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A Q&A with Greek Diaspora Fellowship Program alumna Alexandra Touroutoglou

May 01, 2023

Alexandra Touroutoglou, MSc, PhD, Assistant Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School, and Director of Imaging Operations at the Frontotemporal Dementia Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital

Why were you interested in connecting with your host university in Greece?

“In the last decade, Greece has made significant strides forward in developing neuroscience. Aristotle University School of Medicine now has a high-quality MRI scanner that produces data from a large number of patients. I felt that with my experience at Harvard Medical School I could contribute and help catalyze these efforts.”

How did participating in the program change your own scholarship, research, or teaching?

“The program supported the launching of a very successful collaboration between Harvard Medical School and the Aristotle University School of Medicine. It also helped me to strengthen my collaboration with the University of Athens. I have already scheduled an additional visit to Greece in 2023, outside the the Greek Diaspora Fellowship Program (GDFP), to continue the research projects we have launched in collaboration with Dr. Nicolas Foroglou, Professor of Neurosurgery, and Dr. Vasilios Kimiskidis, Professor of Neurology. The program further allowed me to recruit very strong post-doctoral fellows from Greece. In addition, GDFP helped me connect with professors who are planning to visit my lab at Harvard in 2023 to get training in clinical neuroimaging as part of their sabbatical program.

What lasting connections did you form through your fellowship? 

“I connected with other fellows and the Dean of the Aristotle University School of Medicine, Dr. Kyriakos Anastasiadis, Professor of Cardiac Surgery, and joined a committee that organized the first medical conference of the Hellenic Medical diaspora in Thessaloniki. We are in the process of organizing a second one. I have been also offered a visiting professor position at the Aristotle University School of Medicine. Through this program I formed connections with the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens Medical School. Together with the Dean of Medical School of Athens, Dr. Gerasimos Siasos, Professor of Cardiology, we now plan to build a student exchange program between Greek and US universities. These all testify to the importance of the program for building lasting connections between the Greek diaspora and Greek universities. I am just one example; many other colleagues have had similar experiences.”

Would you encourage a colleague to participate in a program like the GDFP? Why?

“My interactions with faculty and students was very beneficial for my career development and research. Because of that I would definitely encourage a colleague to participate in the program.”

What do you see as the value of international exchange like this?

“Exchanging experiences across countries better serves science and benefits scientists on all sides. It is important to exchange experiences between universities on teaching, mentoring, curriculum development and research. Multi-site studies are critical in medicine, where diversity is needed to have generalizable results. Getting together to collaborate on international research projects like this is a step towards promoting discoveries that have the potential to transform clinical care worldwide.”