May 17, 2023
Ezzeldin Saleh, MD, is Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Southern Illinois School of Medicine. He earned his medical degree at University of Khartoum, Sudan, and completed his pediatric residency at Penn State Hershey Medical Center. He worked as a general pediatrician for 10 years before completing his pediatric infectious diseases fellowship training at Duke University in 2017. Dr. Saleh’s interests include clinical research, global health and antimicrobial stewardship. He is a current member of the International Affairs Committee and chairs the Antimicrobial Stewardship Working Group.
Why Pediatric ID? Choosing infectious diseases was a gradual path. I am originally from Sudan and when you grow up there you become aware of infectious diseases from an early age. After graduating from medical school, I joined a measles research group at University of Khartoum, Department of Pediatrics. This group was led by Dr. Salah Ahmed Ibrahim; it was the first point that ignited my interest in infectious disease and clinical research. I moved to the United States in the late 1990s and worked as a general pediatrician for several years, but I was still interested in doing clinical research and academia.
While working in Mayo Clinic Healthcare System in La Crosse, Wisconsin, I enrolled in clinical and translational science diploma at Mayo Clinic and my research project was focused on antibiotic stewardship in the outpatient setting. Dr. Ritu Banerjee was my mentor. I was very impressed by her dedication, attention to detail and moral support. This inspired me to just go for it and become a pediatric ID physician. I applied for a fellowship and my first interview was at Duke with Drs. Samuel Katz, Coleen Cunningham, Bill Steinbach and Danny Benjamin. That interview convinced me I was on the right track and I actually cancelled my remaining interviews.
Where have you taken your ID focus? Since joining Southern Illinois University after fellowship, my clinical practice has focused on the increasing number of infants exposed to hepatitis C in our region. We noticed there is this difficulty in identifying expecting individuals with hepatitis C and linking the infant to care and evaluation, which should be completed by the time the child is 18 months of age. I led a collaborative effort with our obstetric and pediatric colleagues to establish an outpatient clinical service. We systematically screen all pregnant women in the hospital and provide early referral and linkage to care of all exposed infants to ensure completion of evaluation by 18 months of age.
The other project I am working on at SIU investigates cases of invasive non-type B Haemophilus influenzae in infants and children. I am leading a research project, collaborating with the Illinois Department of Health, trying to describe the epidemiological characteristics and trends of the last 15 years in Illinois.
What is a recent development in peds ID you are working on? Scant published data exists covering infectious diseases in Sudan in international platforms. To address this gap, I have been collaborating with pediatric infectious diseases colleagues in Sudan, led by Dr. Omima Mohamed Salih and Dr. Muna Dawoud Ali. We are currently working on a manuscript draft focused on growth parameters in Sudanese children living with HIV. Our next projects will focus on antimicrobial resistance and stewardship by designing and performing survey studies to inform future interventions. Our ultimate goal is to establish a research group featuring U.S. trained in infectious diseases physicians. So far, we have three peds ID attendings and two in fellowship. Hopefully the five of us can establish a good collaborative project to facilitate networking and information exchange to advance pediatric ID in Sudan.
Another important aspect of my work is determining how I could help and contribute in Sudan. In 2008, along with four of my colleagues who have U.S. training, I co-founded a nonprofit organization called the Sudanese American Medical Association and established an office in Khartoum. Our organization is pioneering and spearheading numerous collaborative projects, including maternal and childhood health, support of infectious disease projects in mycetoma and rheumatic heart disease as an example, and dealing with capacity building and professional development projects for healthcare professionals. In 2021, we partnered with project ECHO which is a virtual learning platform leveraging technology to train health care professionals in scarce resources areas. After we set up our office in Sudan with solar panels and high-speed internet, we established two hubs and a learning site. This helped us disseminate knowledge not only in Sudan but also to surrounding countries.
Coming together as the infectious diseases community we can contribute in many ways with our skills and knowledge to help improve the lives of millions in Sudan. The country currently suffers through an armed conflict that began in mid-April and has cost 100s of civilian lives. This has strained an already limited healthcare system in Sudan. However, I am still optimistic and hopeful that once the conflict ends, we’ll be able to contribute and rebuild Sudan for the better.
What do you enjoy most about being a PIDS member? What keeps you renewing your membership? I feel very fortunate and humbled to join the ranks of those who laid the foundation of the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society. I believe that all peds ID professionals are passionately dedicated to pursuing the health of children all around the world. I think PIDS is like a family and when you are part of a family you have your responsibilities. The Society offers us a unique home to grow, develop and lead through mentorship, advocacy and training. It is our responsibility to give back and keep its legacy going. I was very ecstatic that two of our recent residents joined PIDS as fellows. That filled me with joy and pride. I’m sure they too will become great leaders.
Since I joined the PIDS International Affairs Committee last year, I have been able to be at the table and see how others volunteer and contribute. It was amazing and inspiring. One future initiative I would like to see PIDS undertake is to establish an official pathway or channel for ID trainees from overseas to come to the U.S. for training and mentorship and then go back to lead peds ID in their home countries. I know some are doing this on their own, but it would be very good if there were an established collaboration through PIDS to help that grow.