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The Department of Pediatrics global health research portfolio includes a range of studies that are diverse in size and design, funded by the NIH, private foundations and internally by the Office of International Activities through their Global Health Scholars program. A brief summary of the portfolio, organized by the division of the investigator or sponsor of the Global Health Scholars follows.

Projects led by UNC Pediatric Faculty Investigators

Projects Involving Residents or Fellows led by Other UNC Faculty Investigators


Drs. Carl Bose, Melissa Bauserman and Jackie Patterson lead the UNC-Kinshasa School of Public Health (Democratic Republic of Congo) Research Partnership. Since 2016, they have completed more than 20 research studies sponsored by the NIH, WHO, Thrasher Pediatric Research Fund, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and other agencies. They are part of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver NICHD Global Network for Women’s and Children’s Health Research. The Global Network (GN) is a group of 8 research dyads that conduct clinical trials with the goal of evaluating low-cost, sustainable interventions to improve maternal and child health.  Each research dyad consists of a US site partnered with a site in a low to low-middle income country (Guatemala, Kenya, DRC, Zambia, Pakistan, India (2 sites) and Bangladesh). UNC Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine has enjoyed a long and fruitful partnership with the Kinshasa School of Public Health in the Democratic Republic of Congo and together and has been a part of the Global Network for more than 15 years.

Emergency Medicine

Dr. Elizabeth Fitzgerald is PI for the creation of an acute care database for pediatric patients admitted to KCH. Baseline demographic and clinical information and outcomes have been obtained for all children between 6 months and 3 years who are admitted acutely to the Pediatric department. This information will be used to create and monitor inpatient quality improvement efforts and decrease mortality. Dr. Emily Ciccone, a fellow in Infectious Disease and a Global Health Scholar, and Dr. Alyssa Tilly, a first-year Palliative Care fellow, are also working on this project.


Dr. Satish Gopal (Med-Peds trained, adult oncologist and infectious disease specialist, appointment in the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, based full time in Malawi since 2011) is the Cancer Program Director with UNC Project in Lilongwe, Malawi and is the PI for multiple oncology-related governmental (NIH K01, U54, P20, P30) and privately-funded large-scale studies. Through this support, UNC-Project Malawi has partnered with the Malawi Ministry of Health to establish a pathology laboratory at KCH. UNC has partnered with the Ministry of Health to open Malawi’s first National Cancer Center, which is due to open in early 2019. Dr. Gopal has mentored the research activities of Dr. Kate Westmoreland, a Pediatric Hematology-Oncology fellow. Her work includes validating the pediatric PROMIS-25 survey to measure the patient-reported quality of life throughout lymphoma treatment and to evaluate EBV viral load levels as a marker for diagnosis, prognosis, and response assessment for Burkitt and Hodgkin lymphoma. Dr. Westmoreland is also involved in the KCH Sickle Cell cohort. Dr. Westmoreland is currently a UNC-Duke clinical pharmacology T32 fellow. She has recently applied for a Fogarty K-01 award investigating Burkitt Lymphoma treatment protocols for adolescents and young adults in sub-Saharan Africa. She has developed a website describing UNC Pediatric Oncology research in Malawi: Fellowships for the Division of Pediatric Hematology-Oncology

Dr. Thomas Alexander is co-leading a project in conjunction with the and the UNC School of Pharmacy doing education and Quality Improvement work for a group of Pediatric Oncology Programs in Ethiopia, collaborating with The Aslan Project. Dr. Alexander is also involved in a collaboration with St. Jude, University of Zimbabwe, and the University of Zambia, supporting Pediatric Oncology programs there, and developing a research platform as well.

Infectious Disease

There are several trials ongoing at UNC PM for which Dr. Tisu Mvalo, the Pediatric Country Coordinator for the Project, is the PI, including the Innovative Treatment in Pneumonia (ITIP) trials and TB Meningitis trials.

Dr. Sylvia Becker-Dreps conducts studies of childhood infectious diseases in Leon, Nicaragua through the UNC Program in Nicaragua. Current projects include a birth cohort of 400 children to better understand viral etiologies of diarrhea and how immunity develops from birth. Also, in partnership with MFM faculty, Dr. Elizabeth Stringer, the team in Nicaragua conducts research on the neurodevelopmental outcomes in children of Zika exposure during pregnancy.

Dr. Peyton Thompson is an Assistant Professor in pediatric infectious diseases and an OIA Global Health Scholar. Her research focuses on the prevention of childhood hepatitis B in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (and in the near future hopefully will have projects in Uganda and Malawi!). She is mentored by Dr. Steven Meshnick, Department of Epidemiology, UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health.

Critical Care

Dr. Michelle Gombas, a third-year PICU fellow, is completing a retrospective study describing pediatric patients with cerebral malaria admitted to KCH. She received the UNC OIA Resident Physician Global Health Travel Scholarship during her second year of fellowship. Her faculty sponsors include Elizabeth Fitzgerald and Benny Joyner.


Dr. Brandon Hammond is an anesthesia resident and recipient of an OIA Global Health Scholarship with special interests in pediatric anesthesia, anesthesia for global outreach, and quality improvement. Dr. Hammond’s research focuses on developing and implementing evidence-based educational quality improvement initiatives to support Malawian Anesthesia Clinical Officers and nurses as they care for pediatric patients admitted to KCH’s intensive care unit. His mentors for this work are Dr. Elizabeth Fitzgerald and Dr. Janey Phelps. Dr. Phelps, an Associate Professor of Anesthesiology and Pediatrics at UNC, established the Department of Anesthesiology’s international anesthesia elective for anesthesiology residents and is an ongoing contributor to the Malawian Anesthesia Clinical Officer training program through curriculum development and clinical training.


Dr. Erica Bjornstad is a third-year Pediatric Nephrology fellow and recipient of an OIA Global Health Scholarship, who is investigating the epidemiology of AKI among a trauma cohort of children and adults at Kamuzu Central Hospital. Additional funding was provided by a grant from the International Society of Nephrology with matching funds from the UNC Kidney Center. She is also evaluating 2 new diagnostic dipstick tests to diagnose AKI in resource-limited settings. She will be taking a global health research faculty position as Assistant Professor at the University of Alabama this summer, 2019.