Sarah Boudová was born and raised in Minnesota. She moved to Philadelphia for college and completed a BA in biochemistry with a minor in political science, and a MS in chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania. During her undergraduate days, Sarah conducted public health research in Botswana and Cameroon, which catalyzed her fascination with tropical medicine. These experiences helped inform her master’s thesis on developing a diagnostic assay for immune reconstitution syndrome. After college, Boudová worked as a research assistant for two years before starting her MD/PhD studies at the University of Maryland in the Medical Scientist Training Program.
In the summer after her first year of medical school, she conducted a research rotation in Blantyre, Malawi, as a Doris Duke Foundation Malaria Research Fellow. This work inspired her thesis project on how malaria during pregnancy affects the development of the fetal immune system and subsequent susceptibility of the infant to malaria. Boudová is currently in the second year of her PhD program in molecular microbiology and immunology. Boudová's long-term goal is to become a physician-scientist specializing in pediatric infectious diseases at a major academic institution and conduct research on host-pathogen interactions. She wants to split her research time between lab work and fieldwork in the developing world.
Project: "The Effects of Malaria in Pregnancy on Child Immunity in Blantyre, Malawi"
July 1, 2013 - September 1, 2013
What does the Kean Fellowship mean to you?
I am proud and feel honored to have received the Kean Fellowship. It is incredibly motivating to have received an award from the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene indicating that I am considered part of the future of the field of tropical medicine. I am inspired by the work of Dr. Kean and the Kean Fellows who have come before me, and I am determined to live up to the high expectations of this fellowship. I intend to use this opportunity as a stepping-stone to eventually become a leader in the field of tropical medicine.
More immediately, the Kean Fellowship provides valuable support to continue my thesis work on the effects of maternal malaria during pregnancy on the development of the fetal immune system and subsequent susceptibility of the infant to malaria in Blantyre, Malawi. Having airfare and living expenses covered by the Kean Fellowship will free up funds for reagents and equipment for my project that I could not otherwise afford. Perhaps most important to me, though, the Kean Fellowship is an endorsement of the potential significance of my research and provides validation of my aspiration to become a physician-scientist in the field of tropical medicine.
What do you anticipate learning?
As a Kean Fellow, I look forward to the many learning opportunities I will have in Malawi. I am eager to learn malaria parasite culture from the experts in the field, practice cryopreservation of blood samples, and learn how to work efficiently with limited resources. This experience will expose me to the clinical aspects of the field. By interacting with patients and infectious disease doctors I will learn about the daily activities of tropical medicine and appreciate how to work as part of a medical team. I will be able to observe clinical studies in Malawi as well as spend time rounding in the malaria research ward.
On a personal note, while my passions for research and global health led me to enter an MD/PhD program, I am still determining how best to meld these interests into a career. The Kean Fellowship will allow me to conduct immunology research with patients in a malaria-endemic region. I will be involved in all steps from logistics, to study design, to sample collection, to final data analysis. This unique opportunity will confirm if a research career in tropical medicine is a viable path for me, and teach me the skills I will need to succeed as a tropical medicine physician-scientist.
What interests you about tropical medicine and what problems are you interested in solving?
I find the complex interactions between humans and parasites engrossing. So little is understood about the interplay between pathogen virulence, host immunity and disease pathogenesis. I would love to play a role in helping to elucidate some of these factors. Plasmodium falciparum malaria is particularly interesting to me since this is a parasitic disease responsible for massive morbidity and mortality globally, and despite extensive research and public health strategies it is still pervasive and lacks a vaccine. I hope that my research may contribute to understanding how this pathogen can affect the immune response, and that this information can be used to improve public health interventions. I am most interested in doing research in tropical medicine that can be translated into public health initiatives that can save lives. Working in a resource-poor setting and observing the effects of tropical diseases is highly frustrating but also deeply motivating. I enjoy the creative problem solving that is essential for working in tropical medicine. It is remarkable what medical care can be offered, and what research can be accomplished when even basic amenities that are taken for granted in the US, like running water and electricity, are unreliable or absent. The doctors and scientists who confront these problems on a daily basis inspire me. Ultimately, I hope, as a future physician-scientist in tropical medicine, that I will be able to provide high quality care for patients and conduct cutting-edge tropical disease research, by partnering with and learning from physicians and researchers where these infections are endemic.