Bioethics Blogs

NIH Family Members Giving Back: Kafui Dzirasa

Caption: Kafui Dzirasa (front center) with the current group of Meyerhoff Scholars at University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
Credit: Olubukola Abiona

Kafui Dzirasa keeps an open-door policy in his busy NIH-supported lab at Duke University, Durham, NC. If his trainees have a quick question or just need to discuss an upcoming experiment, they’re always welcome to pull up a chair. The donuts are on him.

But when trainees pop by his office and see he’s out for the day, they have a good idea of what it means. Dzirasa has most likely traveled up to his native Maryland to volunteer as a mentor for students in a college program that will be forever near and dear to him. It’s the Meyerhoff Scholars Program at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC). Since its launch in 1988, this groundbreaking program has served as a needed pipeline to help increase diversity in the sciences—with more than 1,000 alumni, including Dzirasa, and 270 current students of all races.

Upon graduating from UMBC in 2001 as a Meyerhoff Scholar, Dzirasa was accepted into the M.D./Ph.D. Program at Duke with a focus in neurobiology. Dzirasa rarely had time to visit Baltimore 300 miles away, but he stayed in touch with everyone. After finishing his scientific and residency training and landing a position at Duke as an assistant professor, Dzirasa knew he had to give back. The Meyerhoff Scholars Program had helped him rise as a college track star, an Academic All-American, student body president, and, now, as an established scientist who is studying the brain and mental illness and frequently speaks on panels for public understanding of science.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.