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Research Healing epilepsy and its stigma in the developing world H A P P E N I N G H E R E ACCepting the invitation Conferring with the conference UofL won't take to the field or court as a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference until 2014, but that hasn't stopped the university from meeting its new neighbors, with faculty and students already active participants in ACC academic conferences and symposiums. Warren Boling, interim chair and professor of neurosurgery, is working with colleagues at the non-governmental organization CURE International and the Montreal Neurological Institute in research that could provide physicians in Uganda the resources to effectively treat epilepsy. The team has established a pilot program at the CURE Hospital in Mbale, Uganda, that uses available technology and volunteer physicians to diagnose epilepsy. Team members also have trained Ugandan surgeons to perform the surgery that can cure the disease. It is estimated that up to 10 percent of the developing world's population has epilepsy. Medications to control epilepsy's debilitating seizures can be successful, but "in about 30 percent of cases, the medicine fails," Boling said. "We call it 'medically intractable' epilepsy, and these patients can have seizures every week, every day, many times a day. "In the U.S., surgery would then be considered, but we found no surgical options in Uganda." So, the research team trained the Mbale staff to use CT scans and EEGs to diagnose epilepsy in 60 patients. Ten patients with a particular type, medically intractable temporal lobe epilepsy, then received surgery. All 10 patients improved, and 50 percent are now seizure free. The disease, however, affects more than just physical health; there also is stigma. "In Africa, there are beliefs that it is contagious; people believe it is infectious," Boling said. "So people with epilepsy are isolated; they don't go to school, they can't get jobs, and their overall quality of life is very poor." Boling will return this summer to conduct culturally appropriate neuropsychological testing on the patient group to measure whether the stigma has lessened. "We've demonstrated that we can achieve seizure freedom at a reasonably good success rate," Boling said. "Now the question is, can we transform a highly stigmatizing disease to improve quality of life? That is what we hope to fnd out." They represented the university at the ACC's Meeting of the Minds Research Conference, held at Wake Forest University in April, with six students making presentations. Conference networking opportunities also provided a chance to attend the 2013 ACC Leadership Symposium, held at Boston College, which focused on the need for civic engagement through volunteerism, mission planning and community action. "The ACC provides great opportunities on the field of play and in the classroom and lab," said Vice Provost Dale Billingsley. "Our new conference includes some of the most prestigious universities in the country and we are looking for new ways to partner with them, whether it is through leadership conferences or undergraduate research projects. It's been a great start, but we believe the best is yet to come." In addition to sponsoring academic conferences, the conference underwrites an international service project for athletes, provides summer scholarships and has even created the ACC Summer Scholar Award, in which competitively selected undergraduates will move from their home university to a host ACC university to advance a research or creative project. FOLLOW OUR EVOLVING PARTNERSHIP WITH ACC SCHOOLS AS WE MOVE TOWARDS 2014. SUMMER UOFL MAGAZINE| 1 9

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