Researchers return from Fulbright in Nepal
Dr. Amy Sapkota and Dr. Amir Sapkota are back on campus after a six-month stint in Nepal conducting research and trainings as part of the prestigious 2016 Fulbright Scholarship.
The Sapkotas, both associate professors in the Maryland Institute for Applied Environmental Health, worked with doctors and staff at the B.P. Koirala Memorial Cancer Hospital (BPKMCH) in the central-southern city of Bharatpur on a range of projects from capacity building to meeting with leaders in Nepal to raise awareness about their projects.
"Overall the experience was really great,” Dr. Amir Sapkota said. “We were able to interact both with the Fulbright commission and the U.S. embassy, engaging them with this topic, making them aware of it and disseminating some of our findings.”
Dr. Amir Sapkota has a background in exposure assessment and environmental epidemiology. His research focuses on studying the effects of climate change on human health and respiratory health. In Nepal, he has been continuing a study on lung cancer that began in in 2009, with fellow researchers from the University of Utah and BPKMCH.
His Fulbright project, titled “A Joint Collaboration to Address Household Air Pollution and Lung Cancer Risk in Nepal,” focuses on the analysis of previously collected data to better understand the relationship between lung cancer risk and air pollution.
While in-country, the Sapkotas helped conduct trainings with hospital staff and others, teaching them how to create competitive applications for funding opportunities that are available for health projects in low- and middle-income countries.
Armed with the knowledge passed along, Dr. Amir Sapkota said that he hopes staff in Nepal could one day get funding for health campaigns on topics such as tobacco control.
Dr. Amy Sapkota researches relationships between environmental exposures and infectious disease. In Nepal, she has been working on a project that evaluates oral microbiota as it relates to lung cancer. She also leads a USDA-funded project called CONSERVE, which focuses on making reclaimed water safe for agricultural use and which will help conserve ground water.
The data collection of her project had been completed before this trip, but while in Nepal Dr. Amy Sapkota worked on analyzing data and preparing a manuscript.
"The most fulfilling part of the experience was to see the technicians who I trained on DNA extraction methods successfully train other individuals in the lab team," Dr. Sapkota said. "The team has now successfully continued these methods in my absence."
The increased capacity of the hospital will enable the technicians to work more independently on future research projects, and project findings will be directly relevant to the health of Nepalis.