ANA Names Dr. Jori Fleisher and Dr. Rajarshi Mazumder 2017 International Outreach Travel Scholarship Recipients

Jori Fleisher, MD, MSCE Assistant Professor of Neurological Sciences at Rush University Medical Center, and Rajarshi Mazumder, MD, MPH, a neurology resident at the University of California, Los Angeles, will study and conduct research in Africa in 2018 as recipients of the 2017 International Outreach Travel Scholarship, the first year of the award. Both were recognized at the ANA’s 142nd Annual Meeting, October 15 -17, 2017 in San Diego.

The ANA established this travel scholarship in recognition of the shared goal among neurologists worldwide to reduce the burden of neurological disease through research, education, clinical care, and advocacy. The scholarship enables two recipients, residents, fellows or junior faculty, who are members of the ANA and are training in neurology, the opportunity to work in low to lower-middle income countries for a minimum of six weeks in the upcoming academic year. Candidates must apply and meet specific criteria to be considered.

Scholarship recipients

Member of the ANA’s International Outreach Committee present the 2017 travel scholarship to Jori Fleisher, MD, MSCE, third from left. 

Scholarship recipients

Rajarshi Mazumder, MD, MPH; second from right.

Dr. Fleisher will spend her six weeks at the University Teaching Hospital in Lusaka, part of the joint Global Neurology Program of Beth Israel Medical Center and Rush University Medical Center in Lusaka, Zambia. She will work with Zambian patients in the outpatient neurology clinic and with hospitalized patients presenting with neurological complications in the inpatient medicine ward.

In addition, she will be setting up a Parkinson’s Disease registry to document the extent of the disease, which goes largely untreated in Zambia; the drug Sinemet [Carbidopa/Levodopa], widely available in the United States, is not on the national formulary and is too expensive for most patients to afford out of pocket, Dr. Fleisher said.

Building a case for advocacy

“The hope is to develop a registry to prove that these patients exist and to build a case for advocacy,” Dr. Fleisher said. These patients could be doing so much better than they are in terms of their ability to continue working and sustain their families.”

Dr. Fleisher will have a temporary license to practice medicine in Zambia, and will provide direct neurological care under local supervision. She will participate in teaching Zambian medical students and house staff on various neurologic topics and will prepare lectures on movement disorders.

In turn, she will learn how to provide neurological care in a resource limited setting, and how to diagnose and treat common neurological infections in Zambia that are rare in the US, including tuberculous meningitis, cryptococcal meningitis, neurocysticercosis, typical and atypical presentations of HIV and related opportunistic infections.

Creating sustainable neurological research and education programs

Dr. Mazumder’s travel scholarship will take him to the regional healthcare center at Gulu University in northern Uganda. His project seeks to further characterize the neurophysiology of Nodding Syndrome (NS), an emerging epileptic encephalopathy that is endemic to eastern sub-Saharan Africa, and to build a foundation on which to improve neurological care in the region. Dr. Mazumder will leverage the existing research collaboration between the department of Neurology at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and Gulu University to further build a sustainable neurological research and education program.

Dr. Mazumder’s project has three primary goals: to determine if there are electrophysiological changes on scalp electroencephalogram that predict progression of NS; to provide neurological care at the Gulu regional hospital and local clinics serving children with NS and other epilepsies; and to provide neurological education to medical school students and residents at Gulu University through weekly didactics and bedside rounds in clinics.

He will be mentored on site by Dr. David Kitara Lagoro, a physician-scientist with expertise in diagnosis and management of NS. He will also collaborate with local mentors Dr. Jerome Engel, Jr and Dr. Dawn Eliashiv of UCLA and Dr. Peter Spencer of Oregon Health & Science University.

A window of opportunity

This project’s primary focus on NS will provide a window of opportunity to address part of a vast medical and social problem that arises from a lack of access to neurological care in the resource-constrained parts of the world.

“It’s a great way to synthesize my passion for doing research while bringing neurology education to underserved communities,” Dr. Mazumder said.

In addition to their CV and letters of recommendation, candidates for the ANA scholarship were required to provide a named mentor in the location of training, a letter of support for the host institution, and a detailed proposal outlining the educational opportunities, benefit for the patients at the receiving institution, opportunities for trainees at the receiving institution, and the collaborative research between the US and receiving institution.

The ANA’s International Outreach Committee received many applications from highly qualified candidates, and will be announcing the application window for 2018’s International Outreach Travel Scholarship in the near future.

For more information, please contact Helen Mack at hmack@myana.org.