Two researchers at UNC Project-Malawi recognized with Young Investigator Awards

Two researchers at UNC Project-Malawi recognized with Young Investigator Awards click to enlarge Charles Chasela, PhD

Jan 4, 2010 -- Charles Chasela and Dumbani Kayira, who are both researchers at UNC Project-Malawi, a research, care and training facility in Lilongwe, have been recognized with the Young Investigators Award in acknowledgment for their outstanding achievements in research by the scientific program committee of the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI).

The award covers transportation and registration costs to the 2010 CROI meeting in San Francisco, California, on Feb. 16-19, 2010, where both will present abstracts.

“This means a lot,” said Chasela, whose research focuses on the epidemiology of Hepatitis B and C among HIV infected women. “It provides a chance to interact with other young investigators from different countries working in HIV/AIDS-related topics.”

Chasela, who just completed a PhD in epidemiology from University College Dublin, has served as project director of the BAN study, a large-scale, randomized trial in Malawi studying the prevention of HIV transmission through breast milk. He has been with UNC Project since 2001.

Chasela’s mentor, Charles van der Horst, a professor of medicine at UNC and principal investigator of the BAN study, said that Chasela did not seek leadership initially. "He was a quiet man who did not take easy to assuming leadership,” van der Horst said. “He quickly and confidently moved into a crucial leadership position. He is a superb clinician, a good writer, a great investigator and a wonderful young man.”

Chasela is no stranger to awards, however. He was honored with the prestigious Ad Astra award from the University College Dublin, The award, which pays for the PhD, is presented to the university’s top doctoral students across all disciplines.

Dumbani Kayira
Dumbani Kayira

Joining Chasela in San Francisco will be Kayira, who is at UNC Project as part of the NIH Fogarty International Clinical Research Scholars Program (FIRCS). He is conducting research on multi-drug resistant tuberculosis.

Kayira is honored to have qualified for such a prestigious and fiercely competitive award.  “[Winning the award] tells me how important the work I have been doing for the past three years is,” Kayira said.

Kayira’s main interest of research and clinical work is in pediatric health care. Kayira said that research alone is “very fulfilling.” At the same time, Kayira aspires to be a fully trained clinician.  Next year he will receive advanced training in pediatrics at University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa, with sponsorship from UNC.

“[Dumbani] is a promising leader in child health and research in Malawi,” van der Horst said.

At Kamuzu Central Hospital in Lilongwe, where UNC Project is based, there only one Malawian pediatrician. “I cannot overemphasize the need,” said Kayira, who will also receive training in epidemiology. “This is a strong combination of skills with which I will be able to contribute to health care in my country and to the research community as a whole.”

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