Charlene W. Compher, PhD, RD, LDN, FADA, FASPEN

Charlene W. Compher, PhD, RD, LDN, FASPEN

Professor of Nutrition Science

Director of Graduate Nutrition Programs

Advanced Practice Dietitian Specialist

An enhanced understanding of the role of diet in health and disease is a compelling challenge of the 21st century

Through her research and clinical practice, Charlene W. Compher works to meet this challenge while enhancing the quality of nutrition care of vulnerable populations and training the next generation of nutrition scientists and nurses.

Embedding nutrition science into investigations of diet-disease relationships is an essential step towards health promotion and disease prevention. Establishing the evidence to support nutrition care for health systems and clinicians will improve the quality of healthcare globally.


  • PhD, Drexel University, 1999 
  • MS, Drexel University, 1982 
  • BS, University of Tennessee, 1970


Dr. Compher’s team science research is directed towards clarifying the impact of dietary or nutritional intake, in the context of gut intestinal microbiota and metabolites, on health and disease. Novel approaches to obtain information about dietary intake in a user-friendly way is a key focus.

Social Justice

Dr. Compher’s scholarship is committed to equitable access to a healthy diet and evidence-based, high quality nutrition care. Nutritional vulnerability can result from food insecurity or structural racism with limited employment opportunities as well as from the impacts of unsafe neighborhood environments, all resulting in limited access to healthy food. The strong association between unhealthy diet and increased burden of chronic noncommunicable diseases is recognized in the US and globally. Chronic and acute diseases can lead to malnutrition that requires diagnosis and effective treatment. Dr. Compher’s research, clinical practice, and global collaborations converge to address these key concerns in vulnerable populations.


NUTR 6070: Nutrition Science Capstone Planning

NUTR 6080: Nutrition Science Capstone Completion

Dr. Compher directs our innovative asynchronous online MS in Nutrition Science, focused on multi-professional education and our Graduate Nutrition Certificate and Minor. In the virtual classroom, Dr. Compher employs innovative approaches to reduce the impact of socioeconomic inequities on learning. She is committed to outstanding mentorship as a strategy to enable all students to attain their highest potential.


Research on Gut Microbiota and Metabolites to Advance Nutrition Science

Much of Dr. Compher’s current research examines links between diet, the gut microbiota, metabolites, and important clinical outcomes. As Director of Diet Assessment Research for the Penn-CHOP Microbiome Program and as Director of Clinical Initiatives for the Penn Center for Nutrition Science and Medicine (PenNSAM, she facilitates the incorporation of dietary intake information into team science projects. She leads the development of the Penn Healthy Diet survey to obtain information about diet quality for nutrition counseling sessions as well as for microbiome and metabolome investigations.

Clinical Practice

As a clinician educator for the Clinical Nutrition Support Service at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Compher is an Advanced Practice Dietitian Specialist and team leader for home parenteral nutrition and for research. The Clinical Nutrition Support Service, comprised of dietitians, nurses, pharmacists, and physicians, is the oldest nutrition team in the U.S., providing evidence-based nutrition care to high-acuity adult patients.

Dr. Compher was president of the American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition (ASPEN) in 2016-17, a multi-professional society that seeks to lead the science and practice of clinical nutrition. She published 16 clinical guidelines for the provision of enteral or parenteral feedings for children or adults as editor in chief of clinical guidelines for ASPEN. She has partnered with leaders from global nutrition societies to develop the Global Leadership Initiative on Malnutrition (GLIM), an approach to standardize the diagnosis of malnutrition in adults in clinical settings and enable identification of best practices in treatment of malnutrition. Dr. Compher is a renowned thought leader in clinical nutrition and metabolism.

Opportunities to Learn and Collaborate at Penn Nursing

Dr. Compher is deeply committed to collaboration in research, clinical practice, and education. She excels at facilitating the work of groups to achieve greater research productivity, quality of care, and optimized learning experiences.

Selected Career Highlights

  • Elaine R. Monsen Memorial Award for Outstanding Research Literature 2023
  • Normal M. Lang Distinguished Award for Scholarly Practice and Policy, School of Nursing 2019
  • Fellow, American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition
  • Honorary memberships, European Society for Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism, and Chinese Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition
  • Excellence in Research Awards, American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition and Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Faculty Mentorship Award, Biobehavioral Health Systems Department, Penn Nursing
  • Alumni Award for Service to the Profession of Dietetics, Drexel University

Accepting Mentees?

  • Yes

Accepting Fellows?

  • Yes

Selected Publications

View all publications


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left to right Charlene Compher, PhD, RD, LDN, FASPEN; JoAnn Nallinger Grant, RN; and Charis Louis, BSN, RN, CPN, BMTCN, in 2018

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