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NIH Record - 75th Anniversary - National Institutes of Health

NINDS’s Nath Receives Humanism in Neurology Award

In suit & tie, Nath smiles into camera in formal portrait

Dr. Avindra Nath

Photo: NINDS

Dr. Avindra Nath, clinical director at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), recently received the 2024 Ted M. Burns Humanism in Neurology Award from the American Brain Foundation.

The award celebrates scientists whose work embodies humanism in patient care, education, advocacy and everyday encounters. The award acknowledges the influence of neurologists who advance the field and make knowledge more accessible through innovative teaching.

He received the award at the American Academy of Neurology Annual Meeting, during its Commitment to Cures Gala on Apr. 13 in Denver, Colo.

Nath was honored for humanism that shows in his everyday interactions with staff and colleagues and his commitment to diversity—both in recruitment of participants for clinical trials and in his mentorships. 

Throughout his career, Nath’s personal touch with patients has helped advance his virological research, often leading to significant findings for many diseases. As a resident in neurology, Nath began seeing people with AIDS despite the social stigmas that were present at the time. 

During the Ebola epidemic, when the virus was spreading, he traveled to Liberia to evaluate patients. Nath journeyed to Brazil to discuss microcephaly during the Zika epidemic and trekked to remote areas of Uganda to visit patients with Nodding syndrome in their living environments. 

With knowledge gained there, Nath identified that Nodding syndrome is likely a complication of onchocerciasis (also known as river blindness). Onchocerciasis is a disease caused by the parasitic worm Onchocerca volvulus. Although this is still being studied, public health measures taken in response to this discovery have significantly reduced the incidence of nodding syndrome. 

When Covid-19 emerged, Nath was one of the first to identify and characterize its neurological complications. His current work includes leading a multi-institute project on the pathophysiology of myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) and studying Long Covid.

Nath earned his medical degree from the Christian Medical College in Ludhiana, India. He completed both a neurology residency and a neuroimmunology fellowship at the University of Texas Health Science Center, and a fellowship in neurovirology at NINDS—working in the section on molecular virology and genetics in the Laboratory of Viral and Molecular Pathogenesis. 

In 1990, Nath left NIH to join the University of Manitoba faculty in Winnipeg, in the departments of medical microbiology and internal medicine. He joined the faculty of the University of Kentucky in the microbiology and immunology and neurology departments in 1997. 

He joined NINDS in 2011 as clinical director, director of the Translational Neuroscience Center, and chief of the section of infections of the nervous system. In addition to his work on ME/CFS and Long Covid, Nath’s research focuses on understanding the pathophysiology of retroviral infections of the nervous system and developing new diagnostic and therapeutic approaches for these diseases, as well as characterizing the HIV virus in the brain and studying the mechanisms by which the virus persists for extended periods of time. 

In collaboration with other NIH researchers, Nath and his colleagues also are learning from people with undiagnosed neuroimmune and neuroinfectious diseases and developing new diagnostic methods and modes of treatment for these diseases.—Shannon E. Garnett

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