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Associate Professor of Medicine

Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology
Center for Functional GI and Motility Disorders


Curriculum Vitae

130 Mason Farm Road
Chapel Hill, NC 27599
Campus Box 7080
Phone: 919-843-0688
Fax: 919-843-2793



Dr. van Tilburg is an Associate Professor of Medicine in the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology. She received her Master’s degree in Economic Psychology and her PhD in Health Psychology at Tilburg University in The Netherlands. Subsequently, she completed a three-year postdoctoral fellowship in Endocrinology and Medical Psychology at Duke University Medical Center. In 2002, Dr. van Tilburg joined the UNC Center for Functional GI & Motility Disorders. Dr. van Tilburg conducts pediatric research but does not treat patients in the GI clinic.

Dr. van Tilburg conducts studies both in adults and children but her main interest is in pediatric functional GI disorders. Compared to adults, functional GI disorders in children have received relatively little attention. Dr van Tilburg has significantly expanded the Center’s research activities in this area. Her research has focused on family factors, trauma, and the development of treatments. Currently her research activities include:

(1) An NIH funded study to help parents better manage their child’s pain. This study is in collaboration with Dr. Levy from the University of Washington.

(2) The first study to examine the role of mitochondrial DNA and low cellular energy metabolism across various chronic pain conditions. This study is funded by the NIH and conducted in collaboration with Dr. Maixner (UNC) and Dr Boles (Children’s Hospital Los Angeles).

(3) Several projects to examine the role of eating behaviors in child’s abdominal pain; including a picky eating registry on which Dr van Tilburg closely collaborates with Dr Zucker (Duke University).

Dr. van Tilburg has received funding for her work from the NIH, Rome foundation, International Foundation of Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders, American College of Gastroenterology, pharmaceutical companies and through the Center. She collaborates with pediatricians and researchers at her own and numerous other institutions including the following: Duke University, Wake Forest University, Goryeb Children’s hospital, Emma’s Children’s Hospital, National University of Singapore and the University of Washington. Besides these collaborators Dr. van Tilburg’s research team includes Megan Squires, BA (research coordinator) and several graduate and undergraduate students. For her work, she was awarded the 2007 Pediatric Junior Investigator Award of the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD).

Research Interests

Functional Abdominal Pain, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, constipation, and fecal incontinence in children and adolescents.

Honors and Awards

  • TEDMED Frontline Scholarship and Delegate, 2012
  • Marquis Who is Who in Medicine and Health Care, 2011, 2012, 2013
  • International Foundation for Functional GI Disorders Junior Investigator Pediatrics Award, 2007

Recent Publications:

  1. van Tilburg, M.A.L., Rouster, A., Silver, d., Pellegrini, G., Gao, J., & Hyman, P.E. (2015). Development and validation of a Rome III questionnaire for infant and toddler functional gastrointestinal disorders. Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition, in press.
  2. Johnson, M., Javalkar, K., van Tilburg, M.A.L., Haberman, C., Rak, E., & Ferris, M. (2015). The relationship of transition readiness, self-efficacy, and adherence to preferred health learning platform by youth with chronic conditions. Journal of Pediatric Nursing, Epub ahead of print June 29 2015. doi: 10.1016/j.pedn.2015.05.014.
  3. Palsson,O.S., & van Tilburg, M.A.L. (2015). Hypnosis and Guided Imagery Treatment for Gastrointestinal Disorders: Experience With Scripted Protocols. American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 58(1), 5-21, DOI: 10.1080/00029157.2015.1012705.
  4. van Tilburg, M.A.L., Claar, R., Romano, J., Langer, S., walker, L., Whitehead, W.E., Abdullah, B., Christie, D., & Levy, R.L. (2015)The role of coping with symptoms in depression and disability: Comparison between Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Abdominal Pain. Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition, published ahead of print April 28 2015. doi: 10.1097/MPG.0000000000000841
  5. van Tilburg, M.A.L., Levy, R.L., Walker, L.S., Von Korff, M., Feld, L.D., Garner, M., Feld, A.D., Whitehead, W.E. (2015). Psychosocial mechanisms for the transmission of somatic symptoms from parents to children in the setting of irritable bowel syndrome. World Journal of Gastroenterology, 21(18), 5532-5541. DOI:
  6. van Tilburg, M.A.L., Hyman, P.E., Walker, L.S., Rouster, A., Palsson, O.S., Kim, S.M., & Whitehead, W.E. (2015). Prevalence of functional gastrointestinal disorders in infants and toddlers. The Journal of Pediatrics, 166(3), 684-689. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2014.11.039
  7. van Tilburg, M.A.L., & Murphy, T.B. (2015). The quality of life paradox in gastrointestinal disorders. The Journal of Pediatrics, 166(1), 11-14.