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At 30, this Indian-American is a trailblazer

Last updated on: July 25, 2012 14:47 IST

At 30, this Indian-American is a trailblazer

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Aziz Hanifa in Washington, DC

Indian-American student Dr Sandeep Kishore, who was conferred with the 2012 Raymond W Sarber Awards, tells Aziz Haniffa what the award means to him and how he endeavours to bridge the gap between public sciences and public health.

Dr Sandeep Kishore, 30, a student in the tri-institutional MD-PhD programme, has been awarded one of two 2012 Raymond W Sarber Awards from the American Society for Microbiology.

These awards, established in honour of Sarber for his contributions to the growth and advancement of the Society, recognise students for research excellence and potential at both the undergraduate and pre-doctoral levels.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-born Kishore, currently a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Global Health & Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School, received the award for his research and educational achievements as a pre-doctoral student at Weill Cornell Medical College.

Dr Carl Nathan, chairman and professor of Microbiology and Immunology, and professor of Medicine and the R A Rees Pritchett Professor of Microbiology at Weill Cornell Medical College, lauded Kishore as "a rare individual who is utterly devoted to good causes, singularly effective, everywhere at once, and leaves behind whirlwinds of activity that would otherwise not have stirred but once launched are self-sustaining."

Kishore told rediff.com that "This kind award from the ASM gives great recognition to re-marrying the social and biomedical determinants of health -- and gives great value to the world's trainees keen to re-imagine health this century."

He argued that "our education can and should be levered for transformative change from the bottom up. I'm seeing a movement fomenting to do just that."

In 2006, Kishore developed and co-taught an elective curriculum at Weill Cornell that integrated economic, scientific, clinical, and public health perspectives on contemporary issues surrounding malaria.

Posted on the web, this was the first open-source curriculum on neglected diseases, and garnered international attention at a medical education conference in Havana, Cuba in 2008. The course has since evolved into a full-fledged longitudinal, four-year curriculum managed by students and faculty with full administrative support.

The elective curriculum now attracts 40 per cent of the Weill Cornell first-year medical class and features financial subsidies and support for research, applied public health, or clinical service abroad.

Kishore said, "One of my top priorities was to develop a trainee pipeline to provide early and thorough exposure to interdisciplinary perspectives in global health. I wanted to attempt to answer the question: How does one integrate basic sciences and public health?"

While in the laboratory of Dr Kirk Deitsch, professor of microbiology and immunology at Weill Cornell, he made a fundamental discovery regarding the evolution of the basic transcriptional machinery of malaria parasites -- a discovery that helped form the basis of his current research characterising gene activation in the parasite responsible for malaria.

Deitsch said, "Dr Kishore has demonstrated the ability to utilise multiple approaches, including epidemiology, molecular biology, and computational analysis, to advance this project. This type of interdisciplinary approach is truly powerful, and in my opinion, represents the future of microbiology."

In addition to his outstanding research and classroom accomplishments, Kishore has delved into issues of global health advocacy and policy. He has made extensive contributions outside the laboratory to address a gap between basic scientists and public health practitioners and ensure technologies and health innovations were made available in developing countries.

In 2007, Kishore successfully advocated for the inclusion of a cholesterol-lowering statin on the World Health Organization's Model List of Essential Medicines. He has since petitioned the organisation to include a proton pump inhibitor and a modern beta blocker.

In 2009, he served as an invited speaker for the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine Board on Global Health for the Institution's report "Promoting Cardiovascular Health in the Developing World."

That same year, he founded the Young Professionals' Chronic Disease Network, a collection of young leaders under the age of 40 that advocates for policy change on chronic diseases from the bottom up. These 400 leaders represent 40 countries and more than 170 organisations. In 2010, he represented the Network as a civil society delegate to the United Nations General Assembly.

Last month, he was also invited to speak at TEDMED, a prestigious conference held in Washington, DC, which was broadcast to all of the 155 medical schools across the US and watched by over 50,000 medical students and faculty, and was the youngest student speaker at this parley.

Kishore's health-related work has been featured by the media, including Scientific American, The Huffington Post and The Scientist. He is a co-author of the forthcoming textbook Sick Societies, published by the Oxford University Press.

His technical writings in public health have appeared in a broad range of journals including PLoS Medicine, the Nature Reviews series, Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics, Globalization & Health and Global Forum for Health Research. He currently serves on the board of directors of the global NGO Universities Allied for Essential Medicines.

Kishore is also the the first Lancet Prize winner for community service, and was a recipient of the Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans in 2008.

His nominator, Dr Peter Hotez, founding dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, said he was "deeply impressed with Dr Kishore's drive and ambition to infuse a sense of social purpose and action in graduate and medical education."

"Dr Kishore constantly reminds graduate students of the importance of putting a social conscience behind science," he said.

Kishore received his BS in Biology from Duke University and his MSc from the University of Oxford, where he was an Usher Cunningham Scholar in Medical Sciences. He completed his PhD from Weill Cornell's MD-PhD programme in May, and will return this fall to complete his MD.

His parents, Anand and Lakshmi Kishore, are both physicians, who did their medical school training at Osmania medical college, Hyderabad.

They immigrated to the US in the early 1980s and after their training both practice academic medicine in Southwest Virginia. Anand Kishore is a gastroenterologist while Lakshmi Kishore is an internist and trained geriatrician.

Kishore, though born and raised in the US, frequently visits India, and said he is passionate about developing programmes to control chronic diseases.


Image: A video grab of Dr Sandeep Kishore presenting a lecture at the TEDMED 2012 conference.