Christian Parobek is a medical student at the University of North Carolina and studies malaria genetics in the lab of Dr. Jonathan Juliano. Parobek developed an interest in infectious diseases and tropical medicine during his first year of medical school and is now pursuing his PhD in these areas. He has presented his research at national and international conferences and is just beginning to publish journal articles. He has worked for several organizations devoted to public health both while in medical school and as an undergraduate at Duke University. Parobek looks forward to soon marrying his fiancee Bisset Lee, who is also a graduate student at UNC.
Project: "Molecular Correlates of Infectivity for Malaria Transmission Blocking Trials"
July 22, 2013 - September 6, 2013
Cambodia and Thailand
What does the Kean Fellowship mean to you?
Getting this award is incredibly exciting. I’ve heard that the Ben Kean Fellowship is like a christening for a career in global health, and I’m really looking forward to it. This will be my first chance to do research in a foreign setting, my first chance to participate in a field study, and my first chance to participate in the care of patients with tropical diseases. I’ve wanted these experiences for years, and now ASTMH and the memory of Dr. Kean are helping those dreams become reality. Reading and hearing about “global health” is great, but it cannot compare to living it. The experiences, relationships and perspective I will develop from this opportunity will be irreplaceable, and I anticipate drawing on them heavily in the future - through residency, fellowship, and whatever comes after that.
What do you anticipate learning?
Through the Ben Kean award, I will learn and experience so much in Thailand. I will hone my skills as a scientist by participating in hypothesis-driven research. I will learn the prospects and challenges of field studies in a developing country. And I will experience the challenges and rewards of caring for patients in a limited-resource setting.
However, the thing I’m most excited about is gaining the “street smarts” of tropical medicine. How do you identify interesting and useful research questions? How do you get funding to answer those questions? How do you find collaborators? How do you work at the intersection of academic, federal, and foreign agencies? These are some of the skills I hope to develop. These skills would be hard to come by without touching them and living them. I’m looking forward to carrying these skills with me throughout my career as a physician.
What interests you about tropical medicine and what problems are you interested in solving?
Tropical medicine interests me because it affects so many people while remaining so understudied. Cancer and heart disease are terrible and fascinating, but they’re not neglected to the same extent as tropical diseases. In tropical medicine, we have the challenge of making people (including funders) care about these important diseases.
I want to spend my career building cross-disciplinary partnerships to more efficiently solve some of these problems. Working together, bench scientists, physicians, bioinformaticians, epidemiologists, and anthropologists (for example) could develop effective interventions more quickly and more cheaply than working alone. Others are already taking this approach to tropical diseases, and I look forward to contributing to and strengthening these collaborations.