Neuroinfectious Disease - Current Fellows and Alumni
Dr. Blen Mamo
Post-Doctoral Clinical Research Fellow (2023-2024)
I'm Blen Mamo, a Neurologist working at a top referral center in Ethiopia, where patients from all over the regional and district hospitals are referred every day for better care. I'm actively engaged in clinical service, teaching Neurology residents, and research activities. Neuroinfectious diseases are the leading cause of hospital admissions and deaths in our country, Ethiopia. Unfortunately, the attention given to it is not satisfactory. There is no dedicated unit or experts in the field. Moreover, available research publications done in our setups are limited to help us guide our clinical decision. I always strive to promote evidence-based decisions in my practice. Through my involvement in my mentor's research projects, I realized that neuro-infections are a significant public health burden, and many neurological disorders are related to cerebral complications of infectious diseases. I am passionate to study more about the neurological complications of HIV/AIDS and opportunistic infections, including Tuberculosis and Toxoplasmosis. One of the challenges resulting in limited publications from our country and Sub-Saharan Africa includes the lack of technical support for researchers. I was looking for such a platform to learn from Neuroinfectious disease experts, as this training is not only a target to achieve but also crucial for the growth of better neurological care in our country.
Vivian Ssonko Namale (MBChB, MMED Pediatrics, Post-Doctoral Clinical Research Fellow (2019-2020))
- Research Physician Bioscience Research, Sub-Investigator
- Board Member International League Against Epilepsy
- Board Member East African Child Neurology in charge of Research
- Lecturer Department of Child Neurology Makerere University
Current/ Completed activities following Fellowship:
- Completed Clinical research on Etiology of Bacterial Meningitis among Children in Uganda following grant from World Federation of Neurology
- Completed Book chapter published in Frontier Neurology Bacterial Meningitis in Africa.
- Currently preparing for symposium under the international Child Neurology Congress
- Training for management of childhood epilepsies.
Being a part of the fellowship set me on a path of research provided me a better understanding of the principles of a good research project and understanding of available opportunities in research. In Africa in general where most of the neurological ailments occur very little documentation is being done. Being a part of this fellowship allowed me to see the need and be part of the group working tirelessly to ensure proper documentation and overall improvement of patient care of my patients.
Dr. Mashina Chomba, Post-Doctoral Clinical Research Fellow (2020-2021)
Dr Mashina Chomba is a Consultant Neurologist and Faculty member in the department of Internal Medicine at the University of Zambia and University Teaching Hospital in Lusaka, Zambia and is one of Zambia's first locally trained neurologists. He is a passionate researcher and teacher and has been part of research efforts aimed at better understanding the epidemiology of neurological diseases, such as Neurocysticercosis and Neurosyphilis.
Dr Chomba is a graduate of the University of Zambia School of Medicine where he attained his medical degree and later his Master of Medicine degree in Neurology. He then completed a 1-year Columbia University Neuroinfectious Disease Post-Doctoral Clinical Research Fellowship in 2021. Through the collaborations formed during the fellowship, he went on to contribute to the World Health Organization 2021 Scientific Brief on NeuroCOVID and the clinical guidelines for management of encephalopathy in severe COVID-19. The skills acquired during the fellowship also served him well when he later completed an NIH Fogarty Global Health Fellow investigating the epidemiology of Neurocysticercosis in Zambia
His main hope is to contribute significantly to the understanding of the epidemiology of neurological disease in Sub-Saharan Africa; and to help formulate innovations that will improve the care of neurology patients in the region.
Dr. Biniyam A. Ayele, Post-Doctoral Clinical Research Fellow (2021-2022)
I had the privilege of training as a remote NeuroID fellow for the year 2021/2022 under supervision of Dr. Kiran Thakur at the prestigious Columbia University Irving Medical Center, USA. The training provides me a unique opportunity in understanding and addressing the complex challenges of neuroinfectious diseases and its impact on the wellbeing of our patients in Ethiopia. This transformative experience has had a profound impact on my clinical career, research endeavors, and professional aspirations. This immersive environment allowed me to broaden my understanding of the intricate connections between infectious agents and the central nervous system, particularly focusing on the HIV-associated cognitive impairments among HIV+ adults in Ethiopia.
During my fellowship, I had the privilege of working closely with Dr. Thakur, whose expertise and guidance were invaluable to my development as a clinician-scientist. Dr. Thakur's unwavering support and commitment to education inspired me to work on a training program which was funded by World Federation of Neurology (WFN) aimed at enhancing the knowledge and skills of our undergraduate medical students in performing lumbar punctures. In addition, the NeuroID training plays a crucial role in enhancing my research capacity and collaborative projects in the field of neuroinfectious diseases. Likewise, as part of the training, I had a unique opportunity to participate in the following projects: a) systematic review on Drug Resistance in TBM, b) Neurological Diagnoses in Hospitalized Patients During the B.1.1.529 Surge, and c) PICO review for the Meningitis roadmap.
Furthermore, the NeuroID training program at Columbia University has been instrumental in opening further training opportunities for me, as I am currently an Atlantic Fellow for Equity in Brain Health at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF). This fellowship will undoubtedly provide me with valuable experiences and insights in the field of brain health. Moreover, the training program at Columbia university has contributed to the advancement of my research career, as I have received a “Young Researcher Award” from the College of Health Science, Addis Ababa University in May 2023.
Finally, my training and collaboration with Dr. Kiran Thakur during my Post-Doctoral Research Fellowship in Neuroinfectious Diseases at Columbia University Irving Medical Center have been pivotal in shaping my clinical career, research skills, and professional goals.
Dr. Zomer Sardar, Post-Doctoral Clinical Research Fellow (2022-2023)
Dr. Zomer Sardar, a general neurologist from Pakistan, is presently practicing at a district-level hospital in Pakistan. She has also been working as a post-doctoral fellow in the neuroinfectious department of neurology at Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York, USA since 2021.
During my remote fellowship in neuro-infectious diseases, I had the opportunity to work on several projects related to neurological diagnosis in COVID-19 patients, drug resistance in tuberculosis, and cryptococcal meningitis. Through this experience, I gained valuable research skills that will serve me well in my future studies. I also learned the importance of collaborating with other institutions and professionals in the field, as we worked with experts from various backgrounds to develop comprehensive approaches to tackling these diseases.
Aside from the practical skills and knowledge I gained, the fellowship also expanded my understanding of the impact of neuroinfectious diseases on individuals and communities. I was struck by the far-reaching consequences of these diseases, from the physical pain and suffering they cause to the economic and social impacts on affected individuals and their families.
Overall, my experience with Dr. Thakur and the other professionals involved in the fellowship has left me with a newfound appreciation for the importance of research and collaboration in addressing the complex challenges posed by neuroinfectious diseases. I am grateful for the opportunity to have participated in this program and look forward to applying the skills and knowledge I have gained in my future work.