Kiran T. Thakur, MD
Named after accomplished clinician-investigator Dr. Richard Mayeux, professor and chair of the Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons Department of Neurology, the annual Richard Mayeux Award honors a current faculty member who has made truly notable contributions to the clinical, research, and educational mission of the department over the past academic year. This year, Dr. Kiran T. Thakur, Winifred Mercer Pitkin, MD Assistant Professor of Neurology, was selected by a committee of her peers for her innumerable contributions as a clinician, educator, and investigator.
As a neurohospitalist at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center (NYP/CUIMC), Dr. Thakur specializes in neuroinfectious diseases and neuroimmunology, and emergency neurology. She has worked in eight countries throughout her career, and serves as a consultant for the World Health Organization, where she works to improve global access to neurological care. Dr. Thakur’s unique expertise was particularly in-demand during the COVID-19 pandemic. “From the onset of the COVID pandemic, she has been the medical center expert on the neurology of COVID, turned to by all involved in the COVID response. In addition to providing patient care on the front line at the height of the spring of 2022 COVID maelstrom, she participated in the twice weekly department zoom meetings to update us all about the infection – epidemiology, extent of infections, burden on the hospital, treatment, and, ultimately, the vaccine. Her updates were crucially informative and also reassuring that a knowledgeable faculty member was directly involved in hospital response to the epidemic,” explains one of her nominators.
Dr. Thakur has since established herself as a national and international expert in the neurological aspects of COVID-19, publishing over 30 articles on COVID-19 in the past years and participating in several research and public health collaborations, including the development of the World Health Organization Clinical Management of COVID-19 guidelines. However, explains a colleague, “Her impact goes far beyond COVID-19, as she has lead research teams focusing on the public health threat of emerging and re-emerging neuroinfectious diseases, such as arthropod borne encephalitis or the re-emergence of polio in the US.”
In addition to her clinical work at NYP/CUIMC and internationally, Dr. Thakur has long played an outsized role in teaching and mentoring medical students, residents, and fellows, particularly in the realm of inpatient neurology. “Dr. Thakur is the go-to and always available consultant for our residents and faculty, especially for hospitalized patients. Her broad clinical knowledge, mastery of the literature, and contact with neuroinfectious disease specialists nationally and internationally make her an especially discerning and thoughtful diagnostician of a myriad of neurological conditions,” explains a peer. In her first year as a faculty member, Dr. Thakur received the Lewis P. Rowland Teaching Award from the 2016 class of graduating residents, and is frequently invited to lecture or give educational conferences at national and international meetings.
According to another nominator, “Dr. Thakur is also committed to ensuring equity and diversity in neurology, and specifically enhancing opportunities for women in academic medicine. She serves on the American Neurological Association (ANA) inclusion, diversity, equity, antiracism and social justice taskforce, leads the ANA International Outreach Committee, co-leads our community and global health residency certification program, and is the neurology lead for a health services delivery grant for improving HIV care for local Black and Hispanic/Latinx patients.”
As an NIH-funded researcher, Dr. Thakur is primarily focused on clinical and translational studies that aim to improve the ability to detect and manage neuroinfectious diseases and neuroinflammatory conditions in the hospital setting. In addition to her substantial contributions on the neurological complications of COVID, she has led the innovative use of BioFire® FilmArray® to rapidly identify organisms causing meningitis and encephalitis and is studying tuberculous meningitis in Malawi and India. With support from the department, she founded NYP/CUIMC’s first Neuroinfectious Diseases Program, and frequently “works with physician-scientists in resource limited settings to improve neuroinfectious disease clinical care and enhance research activities. She is actively developing a Center of Excellence in Neuroinfectious Disease Outbreak Prevention, Diagnosis, and Surveillance to house all these initiatives,” explains a peer.
As one of her nominators attests, “Dr. Thakur is a trusted colleague with great clinical acumen, an engaging teacher that has inspired many students to choose Neurology as a career path, and a national leader and international rising star. Her collegial and collaborative spirit, her dedication, and her strong commitment and passion to providing equitable care makes her an exceptional candidate for the Richard Mayeux Award.”