USF recognizes three public health professors for outstanding research

Three College of Public Health faculty members have been recognized with 2009 Outstanding Research Achievement AwardsJohn Adams, PhD, Professor, Global Health; Russell Kirby, PhD, Professor and Marrell Endowed Chair, Community and Family Health; and Hamisu Salihu, MD, PhD, Professor, Epidemiology. The awards are bestowed on faculty whose exceptional research was recognized with preeminent awards, grants or publications in top journals during the 2008 calendar year. The $1,000 awards were presented Oct. 9 at a luncheon sponsored by the USF Office of Research & Innovation.

Dr. John Adams was recognized for the publication of “Comparative Genomics of the Neglected Human Parasite Plasmodium vivax Illuminates Malaria Parasite Biology” in the journal Nature and two articles in Public Library of Science Pathogens (PLoS Path). A member of the USF College of Public Health’s Global Health Infectious Diseases Research team, he studies protein ligands that help malaria parasites bind to a person’s red blood cell wall. His team uses advanced analytic technologies to pursue effective vaccine and mosquito-based therapies to prevent malaria caused by P. vivax and P. falciparum, the most common types of malaria. Dr. Adams contributed to a major international research initiative comparing the genome of the malaria parasite P. vivax with other sequenced Plasmodium genomes. Comparing similarities and differences between parasites’ genomes can help determine genetic targets for new drugs and vaccine development. Dr. Adams oversees the Vector-Borne Pathogen Laboratory, or insectary, where researchers study the complex life cycle of the malaria parasite transmitted by mosquitoes.

Dr. Russell Kirby was recognized for receiving the Godfrey P. Oakley, Jr. Award by the National Birth Defects Prevention Network for his significant contributions to the field of birth defects and his senior leadership in several collaborative research projects undertaken by the network. Dr. Kirby is a doctorally-trained geographer with extensive training and experience in public health practice, academic medicine and academic public health. While his research interests in maternal and child health are quite broad, he focuses on population-based research in birth defects and developmental disabilities epidemiology and prevention, as well as on risk factors for adverse pregnancy outcomes. He recently co-authored the book Perinatal Epidemiology for Public Health Practice, and collaborates extensively with professionals from a variety of disciplines, including medicine, nursing, public health, economics, sociology and psychology. Dr. Kirby is president of the Society for Pediatric and Perinatal Epidemiologic Research and of the Association of Teachers of Maternal and Child Health.

Dr. Hamisu Salihu was recognized for publication of a novel theory called “event memory hypothesis,” which suggests a possible molecular memory-recall programming pattern in human gestation using epidemiological and molecular evidence. The groundbreaking theory suggests that when fetal death occurs the event is retained (memorized) as a program that is replayed in future pregnancies. In 2008 this theory was published in the journals Medical Hypotheses and Obstetrics & Gynecology, and may help to understand and prevent the causes of fetal death. Dr. Salihu, director of the Center for Research and Evaluation at the Chiles Center for Healthy Mothers and Babies at USF, is a leading researcher in the field of infant mortality. He is a key player in the Black Infant Health Practice Initiative – a statewide collaborative to address the racial gap in infant deaths in Florida and to recommend policy changes at the local and state levels. He has authored more than 100 journal articles; including recently published studies that shed new light on obesity’s role in the black-white gap in infant mortality.

- Story by Anne DeLotto Baier, USF Health Communications
– Photos by Eric Younghans, USF Health Communications