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Adamowicz Presents at 2014 Research Recognition Day

Thumbnail image for Adamowicz.pngGraduate Research Assistant Elizabeth Adamowicz presented at the 2014 Research Recognition Day for the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Programs.  Her poster was titled "Genetic diversity of Plasmodium falciparum from western Kenya highland areas prone to malaria epidemics".  The conference, held on May 22, involved all biomedical graduate programs at the University of Minnesota and included a poster session, a 3-minute thesis competition, and keynote speakers.

Shabani Awarded Silver Medal at PRESS

Shabani.jpgGraduate Research Assistant Estela Shabani participated in the Pediatric Research, Education, and Scholarship Symposium (PRESS).  She gave a 3-minute speed talk (3 slides) and presented a poster titled "High levels of erythropoietin are not associated with neuroprotection in Ugandan children with cerebral malaria".  She was awarded the Silver Medal in the Graduate Student Category.  Congratulations to Estela on this outstanding achievement!

Bartholomew Ondigo On His PhD Defense

Bartholomew Ondigo, Ph.D.

Dr. Bartholomew Ondigo has been mentored through his immunology Ph.D. program at Maseno University in Kenya by Dr. Chandy John (U of M) and Dr. Ayub Ofulla (Maseno University).

Dr. Ondigo has been supported through Dr. John's D43 training grant and was also a 2012-13 Fogarty Global Health Fellow. He is now working as a researcher on Dr. John's malaria research studies in Kisumu, Kenya. We congratulate him on his hard work and fine scientific achievements. 

The following piece, "Reflections On My Ph.D. Defense Day" was written by Dr. Ondigo:

"Its over. The time of the dreaded PhD thesis defense has passed." These are the words that passed through my mind after I had just defended.

On 8 August 2013, I had to summarize my four-year research studies to a panel of 12 - 15 faculty members. This panel would determine whether I got the Ph.D. or not (failed).  

After 40 minutes of PowerPoint presentation and 3 hours of questioning by the faculty (making a total of 220 minutes), I achieved my goal.

I was tense, though I had prepared as advised by my supervisors. My thesis was entitled "Validation of a cytometric multiplex assay and examination of antibody responses to Plasmodium falciparum antigens in the highlands of western Kenya during a period of low malaria transmission".

All of my supervisors had insisted that for me to pass the defense, I had to read and master the contents of my thesis adequately ("inside out"). I had to prepare myself not to be over-confident and, at the same time, not to show the examiners that I don't "own" the thesis. I was a little bit optimistic that all would go well in the defense since we Ph.D. students all review each other's academic work. 

I gathered the following pointers when preparing to thesis defense, which I am happy to share with fellow students:

  1. Take time to respond to questions asked by faculty members.
  2. As a student often before responding to the question start with the phrase, " Good question."
  3. Before the D-day of thesis defense, plan for a mock presentation among your fellow colleagues in the laboratory. 
  4. On the D-day, defend your work and interpretation - you are the expert.
I am happy to say that the four years spent in the laboratory performing experiments will shape my future global health research endeavors.

Good luck!

Dare Odumade Receives Doris Duke Charitable Foundation Fellowship

Oludare A Odumade, PhD (2011- in immunology as part of the Microbiology, Immunology and Cancer Biology graduate program), currently pursuing a medical school degree at the University of Minnesota Medical School under the medical scientist training program. 

Congratulations to Dare Odumade, recipient of a Doris Duke Charitable Foundation fellowship. Read on for a description of her work, in her own words.

According to the World Health Organization, approximately half of the world's population is at risk of malaria. Of the 4 Plasmodium parasites that cause malaria, Plasmodium falciparum is the most common and most deadly. 

Transmission of malaria occurs via the bite of Anopheles mosquitoes and is dependent especially on environmental climate, prevention via vector control and antimalarial drugs, and human immunity. 

Even after infection, only partial immunity develops, and this, too, is often lost when individuals leave malaria endemic areas for prolonged periods. While there are attempts to develop vaccines, none are currently approved for use in the general population. 

Research Proposed
My goal is to compare the basic immunological repertoire in developing (specifically Kenya and Uganda) and western countries (i.e. America), as underlying differences can affect an individual response to Plasmodium falciparum infection and subsequent immunity. 

Specifically, I would like to determine the role of antigen-specific lymphocytes in the immunity to Plasmodium falciparum infection. The proposal will examine the B cell frequency and phenotypes in individuals from malaria endemic versus non-endemic areas, with and without history of known clinical infection. 

Understanding what aspects differ is key to sound design of studies to protect both children and adults against malaria-related morbidity and mortality. 

