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CWRU Global TB Expert Receives Prestigious Fulbright Scholar Award

Anna Maria Mandalakas, MD, MSEpi, associate professor of Pediatrics, Global Health and Epidemiology & Biostatistics at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, has been selected by the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board to receive a 2010 U.S. Fulbright Scholarship. Beginning in August 2010, Dr. Mandalakas is spending 11 months in Tygerberg, South Africa in collaboration with Stellenbosch University to study the benefits of Isoniazid preventative therapy (IPT) on children infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Specifically, she will work to fill the gap between research and practice in the field of childhood tuberculosis focusing specifically on preventive therapy.

The core Fulbright Scholar Program sends 800 U.S. faculty and professionals abroad each year. While abroad, Fulbright Award recipients are encouraged to progress their education through a number of academic and professional fields. As a distinguished Senior Fulbright Scholar, Dr. Mandalakas will analyze the social and economic barriers to the practical implementation of Isoniazid preventive therapy. In conjunction with that research, Dr. Mandalakas will participate in the education of medical students, research staff and physicians while hosting a seminar series on designing clinical research.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity to enrich my ongoing translational research with another dimension of operational research,” says Dr. Mandalakas, a pediatrician with Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital at University Hospitals Case Medical Center. “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.”

A recognized international expert, Dr. Mandalakas has focused her work over the last fourteen years on the identification of children with latent tuberculosis infection, when a patient is infected with tuberculosis but the disease has not yet progressed into the active stage. Children are at greater risk of developing the disease from the infection stage. Dr. Mandalakas will be researching the diagnostics of infection and then translating her findings to the delivery of preventative therapy, which is challenging in a country with very few health care resources. She will examine why preventative therapy is underutilized in South Africa – specifically by exploring the knowledge, attitudes and behaviors of parents and health professionals. A portion of her work abroad will be advocacy to promote implementation of preventive therapy in the country.

“The Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board could not have selected a better candidate than Dr. Mandalakas,” said James Kazura, MD, director, Center for Global Health and Diseases and director, Director of International Affairs in Health Sciences at Case Western Reserve University. “Her dedication to combating tuberculosis, tireless work ethic, and extensive field experience serve as not only a reflection of Case Western Reserve School of Medicine, but as a testament to her high caliber. Anna will make an outstanding ambassador to South Africa.”

Established in 1946 by then-U.S. Senator J. William Fulbright of Arkansas, the Fulbright Program is part of an international effort to promote and foster mutual understanding among 155 countries. Approximately 300,000 Fulbright Scholars have since participated in the Program – collectively totaling 40 Nobel Prizes and hundreds of other notable awards.

The Fulbright Program is sponsored by the United States Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Under a cooperative agreement with the Bureau, the Council for International Exchange of Scholars (CIES) assists in the administration of the Fulbright Scholar Program for faculty and professionals.