November 10, 2008

Dr. Steven Meshnick

Dr. Steven Meshnick

The second clinical trials methodology course for physician researchers in Malawi was taught by UNC researchers in Blantyre, Malawi, on Oct. 13-17. Steven Meshnick, PhD, MD, professor of epidemiology, designed and oversaw the program, which helps health care professionals in Malawi gain expertise in conducting successful clinical trials.

Funding for the program was provided by the North Carolina GlaxoSmithKline Foundation, which in January 2006 jointly awarded Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill a three-year, $1.65 million grant to address urgent health issues, including four initiatives: quality of care and patient safety, health disparities, mental health, and global health (with an emphasis on HIV/AIDS).

Dr. Peggy Bentley

Dr. Peggy Bentley

Meshnick and Peggy Bentley, PhD, direct the global health initiative, which is administered by the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health’s Office of Global Health. Bentley is professor of nutrition and associate dean for global health at the School.Other global health initiative activities include the 15-501 Global Health Dinner Club, support for the Malawi-Carolina Summer Institute, and student research grants.

In February 2007, the first course in clinical trial design and analysis was taught collaboratively by faculty at UNC and Duke. That 10-day course, also held in Blantyre, drew participants from Malawi and Tanzania, and involved UNC faculty including Joseph Eron, MD, associate professor of medicine, Cheryl Marcus, BSN, RN, clinical research program manager of the AIDS Clinical Trials Unit at UNC, and Bill Miller, MD, PhD, MPH, and David Weber, MD, associate professors of epidemiology in the schools of public health and medicine. 

Dr. Kant Bangdiwala

Dr. Kant Bangdiwala

This year’s five-day course drew on the research and teaching expertise of Charles M. van der Horst, MD, and Shrikant (Kant) I. Bangdiwala, PhD.

Van der Horst is professor of medicine and infectious diseases at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine and visiting professor at University College, Dublin, and University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa. He has designed and conducted large clinical trials for 26 years, including those studying the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), treatment of HIV, hepatitis C, cryptococcal meningitis, cytomegalovirus (CMV) retinitis, pneumocystis pneumonia and infectious mononucleosis. 

Bangdiwala, research professor of biostatistics in the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, is senior statistician of the biostatistical cores of the UNC Injury Prevention Research Center, the UNC Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, UNC’s Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research, and the UNC Center for Functional Gastrointestinal and Motility Disorders, and is an investigator at the UNC Collaborative Studies Coordinating Center.

Although the students were physicians well trained in research procedure, the course provided them with an opportunity to obtain a wide range of information in a comprehensive format. Participants were empowered to design and conduct clinical trials that will yield well-founded research about HIV/AIDS in Malawi and were provided a chance to practice the clear statement of project goals when writing a funding proposal.

“Without exception,” Bangdiwala said, “the course participants were motivated and engaged in learning about clinical trials procedures. Of particular interest was an exercise in which participants acted as the data and safety monitoring board of a trial and had to decide – based on information presented to them – whether a trial should continue or be terminated.” 

Part of their zeal, suggested Joe Eron, an instructor last year, was due to the nature of the paradigm clinical trial the participants themselves choose to develop. “HIV/AIDS,” Eron says, “is the defining event of this century for Malawi and sub-Saharan Africa. Our response – as the richest nation in the world – will mark our place in history.”


Read more about Meshnick’s research online.

UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health contact: Ramona DuBose, director of communications, (919) 966-7467 or



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