Hamre Awarded 2013-14 Fogarty Fellowship

Karen Elaine Stella Hamre, MPH
Current course of study: Doctor of Philosophy in Epidemiology, University of Minnesota School of Public Health

Congratulations to Karen Hamre, who has been awarded a Fogarty fellowship for 2013-14. Learn more about her project and goals, in her own words:

Highland areas (>1,500m above sea level) are targeted for malaria elimination due to their unstable transmission patterns. Unlike in malaria holoendemic regions where partial immunities to malaria are built-up and sustained through years of infectious mosquito bites, populations in highland areas are susceptible to epidemics as their immune responses wane due to the highly seasonal and sporadic nature of transmission.

Dr. Chandy John and his colleagues at the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI), Dr. John Vulule and Dr. George Ayodo, have been conducting research in the highland areas of Kipsamoite and Kapsisiywa in western Kenya for over a decade. 

Through his active and passive surveillance studies, he reported evidence of local malaria transmission interruption from April 2007-March 2008 after the Kenyan Ministry of Health implemented annual indoor residual spraying and switched to first-line artemisinin-combination therapy anti-malarial drugs for treatment of uncomplicated malaria. 

Interrupting local transmission is the first step towards the elimination stage.

During my 11 months in Kisumu, Kenya, as a Fogarty Global Health Scholar, I plan to utilize the rich data Dr. John is collecting on anthropogenic (e.g., roof structure, wall material, bednet usage, numbers in household), demographic (e.g., age, gender), entomologic (e.g., vector density and species), environmental (e.g., rainfall and temperature), and spatial (e.g., global positioning information of households, schools, forests, swamps) factors to study the epidemiology of malaria across time and transmission patterns in the same study population and location.

I intend to contribute to the understanding of the epidemiology of malaria in this highland area by making comparisons of predictors of malaria risk before and after interruption of transmission.

Specifically, I aim to determine where clustering of incidence occurs (i.e., identify 'hot spots' of malaria) after the period of interruption, and evaluate whether these clusters and related predicting ecologic risk factors correlate with those reported during epidemic and non-epidemic months before interruption.

Understanding how malaria interruption may affect several predictors of risk in highland settings will help inform future targeted control and elimination strategies.

For more information on the Fogarty fellowships, visit the Global Peds website

Eckerle Publishes On Vision and Hearing In International Adoptees


Global Pediatrics faculty, Judy Eckerle, published in the April issue of Maternal Child Health: "Vision and Hearing Deficits and Associations With Parent-Reported Behavioral and Developmental Problems In International Adoptees". Dana Johnson was a co-author.

Cusick Commentary Published On UNICEF Website

Screenshot of Cusick's commentary on UNICEF Office of Research website

A commentary by Global Pediatrics faculty member Sarah Cusick was published by the UNICEF Office or Research. Her commentary defends the importance of nutrition in brain development in the first 1000 days of life. 

Nick Sausen Receives IMER Scholar Award

Nick Sausen.jpg

Congratulations to Nick Sausen, who received the first Global Pediatrics IMER Scholar Award. Nick will be going to Uganda for a year to work on the neurologic and seizure complications of children with severe malaria, as part of a research project run by Global Pediatrics faculty members Chandy John and Robert Opoka.

Cusick Returns From Uganda

Sarah Cusick, nutrition and development researcher and faculty in Global Pediatrics, spent 6 weeks in Uganda in October and November 2012. During that time, she met with Ugandan colleagues and worked with them to set up the logistical details for her NIH-funded study of iron absorption in children with malaria. Her time in Uganda culminated in a 3-day training session for clinical, data and field staff.

Site P.I. Ezekiel Mupere, faculty at Makerere University in Kampala, lectures to research
staff on ethics in international research.

Andrew Ssemata, Uganda researcher, packs folders for the training

Study team members participate in role-playing demonstrations

The R03 study team

Clinical team members practice preparing the iron stable isotopes

A volunteer child research subject taste tests the iron-stable isotope in some mango juice--she loved it!

Top Honors To Global Peds Faculty and Resident at AAP SOICH

Tina Slusher, M.D.

Global Pediatrics core faculty, Tina Slusher, received 2012 overall best abstract presentation in international child health at the annual American Academy of Pediatrics Section on International Child Health educational program lats week. Her abstract, "Selectively Filtered Sunlight Phototherapy Is Safe and Efficacious for Treatment of Neonatal Jaundice In Nigeria", concludes that, "With appropriate monitoring, this practical, inexpensive and novel method of using FS-PT offers a safe and efficacious treatment strategy for management of neonatal jaundice in areas of the world where no other treatment is available. Additionally, it promotes mother/child bonding during treatment."

Pediatric Global Health Track participant, Tundun Williams, was awarded 2012 best poster in international child health for her poster: Glucose-6-Phosphate Dehydrogenase Deficiency in Nigerian Children.

Winning poster on G6PD deficiency in Nigeria by Tundun Williams, M.D. et al.