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Global health researchers awarded prestigious NIHR Professorships

Dr Abhijit Nadkarni, Prof Celia Gregson, Dr Michelle Heys, Prof Refiloe Masekela

Published: 22 May 2023

Four leading health researchers working in Africa and Asia have been awarded NIHR Global Research Professorships.

The new NIHR Global Research Professors will each receive awards of up to £2 million over a 5 year period 2023-28. This includes funding for their research and support teams, and leadership development.

Their research aims to improve health and welfare of people in low and middle income countries (LMICs). They address issues including healthy ageing, tackling alcohol, asthma and improving newborn care.

The 2023 cohort is:

  • Dr Abhijit Nadkarni, Associate Professor of Global Mental Health and Addictions Psychiatrist from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. His research topic is ‘Advancing research to reduce alcohol related harms - lessons for policy, practice and sustainable development in India’.
  • Professor Celia Gregson, Professor of Clinical Epidemiology and Honorary Consultant Geriatrician from the University of Bristol. Her research topic is ‘Healthy Ageing in Sub-Saharan Africa’.
  • Dr Michelle Heys, Associate Professor of Global Child Health and a Community Paediatrician from University College London. Her research topic is ‘Increasing newborn survival in low resource settings: harnessing real-time data, digital innovation and community engagement to improve newborn healthcare’.
  • Professor Refiloe Masekela, Head of Paediatrics and Child Health at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa and a Paediatric Pulmonologist. Her research topic is ‘Calling time on avoidable morbidity from asthma in African children’.

Professor Masekela is the first LMIC-based researcher to be awarded an NIHR Global Research Professorship. The 2022 round was opened up to researchers based at LMIC institutions.

Her research focuses on improving access to effective and affordable asthma care for children in Africa. Mortality from asthma in some African countries is nearly 100 times that in the UK. Treatments such as inhalers are also not widely available.

Professor Masekela said: “The prestigious Global Health Research Professorship will provide a step-change in my career, establishing me as a global research leader. As the first female black African to receive this award, I am humbled and excited to embark on this journey.

I am particularly pleased that this professorship includes funding for PhDs in both clinical research and health economics, as well as support costs for our wider team. This helps strengthen our research capacity in an area which has historically been under-resourced.”

NIHR Global Research Professorships are awarded to academic leaders with a track-record of applied health research in LMICs. Since 2018, eight Global Research Professorships have been awarded.

NIHR Academy Dean, Professor Waljit Dhillo said: “I’m delighted to warmly welcome our latest cohort of NIHR Global Research Professors. As leaders in their fields, these outstanding individuals will play a key role in improving the health and care of people around the world as well as developing early career researchers in their teams worldwide”.

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