Renowned expert to lead new Human Performance and Nutrition Research Institute at Oklahoma State University
Thursday, December 8, 2022
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Oklahoma State University has taken another major step to enhance health in Oklahoma by appointing Lance Walker to lead the new Human Performance and Nutrition Research Institute (HPNRI).
The academic institute, which will be constructed on the Stillwater campus, will develop preventative therapeutic strategies to combat obesity and chronic diseases. Walker, the inaugural Rick and Gail Muncrief Executive Director, is a licensed physical therapist and an internationally recognized expert in fusing sports performance, sports science and sports medicine for athletes of all ages, ability levels and disciplines. His position was recently endowed through a gift from OSU alumni Rick and Gail Muncrief.
Walker said the new institute will provide practical and research-supported solutions that can trigger transformational changes to health outcomes across the state. These solutions will be created using research and information already collected from OSU's student athletes, whose nutrition, physical activity and other biometrics are closely monitored while they train and compete.
“Oklahoma faces significant health challenges,” Walker said. “The state is in need of more resources in practical and research-supported solutions that can trigger and fuel generational and transformational change in health outcomes.
“Oklahoma State University will be aligning its world-renown expertise and proven research and teaching capabilities across dozens of disciplines, departments and resources to extend service to the people of Oklahoma. The vision of elevating the human performance and nutrition of both Oklahoma State and the state of Oklahoma transcends any individual or entity. The combination of this grand vision and innovative strategic approach makes the HPNRI a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create transformational and long-lasting change.”
The institute has received $50 million in initial funding from the state of Oklahoma through the American Rescue Plan Act. With 25 cents of every health care dollar currently being spent on the treatment of diseases or disabilities that are related to changeable behaviors, the potential economic impact of the new institute is incalculable, with the economic benefits of healthy eating alone estimated to be $114.5 billion per year. The benefits include decreased health care spending, a more productive workforce and saving lives.
Areas of focus include:
- Therapeutic compliance
- Cognitive performance
- Chronic disease prevention
- Non-pharmaceutical chronic disease management
“The institute will be the first of its kind — a university-based center focused on human performance and nutrition science for optimizing health and performance,” said OSU President Kayse Shrum. “As Oklahoma’s land-grant university, OSU is uniquely positioned to serve as the leader in improving the state’s health outcomes, and we are thrilled to have such an accomplished and innovative director in Lance Walker. He brings two and a half decades of experience to the role, having worked with organizations like the NFL, NCAA and Nike. He will lead the HPNRI in advancing vital research that will improve lives."
In accordance with its land-grant mission to address society’s toughest challenges, and through the expertise and resources available at the new institute, Dr. Shrum believes OSU is perfectly positioned to abate the state’s unhealthy trends.
OSU has a presence in all 77 counties through its Extension offices. It also has clinical care programs in major rural areas. Through Project ECHO and OSU’s telemedicine network, the university has an established virtual infrastructure to push out best practices quickly across Oklahoma. HPNRI will be able to tap into these assets to promote therapeutics that will help Oklahomans lead healthier and more productive lives.
“It is the right time for us to be involved, and we are excited to be supporting OSU. We are energized by the university’s leadership, who are committed to OSU’s mission as a land-grant institution in their strategic focus forward,” Gail Muncrief said. “I am proud to see the transformational work of the HPNRI amplified through OSU’s Extension efforts.”
The institute will leverage research and expertise from several departments and colleges across the OSU system, including the College of Education and Human Sciences, Ferguson College of Agriculture, the College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology, Robert M. Kerr Food and Agriculture Products Center, College of Osteopathic Medicine and more.
“As proud Oklahomans, Gail and I are happy to be investing in this groundbreaking project that will benefit the entire state” Rick Muncrief said. “We are pleased with the role that Oklahoma State University will play in the advancement of human performance through the capture and utilization of critical data, understanding the important role of nutrition, applying emerging science and technologies, and effectively communicating and implementing the results.”
About Lance Walker
Lance Walker has built a 25-year career in the sports performance sector, where he became known as an expert in fusing sports performance, sports science and sports medicine for athletes of all ages, ability levels and sport disciplines.
Prior to being named OSU’s Rick and Gail Muncrief Executive Director for the Human Performance and Nutrition Research Institute, Walker was the executive vice president and global performance director of Texas-based Michael Johnson Performance.
A 1993 graduate of Kansas State University with a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology, Walker was a three-year letterman and attained Academic All-Big 8 honors as a receiver on the football team. He went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in physical therapy and a master’s degree in exercise physiology from the University of Oklahoma.
Walker, who is also a licensed physical therapist, has served as an assistant strength and conditioning coach for both the Dallas Cowboys (2002-2004) and the University of Oklahoma (1994-1998) and has experience working with organizations within the NFL, NCAA, and athletes at the high school level. He is a former human performance lab coordinator, NIKE Performance Council Member, and exercise science researcher. He has supported thousands of current and past athletes, including first-round NFL/NBA/CHL/MLB draft selections, Olympic gold medalists, world champions, world record holders, CrossFit world champions, Super Bowl MVPs, Champions League stars, and NFL Hall of Famers.
About Rick and Gail Muncrief
Rick and Gail Muncrief both earned their undergraduate degrees from Oklahoma State University in 1980. Rick studied petroleum engineering technology and Gail double majored in vocational home economics education and clothing and textile design. Rick is the president, CEO and director of Devon Energy. Gail has had an extensive career in education, including classroom instruction in elementary, middle school, high school and community college, as well as working as a university extension agent for Montana State University and New Mexico State University. Today, Gail remains involved with her western Oklahoma agriculture and cattle operations, as well as managing Oklahoma assets and personal investments.
The Muncriefs generously support various areas of the OSU system, including OSU Athletics, the Ferguson College of Agriculture, the College of Education and Human Sciences and the College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology. Gail supports various Women for OSU initiatives and serves on the group’s council. She is a member of the OSU Foundation’s Board of Trustees and was recently appointed by OSU President Kayse Shrum to serve on a task force that will focus on the amplification and elevation of OSU Extension. Gail also serves on the Oklahoma City National Memorial Museum’s Board of Trustees.
In 2019, OSU recognized Rick with a Distinguished Alumni Award, and he was also inducted into OSU’s College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology’s Hall of Fame. Rick has been recognized with numerous leadership awards and is currently a director of the Williams Companies, the American Petroleum Institute (API), the American Exploration and Production Council (AXPC), the Gilcrease Museum, the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum and the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation.
The Edmond, Oklahoma couple have two grown children and are lifetime members of the OSU Alumni Association. They are active in various volunteer roles throughout the region.