Eric Wohlford, a student in Upstate’s MD/PhD program, is spending the summer conducting research in Africa after receiving a 2012 travel award from the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.
Eric received round-trip airfare and $1,000 in living expenses for his research project in Kenya. He’s spending two months working in the lab of Rosemary Rochford, PhD, professor and chair of Upstate’s Department of Microbiology & Immunology.
Rochford’s specialty is researching the role of the Epstein-Barr Virus in endemic Burkitt’s lymphoma, the most common childhood cancer in sub-Saharan Africa. Eric is working with Rochford through Upstate’s Center for Global Health and Translational Science, a research center whose goal is to develop treatments for diseases of the developing world.
In Kenya, Eric is studying the effects of malaria on B cells (producers of antibodies that fight infection) and Epstein-Barr Virus infection in the region.
Eric’s fiancee, Katherine Fry, MD, a 2010 Upstate College of Medicine graduate and current pediatrics resident, won an Upstate fellowship, allowing her to join him in Kenya for a one-month pediatrics rotation. She’s working at the Obama Children’s Hospital, dedicated in 2006 by then-Sen. Barack Obama before he became U.S. president.
“Tropical medicine is unique, in that small, focused improvements in patient care make dramatic improvements in the well being of patients,” Eric said. “Not only is tropical medicine appealing because of its impact on individual patients, but because the number of patients affected by tropical diseases is enormous.
“My first long-term experience abroad opened my eyes to the world of global health,” Eric said. “While in college I studied for seven months in Quito, Ecuador. This experience ignited my passion for tropical medicine, which has only grown since.”
In Ecuador, Eric completed a project contrasting public and private health care, interned at private clinics and spent a month studying in the Emergency Department of a public hospital.
The Benjamin H. Kean Traveling Fellowship in Tropical Medicine is one of the society’s “premier awards that is both honorific and substantive,” according to the ASTMH. Last year, Upstate medical student Sarah Ventre won a Kean fellowship and went to Thailand to research hemorrhagic dengue fever.
The award “makes overseas training experiences for students interested in tropical disease possible, and demonstrates the society’s commitment to building the ranks of physician-scientists focused on the infectious diseases common in low-income countries,” according to the ASTMH.
In addition to the ASTMH travel award, Eric won a National Institutes of Health pre-doctoral fellowship to help continue his research through 2015. For more details on Eric’s research, go to his student profile on Upstate’s MD/PhD program page.