SOM Students Receive Prestigious National Research Awards

A UNM School of Medicine fellow and a medical student each received prestigious awards at the recent annual meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH) in Philadelphia for research the two are conducting on the second most fatal parasitic disease of India.

Amber Read, M.D., an Infectious Diseases fellow within the Department of Internal Medicine, was awarded the prestigious Burroughs Wellcome Trust Fellowship, a two-year research grant valued at approximately $145,000. She also received the Pfizer Centennial Travel Award in Basic Science Disease Research. The award is a travel fellowship that provides support for a short-term research experience in the tropics.

Heidi Hillesland, a UNM medical student received the Benjamin Kean Traveling Fellowship in Tropical Medicine. The fellowship supports medical students involved in clinical or research electives in tropical areas.

The two work under the direction of Dr. Ravi Durvasula, an associate professor within the Department of Internal Medicine’s Division of Infectious Diseases. Their research is on visceral leishmaniasis, also known as Kala Azar or “Black Fever.” The potentially deadly disease is caused by the bite of the sand fly and has become the second most fatal parasitic disease in India, claiming 60,000 victims annually. Most of the victims of kala azar are from India’s rural poor and the disease is second only to malaria as a cause of death. An estimated 350 million people in 88 countries in inter-tropical and temperate regions are said to be at risk from the disease.

Dr. Durvasula, Co-Director of The International Medicine Program at UNM, also leads UNM’s research collaboration with the Rajendra Memorial Research Institute (RMRI) located in Patna, India. Both women will travel to Patna as part of their research.
Contact: Cindy Foster, 272-3322

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