The Columns

Ijezie Ikwuezunma Awarded Fulbright Research Grant to United Kingdom

— by on April 1st, 2016

Ijezie Ikwuezunma of Richmond, Texas, and a senior at Washington and Lee University, has been awarded a Fulbright research grant to the United Kingdom. His project is “Cardiovascular Pharmacogenomics and Pharmacokinetics of Warfarin (an oral anti-coagulant).”

He will conduct research while pursuing an MRes (masters of research) in biomedical sciences and transnational medicine at the University of Liverpool. His research will be based around cardiovascular agents and their pharmacology, with a particular focus on the drug warfarin.

Professor Sir Munir Pirmohamed at the Wolfson Centre for Personalised Medicine at the University of Liverpool will serve as Ikwuezunma’s research sponsor. Pirmohamed is an international authority in pharmacogenetics and drug safety.

Ikwuezunma’s project expands on the work he completed in 2015 with Dr. Minoli Perera at the University of Chicago. The work in stage one “has the potential to yield novel genetic factors that could be incorporated into existing warfarin dosage algorithms, which could improve its safety and efficacy,” said Ikwuezunma.

The project is of particular interest to Ikwuezunma in that “African-Americans are genetically predisposed to a disproportionately high number of cardiovascular conditions.” His grandfather passed away due to a pulmonary embolism. “Conducting research in Dr. Perera’s lab, which focused particularly on African-Americans like my grandfather, I came to realize that there is still much that it is not understood about how these cardiovascular treatments interact within the body. The opportunity to enhance our ability to harness the efficacy of these drugs is of both intellectual and personal significance to me.”

“I can honestly say I consider Ijezie an ideal ambassador for the U.S,” said Nadia Ayoub, W&L associate professor of biology. “He is a mature, highly motivated person with excellent academic preparation and the interpersonal skills needed for a post-graduate program abroad. Additionally, Ijezie is a natural leader and a joy to be with. His natural curiosity and good cheer are infectious.”

“Ijezie genuinely wants to better understand people, their culture and any aspect of their lives that will someday help him better treat them as an acting physician,” said Steve Desjardins, W&L professor of chemistry. “He is precisely the sort of young man and student that I would be proud to say represents his country and his university.”

A biology and sociology double major, Ikwuezunma is a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Omicron Delta Kappa Leadership Honor Society, Alpha Epsilon Delta Premed Honor Society, Beta Beta Beta Honor Society in biology, Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity and the University Committee on Inclusion and Campus Climate.

He was awarded a Johnson Scholarship, a Paul A. Brower M.D. Scholarship, a Johnson Opportunity Grant and the Anece F. McCloud Excellence in Diversity Award. He also is a peer mentor with Students to Students.

“After completing the Fulbright in Liverpool, I intend to pursue an M.D/Ph.D. in hopes of becoming a physician-scientist, with the goal of bringing my expertise back to my community. Through a broad and all-encompassing background, I later intend to help affect policy change based on science,” said Ikwuezunma.

He added, “Receiving the Fulbright has been a tremendous honor, but I certainly could not have done it alone. I had assistance from so many different folks from so many different departments—I am indebted to them all.”