Laboratory Focus

Dr. Cusick’s research aims to elucidate micronutrient and infectious disease interactions, with an ultimate goal of optimizing the health and neurobehavioral development of children living in resource-poor settings. She has conducted clinical trials in Tanzania and Uganda and completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before coming to the University of Minnesota. Dr. Cusick’s research approach integrates laboratory, field, analytical, and policy components to investigate how nutritional interventions translate into improved child health and achievement of full developmental trajectory.

Dr. Cusick’s current work is based in Kampala, Uganda, where she oversees two randomized clinical trials that aim to determine how to safely provide iron to children with chronic or recurrent infections, including HIV and malaria. Iron is frequently withheld from children in malaria-endemic regions or in the context other infections for fear that it may increase the risk of subsequent infection. This withholding of iron may be at the expense of the developing brain, which requires iron during the fetal period and throughout early childhood.

Current Studies

Iron and HIV Study (Masonic Cross-Departmental Grant for Child Health, with Dr. Anne Frosch and Dr. Victor Musiime):

Randomized, placebo-controlled trial to test the effect of daily iron supplementation on iron status, infectious disease frequency, and gut microbiome in Ugandan children with HIV. Based at the Joint Clinical Research Centre in Kampala, Uganda.

Optimizing Iron in Malaria-Endemic Areas: the Optim Study (R01, NIH/NICHD, with Dr. Ezekiel Mupere):

Randomized, placebo-controlled trial to assess the effect of iron given concurrently with vs. 28 days after antimalarial treatment in children with uncomplicated malaria and anemia on iron status, frequency of infections, and neurobehavioral development after 12 months. Based at Mulago Hospital in Kampala, Uganda.


Each year the fellowships begin with an intensive orientation program in July, followed by mentored clinical research training at international partner institutions. Post-doctorate trainees and doctoral students in the health professions are eligible to apply.

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Our Staff

US-Based Staff

Molly McCoy, MA, Global Research Programs Administrator

Uganda-Based Staff

Titus Ssesanga, Iron and HIV Study Coordinator

Margaret Kansiime, Iron and HIV Study Nurse

Reagan Baluku, OptiM Study Coordinator 

Eva Kadama, OptiM Study Nurse

Uganda-Based Fogarty Fellows

Damalie Nalwanga, MBChB, MMED

Teresa Piloya, MBChB, MMED