Headshot photo of Kent L. Thornburg, Ph.D.

Kent L. Thornburg, Ph.D.

  • Professor of Medicine, Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, School of Medicine
  • Professor of Physiology and Pharmacology, School of Medicine
  • Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, School of Medicine
  • Director, Center for Developmental Health, School of Medicine
  • Director, Bob and Charlee Moore Institute for Nutrition and Wellness, School of Medicine
  • Interim Director, OHSU Knight Cardiovascular Institute, School of Medicine
  • Program in Molecular and Cellular Biosciences, School of Medicine


Kent L. Thornburg, PhD, is the M. Lowell Edwards Chair of Cardiovascular Research, Professor of Medicine, in the Knight Cardiovascular Institute at Oregon Health & Science University. He holds joint professorships in the Departments of Physiology & Pharmacology, Biomedical Engineering and Obstetrics & Gynecology.  He directs the Center for Developmental Health in the Knight Cardiovascular Institute and the OHSU Bob and Charlee Moore Institute for Nutrition & Wellness.  He has expertise in cardiac and pulmonary physiology, placentology, and developmental programming.  He studies the physiological adaptations to pregnancy and the roles of maternal diet and body composition in regulating placental and fetal growth and lifelong health.   He collaborates with scientists in England, New Zealand, Switzerland, Finland, Australia and India. He oversees clinical studies on pregnancy in rural Oregon and Alaska.

 Kent Thornburg trained in developmental physiology, placentology and heart development in zoology at Oregon State University for the Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy degrees. He studied cardiovascular physiology at OHSU as an NIH Fellow.  He then completed studies at Washington University and the University of Oregon in electron microscopy and physics.

 Kent Thornburg is an elected fellow of the American Physiological Society and has served as Editor of the international journal, Placenta, as consulting editor for Pediatric Research; he currently sits on the editorial board of the American Journal of Physiology.  He serves regularly on advisory panels at the National Institutes of Health, the American Heart Association and the Children’s Heart Foundation and serves on the scientific advisory board of the Preeclampsia Foundation.  He has been regularly involved as director of T32 research training for the Knight Cardiovascular Institute and has held grants from four institutes at NIH.  He recently co-chaired the task force to determine the 10 year vision of the developmental origins of health and disease for the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. 

Education and training

    • M.S., 1970, Oregon State University
    • Ph.D., 1972, Oregon State University
  • Fellowship

    • Postdoctoral Fellow, Cardiovascular Sciences, Department of Physiology, Oregon Health Sciences University, 1971-1973
    • Postdoctoral Studies: Electron Microscopy/ Physics, Washington University, St Louis, MO, 1974
    • Fulbright Scholar: Sabbatical, Molecular Embryology, University of Manchester, UK, 1989-1990

Memberships and associations:

  • Senior Fellow, Murdock Charitable Trust , 2015-present
  • Advisor, T32 Training Program, Cardiovascular Disease, University Mississippi, 2015-present
  • Member, Medical Advisory Board, National Preeclampsia Foundation, 2014-present
  • Member, Board of Trustees, George Fox University , 1983-present
  • Honorary Member, Society for the Natal Effects on Health in Adults (SNEHA), Mumbai, India, 2003-present
  • Perinatal Research Society, 2000-present
  • International Council for Research into the Developmental Origins of Adult Disease, 2000-2008
  • International Society for Heart Research, 1996 present
  • Society for Gynecologic Investigation, 1989-present
  • American Heart Association, 1979-present
  • American Physiological Society, 1973-present
  • Biophysical Society, 1973-present
  • American Society of Zoologists , 1970-1998

Areas of interest

  • Maternal-Fetal Biology, Embryo Development, Placental Function, Developmental Origins of Cardiovascular Disease, Epigenetics, Epidemiology, Public Health

