Michael Boivin receives William J. Beal Outstanding Faculty Award


Michael Boivin, professor of neurology and ophthalmology in the College of Osteopathic Medicine, has won the Beal Outstanding Faculty Award for his pioneering research on neuropsychological effects in children with HIV and Konzo disease in Africa, and his role in mentoring medical students and alumni in international research.

“A significant part of my teaching was bringing MSU medical and graduate students to Uganda with me, getting them immersed with study sites on research projects to get direct experience in tropical medicine, working with a study team and better understanding medical needs and patient care in rural and urban settings,” Boivin said. “For many students, it led to research presentations and publications and that helped them get more select residency and fellowship opportunities and sometimes turned into a career choice extending more readily to global health outreach and medical service.”

After research trips, he also enjoys guiding students through the process of figuring out what research data to explore, turning it into an abstract or paper, submitting it to a national or international meeting or conference, and accompanying them to present their findings. 

Since 2006, Boivin has lectured on patient/physician relationships, the importance of cultural considerations in patient care, ethics in medical practice and foundations for evidence-based medicine at the college. He has also lectured to neurology and to psychiatry residents on neurodevelopmental and neuropsychological assessment in the global context.

He is now one of 10 recipients of the elite Outstanding Faculty award this year, an honor that reflects a sustained professional excellence at MSU and credits his documented achievements and contributions at the national and international level, along with research, publications, extramural funding and more.

His decades-long career has included two Fulbright scholarships and serving as the principal investigator on several large NIH research projects—including a multi-year, multimillion-dollar grant spanning six research sites across four countries—as well as collaborations with researchers from national and international universities. His work includes advancing the use of caregiver training in early childhood development and nutrition, as well as the use of MSU-designed computer games in neurocognitive rehabilitative training, enrichment, and brain/behavior assessment in children with HIV and with those surviving cerebral malaria. This work has taken him to Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, West Africa, South Africa and Malawi for numerous neurodevelopmental studies in pediatric HIV.

“When I first started this work 32 years ago, it was about keeping kids alive to age five in these settings. Looking at neuropsychological or even neurodevelopmental outcomes as a key domain of morbidity wasn’t a priority to most public health specialists. It’s been gratifying over the decades to see how much that’s changed. Now every major study in Africa has to have a neurodevelopmental outcomes component. I am proud to say that our global neuropsychiatry group has become one of the ‘go-to’ groups in this regard.” 

Boivin credits his partners and team for their ability to continue their international research efforts throughout the pandemic. 

“Our study teams ‘on the ground’ at our African-based sites have endured a lot of hardships to keep our studies going,” said Boivin. “I really owe this award to them and to the support of my research group here at MSU—over the years since coming to MSU but especially this past year. It was hard not being able to travel and having to depend on our African partners’ commitment and expertise, and they didn’t let me down.”

Boivin explained that he focused his career on global health because of the impact it can have.

“Where there’s so much need, almost anything you can do makes a difference…that’s what’s gratifying about this work,” he said. “I wanted to find a way to take brain/behavior science which I love to do and apply it to a public heath setting for children where there’s tremendous need, like in the Congo.”

Learn more about his work here and his efforts to create a center to take collaborative research in global neuropsychology to a whole new level.

“I couldn’t do it without the support of the college and my department chairs,” he said. “Their support has allowed us to transition from a group of independent researchers, to a group with a common vision and purpose ready to become a center of excellence for what we do. Now there’s this synergy that makes us more powerful as a group scientifically because of our complementary expertise. I see a great future for us in this area of research and making an enduring impact in this field of service.”