 12, working out became a daily discipline for Rotunda, setting him apart from his peers and focusing his studies on a premed curriculum in Nutritional Sciences.

"I saw the power of nutrition and working out," he says. "It was very tangible."

That led Rotunda to medical school and his dermatologic surgery residency at UCLA. There, something in Dr. Glynis Ablon's research on the fat-melting injections caught his eye: the active ingredient was purportedly phosphatidylcholine (PC), a nutritional supplement Rotunda knew from his post-workout protein shakes. Another ingredient was sodium deoxycholate (DC), an intestinal bile salt that helps digest fat. Intrigued, Rotunda wrote up Ablon's findings for peer review and publication; the article immediately became controversial.

Most of Rotunda's teachers and peers advised him to quit the work, but one professor, Dr. …

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