Honors and awards

  • College of Science, Alumni Fellow Award, Oregon State University, 2016
  • Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) Annual Cardiac Basic Science Award, 2016
  • Heart Award: Children’s Heart Foundation, Oregon Chapter, 2015
  • Co-chair, Vision Committee for Developmental Origins of Adult Health and Disease, National Institute Child Health and Human Development, 2010-2011
  • Director, Sponsoring Organization: 7th World Congress for Developmental Origins of Adult Disease sponsored by OHSU Heart Research Center, 2011
  • NIH Senior Scientist Award, International Federation of Placenta Associations, 2009
  • Elected Member, Governing Council, Society for Gynecological Investigation, 2003-2006
  • Honorary Member, Society for the Natal Effects on Health in Adults (SNEHA), Mumbai, India, 2003
  • Geoffrey D. Thorburn Visiting Professor, Monash University, University of Western Australia, University of Adelaide, 2003
  • Elected Fellow, American Physiological Society, Cardiovascular Section, 2002
  • M. Lowell Edwards Endowed Chair in Cardiology, 2001
  • OHSU Outreach Award: (K-12 Science Education), 2001
  • Mentor Award, Medical Research Foundation, 2000
  • Outstanding Scientist of the Year, Oregon Academy of Science, 2000
  • Alumnus of the Year, George Fox University, 2000
  • Faculty Marshall: Class of 1999 Commencement, 1999
  • 50th Anniversary Appreciation Award, American Heart Association, Northwest Affiliate, 1998
  • John Bussman Hall of Fame, American Heart Assoc., Oregon Affiliate, 1994
  • Fulbright Scholar, University of Manchester, United Kingdom, 1989-1990
  • NIH Postdoctoral Fellowship, OHSU, 1971-1973
  • NDEA Title II Fellow, Oregon State University, 1967-1970
  • Louis Calder Foundation Scholar, George Fox University, 1963-1967
  • Liley Lecture, 47th annual, Perinatal Research Society Meeting, Itasca, IL, 2016
  • DJP Barker Memorial Lecture, Perinatal Biology Symposium, Snowmass, CO, 2016
  • Basic Science Annual Cardiac Award Lecture, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, 2016
  • Gregor Stoddard Endowed Lecture and Visiting Professorship: Department of Pediatrics, Division of Neonatology University of Colorado, 2015
  • John Dalton Lecture, George Fox University, 2011
  • NIH Senior Scientist Award Lecture, International Federation of Placenta Associations, Adelaide, 2009
  • Bryce Young Lecture, Walla Walla University, 2009
  • Knapp Memorial Lecture, University of Kentucky, 2004
  • Archibald Byron McCallum Lecture, University of Toronto, 1998
  • March of Dimes Lecture, Perinatal Research Society, Ashville, NC, 1997
  • Excellence in Teaching Award, MS I, MS II combined OHSU, 1994-1995, 1997-1998, 2000-2008
  • OHSU Faculty Award for Outstanding Teaching, OHSU, 2001
  • Allan J. Hill, Jr. Award for Teaching Excellence in Basic Medical Science, OHSU Graduating Class, 2000
  • Gender Equity Award, American Medical Women’s Association (Oregon), 1994, 1997
  • Allan J. Hill, Jr. Award, Teaching Excellence in Basic Medical Science, OHSU, Graduating Class, 1996
  • Excellence in Graduate Teaching Award, OHSU, 1992-1993
  • Excellence in Teaching Award, OHSU, 1989, 1992-1993
  • Outstanding Teacher in Respiratory Pathophysiology, MS II OHSU, 1989
  • Best Course Director Award, OHSU, 1988-1989
  • Agnes Higgins Award, National March of Dimes, for distinguished research on nutrition in pregnancy, 2018


Selected publications

  • Kolahi KS, Valent AM, Thornburg KL; Cytotrophoblast, Not Syncytiotrophoblast, Dominates Glycolysis and Oxidative Phosphorylation in Human Term Placenta. Sci Rep. 2017 Feb 23;7:42941. doi: 10.1038/srep42941. PMID: 28230167 PMC 5322316
  • Krebs N, Bagby S, Bhutta ZA, Dewey K, Fall C, Gregory F, Hay W Jr, Rhuman L, Caldwell CW, Thornburg KL. International summit on the nutrition of adolescent girls and young women: consensus statement. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2017 Jul 19. doi: 10.1111/nyas.13417. PMID: 28722768
  • Kolahi K, Louey S, Varlamov O, Thornburg K. Real-Time Tracking of BODIPY-C12 Long-Chain Fatty Acid in Human Term Placenta Reveals Unique Lipid Dynamics in Cytotrophoblast Cells. PLoS One. 2016 Apr 28;11(4). PMCID:PMC4849650
  • Marshall NE, Murphy EJ, King JC, Haas EK, Lim JY, Wiedrick J, Thornburg KL, Purnell JQ. Comparison of multiple methods to measure maternal fat mass in late gestation. AM J Clin Nutr. 2016 Apr;103(4):1055-63. Doi: 10.3945/ajcn.115.112464.  PMID:  26888714
  • Burton GJ, Fowden AL, Thornburg KL. Placental origins of chronic disease.  Physiol Rev. 2016 Oct;96(4):1509-65. doi: 10.1152/physrev.00029.2015. Review  PMID:  27604528, NIHMSID 843751, PMC in process
  • Chattergoon NN, Louey S, Stork PJ, Giraud GD, Thornburg KL. Unexpected maturation of PI3K and MAPK-ERK signaling in fetal ovine cardiomyocytes. Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol. 2014 Oct 15;307(8):H1216-25. doi: 10.1152/ajpheart.00833.2013. 2014. PMCID: PMC4200334
  • Barker DJ, Thornburg KL: The obstetric origins of health for a lifetime. Clin Obstet Gynecol. 2013 PMID:23787713.
  • Chattergoon NN, Giraud GD, Louey S, Stork P, Fowden AL, Thornburg KL: Thyroid hormone drives fetal cardiomyocyte maturation. FASEB J. 2012. PMCID: PMC3250248.
  • O’Tierney PF, Lewis RM, McWeeney SK, Hanson MA, Inskip HM, Morgan TK, Barker DJ, Bagby G, Cooper C, Godfrey KM, Thornburg, KL: Immune response gene profiles in the term placenta depend upon maternal muscle mass. Reprod Sci; 19(10):1041-56. 2012. PMCID: PMC4052206.
  • Marshall NE, Lau B, Purnell JQ, Thornburg KL. Impact of maternal obesity and breastfeeding intention on lactation intensity an duration.  Matern Child Nutr. 2018 Oct 21:e12732. doi: 10.1111/mcn.12732.  PMID: 30345729


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