2013 Baer Prizewinner With a Dream: "To Re-Connect the Soul to the Mind... the Soul to the Brain" - Watch Video

2013 Baer Prizewinner With a Dream: "To Re-Connect the Soul to the Mind... the Soul to the Brain" - Watch Video

Posted: January 17, 2014

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Congratulations to Kafui Dzirasa, M.D., Ph.D., of Duke University on receiving the 2013 Sidney R. Baer, Jr. Prize for Innovative and Promising Schizophrenia Research!

“I am truly honored to be awarded the 2013 Brain & Behavior Research Foundation Sidney R. Baer, Jr. Prize for Innovative and Promising Schizophrenia Research.The goal of my lab is to translate scientific discoveries into better treatments for our patients and families affected by schizophrenia. The support provided by the Sidney R. Baer, Jr. Prize for Schizophrenia Research will certainly help to advance that aim.”

Kafui Dzirasa, M.D., Ph.D., is an Assistant Research Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Assistant Professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Duke University and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Duke University Medical Center. He is also a Visiting Professor of  Neuroscience at the Edmond and Lily Safra International Institute of Neurosciences of Natal, in Brazil.

Dr. Dzirasa studies genetically engineered animal models of brain disorders, applying an innovative approach of electrophysiological recording from multiple brain areas to functionally map brain circuits. His aim is to determine how genetic mutations that confer risk for neuropsychiatric illnesses in humans alter the circuits that underlie cognitive and affective symptoms in mouse models. In upcoming studies, he will be collaborating in studies in the laboratory of Marc G. Caron, Ph.D., his mentor and the 2013 Lieber Prizewinner, using mouse models being developed by Nikhil M. Urs, Ph.D., co-recipient with Dr. Dzirasa of the Baer Prize.

A magna cum laude graduate in chemical engineering from the University of Maryland Baltimore County in 2001, Dr. Dzirasa was a participant in the nationally renowned Meyerhoff Scholarship program. His laboratory was featured on a CBS 60 Minutes segment about the Meyerhoff program in 2011. He went on to receive his M.D. and Ph.D. degrees at Duke University, the first African-American to earn a doctorate in the Department of Neurobiology. He received the Somjen Award for Most Outstanding Dissertation Thesis, the Ruth K. Broad Biomedical Research Fellowship, the UNCF∙Merck Graduate Science Research Fellowship and the Wakeman Fellowship.

Dr. Dzirasa was selected by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director’s office to co-lead the neuroscience segment of the NIH/Milken Institute’s Celebration of Science. His ultimate goal is to combine his research background, medical training, and community experience to improve outcomes for communities suffering from neurological and psychiatric illness.

The Sidney R. Baer, Jr. Prizewinners are selected by the Lieber Prizewinners. In 2013, Lieber Prizewinner Marc G. Caron, Ph.D. selected Drs. Dzirasa and Nikhil M. Urs. Dr. Caron had this to say about his decision to select Dr. Dzirasa:

"Dr. Dzirasa has the distinction of having been given the opportunity to be on the faculty and start his own independent research lab at the same time that he was fulfilling the requirements for his clinical training in our Psychiatry Department. He has already obtained a number of recognitions for his work. He was featured on 60 minutes as the “Poster Child” of the Meyerhoff program at his undergraduate alma mater, the University of Maryland in Baltimore, and he was very recently named recipient of the 2013 National Institute of Mental Health Outstanding Resident Award."

Watch Dr. Dzirasa's captivating presentation from the 2013 New York Mental Health Research Symposium that took place in October.