Unusual use of research coordinator role helping 2020 neurosurgery resident connect to the U’s research community

Birra Taha, MD, has taken on a unique role prior to starting his neurosurgical residency at the U in June 2020. He is helping coordinate Neurosurgery Department research, providing research support. “It is introducing me to the U of M research community,” he said. “I’m meeting some of the researchers I want to work with so that when I start my residency in June, I can have things in the pipeline.” His research interest areas include machine learning and artificial intelligence.

Birra Taha, MDOne of Taha’s responsibilities in his role as research coordinator is to help department researchers meet the requirements of the U’s Institutional Review Board, a critical step toward getting research projects off the ground.

Research isn’t new to Taha (pictured at left). While earning his MD from Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City, he completed a dedicated year of research under the combined supervision of the Departments of Neurosurgery and Physiology and Biophysics. During that time, he worked on wide-ranging projects that included:

  • Exploring datasets to identify new biomarkers for immune cells within the tumor microenvironment
  • Developing a novel way to store and relay ventriculoperitoneal shunt function data. These shunts are used to treat hydrocephalus and can fail. Understanding why may help these patients avoid multiple brain surgeries
  • Creating a voice-responsive laparoscopic training system for surgeons.

While participating in the Areas of Concentration Program at Weill Cornell, Taha worked with the Pediatric Surgery Department to develop a low-cost laparoscopic grasper that can be assembled from 3D-printed components.

Originally from Canada, Taha lives in Blaine, MN, is multilingual, and when he has spare time, enjoys soccer, pick-up basketball and cooking.

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