Researcher Spotlight: Jonathan Kirsch

August 7, 2019

People pose for a large group photo.

The CGHSR Researcher Spotlight features global health researchers from the University of Minnesota and its partner sites.

UMN Researcher: Jonathan Kirsch, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of General Internal Medicine, Medical School
Research Site: Universidad del Valle, Cali, Colombia

Dr. Jonathon Kirsch is a 2018 recipient of a CGHSR Global Health Seed Grant and an available mentor for the CGHSR Scholars Program. In our first researcher spotlight, he answers a few of our questions on his dengue fever research and experience with mentees in Colombia.


 Q: What do you study?

A: I study dengue fever, an infection spread by mosquitoes that causes fevers in almost 400 million people a year. Some people get this infection and may feel like they have the flu, while others get very sick, bleed easily, and can die if the severe form of the infection isn't caught in time. I use ultrasound––a common technology that is often used when someone is expecting a baby––to help us know if patients are starting to get sick before they have serious complications and end up in the hospital.

Q: Why do you think this research is important?

A: Dengue is very common, sometimes very serious, and is the most rapidly spreading infection throughout much of the world.

Q: Why is it important for you to conduct research at international sites?

A: While it is predicted that dengue might arrive in Minnesota decades from now, it is not here yet. Our international site is in Colombia, which has a very high incidence of dengue infections and many highly skilled researchers that study mosquito-borne illnesses.

Q: What types of students have you mentored at your international site?

A: I've had two medical residents and one medical student that have worked on the project in Colombia. The medical student was a Doris Duke Fellow and was present at the international site for a year. The residents each spent a month at the international site, which we found was too short an amount of time for an effective engagement. A new medical student will be spending 6 weeks at the international site during the summer of 2019. 

I have a very strong team of MD and PhD researchers, MPH students, clinical and basic science researchers in Colombia that are very supportive of visiting student researchers. They are mostly at Universidad del Valle in Cali, Colombia.

Q: Where do you conduct research?

A: Colombia

Q: What do you look for in a mentee?

A: I'd like to have a trainee that is willing to travel to and live in Colombia for an extended period of time. They should also be willing to work independently, write well, and be flexible. Mentees must speak Spanish to communicate when at the site, though all of my colleagues are bilingual. I am interested in a longer-term student in a masters or PhD program, but I would be willing to take a shorter-term student interested in having a discrete project.

Q: Can you share a story or news article about dengue that captures the way it is relevant to global health?
A: Here are two relevant articles that have been released recently and cover the relevance of dengue research to global health.
 

 Neelesh Dewan stands with a Universidad del Valle mascot

Q: What have previous trainees said about their experience on your projects?

A: "I could not have asked for a better set up. We collaborated with a world leader in dengue research, Dr. Lyda Osorio, at a renowned public university, Universidad del Valle (Univalle), in a hot spot for dengue (and salsa!), applying the latest technology (mobile ultrasound) for use in neglected tropical disease. It is a noble project that could improve diagnosis of severe dengue while also changing policy, set in one of the most lively places in the world: Cali, Colombia. A typical day for me would include collecting patient data at our partner hospital, attending class at the School of Public Health at Univalle, then meeting with friends for cerveza, or to plan trips to explore Colombia’s incredible beauty, history, and people.”

—Neelesh Dewan, former research trainee mentored by Dr. Kirsch in Cali, Colombia.

 

If you would like your global health research to be featured in the upcoming Researcher Spotlight series, please contact CGHSR at globalhc@umn.edu.

  

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