DO/PhD Candidate selected for prestigious ADNI Health Equity Scholars Program

Habs Hd Annual Meeting O'bryant & Mohammad 01[26]
Dr. Sid O’Bryant (left) with Mohammad Housini
Mohammad Housini, a dual degree student at The University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth, has been chosen for a year-long fellowship with Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative as part of the Health Equity Scholars Program. Housini, a student at the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine, is also pursuing his Ph.D. with the School of Biomedical Sciences in Pharmacology and Neuroscience. He was one of only two medical or graduate students nationwide selected for the program.

The HEPS program provides future investigators in the field of Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementia with the knowledge, skills, and resources to become culturally competent and proficient researchers.

“To be selected for such a distinctive program gave me hope that although research is a much slower-moving path, there are moments of celebration along the way that make the scenic route worth the journey,” Housini said. “I look forward to all the experiences and friends I will make along the way. I also look forward to combining all that I will learn during my time working with ADNI & HABS-HD, with my clinical skills, to provide the best possible care for my future patients.”

The path for Housini into medical school, much less the ADNI Health Equity Scholars Program, and his significant research contributions seemed improbable just five years ago.

He graduated from the University of Texas at Dallas in 2014 with a Bachelor’s in Neuroscience but he struggled with his grades during a difficult stretch.

“At that time there was a civil war in my parent’s home country (Syria) and I still had family there, so that really hurt my grades,” he said. “People losing their livelihoods really hurt my focus.”

What ensued was a very unusual gap between undergraduate school and medical school for Housini, four years to be exact. His academic struggles as an undergrad led to rejection after rejection from medical schools during that time. How many rejections were there?

“It was nearly 100,” he said.

Housini HeadshotHousini used the time to not only improve his resume but also mature. He started a business, retook the MCAT, and enrolled in the Master of Science in Medical Science program at HSC’s School of Biomedical Sciences and graduated in 2018. During that time, he was placed on the wait list for TCOM, and on the second day of orientation in 2018, he got the phone call he had been dreaming of.

“I had no doubt and I think everything unfolded the way it’s supposed to,” Housini said. “I wouldn’t be the person I am today without having to go through all of this. I just feel like if you want something that bad, no matter how long it takes, you must do it. I couldn’t have done it without all of the people who supported me along the way. Now I’m older and wiser.”

One of those supporters was Housini’s father, Dr. Ihsan Housini, a pathologist who taught pathology to TCOM students.

“He was ecstatic,” said Housini. “He was the happiest I’ve ever seen him. It’s been a great journey from the day I was admitted to now.”

The now is what Housini is focused on. His passion for research came early in his studies at UTD, first working in Dr. Marco Atzori’s Lab of Synaptic and Cellular Physiology for four years. He followed that up with an additional year of work with Dr. Said Kourrich and his lab at UT-Southwestern in the Psychiatry Department.

He began working with Dr. Robert Barber, a professor of family medicine at TCOM and the Genomics Core Director at the Institute for Translational Research in 2018. Housini is now currently a National Institute of Health NRSA T32 Neurobiology of Aging and Alzheimer’s Disease Fellow. The research being conducted by the ITR, specifically Dr. Sid O’Bryant’s Health & Aging Brain Study – Health Disparities, drew Housini, and he found his calling.

“My background was in neuroscience, so my Ph.D. track is pharmacology and neuroscience,” said Housini. “I started looking at research opportunities and ran into Dr. Barber’s lab, along with Dr. Nicole Phillips. The study of genetics in Alzheimer’s Disease and how it affects minorities presents some genetic nuances in how the disease develops. This is where the biggest questions were coming and it’s a great opportunity to learn more about genetics.”

Housini plans to take full advantage of the opportunity with Dr. Barber and the HABS study. The ITR will be collecting a significant amount of data over the next few years and Housini doesn’t want to miss out. His current plan is to return to TCOM in 2027 for clinical rotations with a 2029 graduation date.

“We are all extremely proud of Mohammad for being chosen for this fellowship,” said Dr. O’Bryant, executive director of the ITR. “It has been amazing to see his passion for what we are doing here and how much work he has put into learning about Alzheimer’s Disease. This fellowship will give him an even better opportunity to grow but also learn from some of the other top faculty members and students who he will be working with throughout the year.”

Housini’s research project for this fellowship is “Genetic and Epigenetic AD Risk Stratification Among Populations in the HABS-HD and ADNI Cohorts.”

The ADNI ADNI Health Equity Scholars fellowship is dedicated to increasing the engagement of underrepresented populations in Alzheimer’s disease research. Housini will spend a year working with four other fellows chosen for the program, two faculty members, one postdoctoral fellow, and one graduate student.

“I’m very excited to come back to TCOM because I really miss the clinical side of medicine,” Housini said. “It will be a lot of fun. I’m older and much more mature, and it shows I’ve come a very long way.”

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