GradPSYCH - January 2012 - (Page 44)

ClaSS aCT Searching for scourge of iron deficiency in Egypt. answers Seven years into his career as a physician, Mohamed felt that he had more questions than answers for his patients. That drove him, in August 2006, to leave the rural family compound he’d lived in all his life to study neuroscience at Penn State University. A $250,000 scholarship from the Egyptian Ministry of Health paid his way and allowed him to bring his wife and two sons. “My government has invested a lot of money in me to find a solution for the prevention and treatment of early iron deficiency,” he says. “I don’t want to let them down.” Wael M.Y. Mohamed has spent the last five years studying psychology in America, trying to find a way to alleviate the by saDiE F. DiNgFELDEr gradPSYCH staff A s a physician in Egypt, Wael M.Y. Mohamed kept seeing the same case over and over again: bright children from poor families, unable to concentrate in school. With more than 51 percent of children in Egypt suffering from anemia, Mohamed suspected the culprit was iron deficiency. “For a variety of reasons, including diet and possibly even genetics, iron deficiency is a big problem in young people in Sahara and North Africa,” says Byron C. Jones, PhD, a professor of Biobehavorial Health and Pharmacology at Penn State, and Mohamed’s adviser. “It can produce lifelong problems with cognitive development, as well as lead to problems with motor skills, attention and behavior.” Poor, uneducated Egyptian parents often don’t know about the importance of iron and can’t afford fresh vegetables and supplements anyway, Mohamed says. Even if he could send children home with bags of spinach, it probably wouldn’t help — dietary iron doesn’t shore up cognitive deficits once they’ve developed, research shows. Brain and behavior During his first year at Penn State, Mohamed often felt he was on the verge of failing in his quest. While other students in his program spoke the language of polypeptides and could identify organelles on sight, the 28-year-old physician had never taken a single biology course. “In our medical school, we did not pay attention to molecular and cellular issues of the diseases,” he says. Essentially, Mohamed was starting from scratch, and sometimes he worried he wasn’t up to the challenge. “After getting a C+ in one of my courses, I was so upset and 44 • gradPSYCH • January 2012

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of GradPSYCH - January 2012

GradPSYCH - January 2012
Psychology grad school enrollment drops, despite record numbers of applicants
Students leave their iPods at home during ‘crunch time’
Media Picks
Chair’s Corner
Odd Jobs
Research Roundup
Hot careers: Video game design and development
Friends and co-workers
Time to bail?
Scaling Mount Publication
Need to heal thyself?
Staying connected
Matters to a Degree
Power up your PowerPoint
Dissertations vs. diapers
Searching for answers
Bulletin Board
Jobs, internships, postdocs and other opportunities
The Back Page

GradPSYCH - January 2012