Dr. Satish Gopal ’97 (’00 MPH), a researcher on the forefront of cancer treatment in Malawi, Africa, will be the featured speaker at the Winter Commencement ceremony Dec. 17.
Gopal is the only board-certified medical oncologist practicing in Malawi, a southern African country of about 18 million people. As the cancer program director for UNC Project-Malawi, a research and care collaboration between UNC-Chapel Hill and the Malawi Ministry of Health, Gopal is working to build the care infrastructure that will both help Malawi address its rising cancer burden and serve as a model for effective cancer care in low-resource settings across the globe.
“Dr. Gopal embodies the transformative and inspirational spirit and drive that exemplifies Carolina’s faculty and their global mission of research, education, service and caring for others that is changing our world,” said Chancellor Folt. “His dedication and commitment to improving the health of the Malawi people — and work to teach future generations of care givers — will inspire the minds and spark the imaginations of our graduates who are now prepared to go out and make their own impact in our state, nation and world.”
Gopal joined the UNC faculty in 2012 and is jointly appointed in the divisions of hematology-oncology and infectious diseases as an associate professor of medicine. He lived in Tanzania from 2007 until 2009, during which time he developed a career interest in cancer in Africa. He has lived in Lilongwe, Malawi, with his family since 2012.
Gopal provides care to patients in the Kamuzu Central Hospital Cancer Clinic and leads cancer research activities, including mentoring American and Malawian trainees working on cancer projects. He is principal investigator of the Malawi Cancer Consortium and Regional Center of Research Excellence for Non-Communicable Diseases, and leads Malawi participation in several cancer care and research networks sponsored by the National Cancer Institute. He also is honorary senior lecturer at the University of Malawi College of Medicine and contributes to cancer-related teaching for Malawian undergraduate and postgraduate trainees.
UNC has been conducting HIV and STD research in Malawi since 1990, when it began a collaboration with the Malawi Ministry of Health.
In 1999, these efforts were consolidated into a center of excellence for HIV/STD research called UNC Project-Malawi. Located in the capital city of Lilongwe, UNC Project-Malawi is on the premises of Kamuzu Central Hospital, a 1,000-bed, public care hospital that serves a population of nearly six million people.
From the foundation of groundbreaking and life-changing infectious disease research, UNC-Project Malawi now employs more than 300 people and supports clinical care and education in disciplines including cancer, surgery and women’s health.
The research led by UNC in this small nation has made an impact across the globe, shaping world-wide understanding of the treatment of HIV. Gopal is hopeful his cancer research can have a similar impact.
Gopal received his undergraduate degree in biology and music and his masters in public health at UNC. He completed his medical degree at Duke University and residency training at the University of Michigan before returning to UNC for fellowships in the fields of infectious disease and medical oncology.
Winter Commencement will be at 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 17, in the Dean E. Smith Center.