Anna Maria Mandalakas, associate professor of pediatrics, global health and diseases, and epidemiology and biostatistics, will soon embark upon an almost one-year journey to aid South African children infected with tuberculosis (TB).
The School of Medicine professor has been selected to receive a 2010 U.S. Senior Fulbright Scholarship. Beginning in August, Mandalakas will spend 11 months in Tygerberg, South Africa, in collaboration with Stellenbosch University. She will study the benefits of isoniazid preventative therapy on children infected with TB.
Selected as a Senior Fulbright Scholar, Mandalakas plans to teach and conduct research. She will lead a seminar series for senior and peer faculty, as well as medical and graduate students, on designing clinical research. Her ongoing research is on the diagnostics of TB infection in children, and her Fulbright research will explore the delivery of preventive therapy by addressing knowledge, attitudes and behaviors related, as well as barriers to implementing preventative therapy.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity to enrich my ongoing translational research with another dimension of operational research,” Mandalakas said. “While implementing our present research in South Africa we are so frustrated as we witness children not receiving the therapy we recommend that can prevent them from getting very sick. This Fulbright- funded research is an opportunity to actually address that problem and hopefully make a difference in the health of many children.”
Mandalakas explained that although TB is dormant in many people, the illness usually manifests itself differently in children. “In children you have a much higher risk that TB infection will progress to active TB disease.”
Although a preventable disease, childhood TB has only become a public health priority within the past decade, Mandalakas said. Childhood TB represents 15 to 40 percent of disease in resource-limited countries such as South Africa, she wrote in her project statement.
Mandalakas added that in addition to research and teaching, her Fulbright work would provide an opportunity to raise awareness about the importance of preventive therapy in children. She will work with researchers and public health officials in South Africa, and plans to share her findings with local, national and international TB controllers. She hopes that these findings may lead to policy reform and infrastructure changes to aid South African children affected by TB.
As part of her ongoing research, Mandalakas has made numerous short trips to South Africa during the past several years. "This extended period of time will allow me to take my research to a whole new level."
She said her Fulbright research would hopefully strengthen research collaboration between Case Western Reserve and Stellenbosch universities.
Case Western Reserve University is committed to the free exchange of ideas, reasoned debate and intellectual dialogue. Speakers and scholars with a diversity of opinions and perspectives are invited to the campus to provide the community with important points of view, some of which may be deemed controversial. The views and opinions of those invited to speak on the campus do not necessarily reflect the views of the university administration or any other segment of the university community.