Zambia Epilepsy Care Team Receives MSU OSCP and Regional Outreach Awards

Chieftainness Mwenda and Gretchen Birbeck

Gretchen L. Birbeck is director of MSU's International Neurologic and Psychiatric Epidemiology Program and a faculty member in the College of Osteopathic Medicine. Chieftainess Mwenda of the Basanje Royal Establishment, Zambia, is a registered nurse and a member of Birbeck's Chikankata Epilepsy Care Team in Mazabuka, Zambia.

For more than 15 years, these two partners have worked together to improve the lives of people with epilepsy in rural Zambia. The scholarly contributions from their work are regularly utilized by the World Health Organization in the development of more optimal programs of epilepsy care and care delivery in Africa. Birbeck and Mwenda have served as expert advisors on community-based epilepsy care for the Zambian Ministry of Health, the World Bank, and the U.S. Institute of Medicine. They have identified global problems in drug access for people with epilepsy in low income countries, famine-related drug toxicity, and the lack of appropriate treatment for co-morbid HIV and epilepsy in most of Africa. They have also worked tirelessly to bring their findings to the tention of key stakeholders and policy makers.

"When I arrived in Zambia in 1994 I had no idea the burden of epilepsy I would find there, but I quickly realized that to combat this terrible disease I would have to leave the hospital and go out and engage the community."

Gretchen Birbeck

In 2011, the Chikankata team received two major honors. In February, Birbeck and Mwenda were recognized with MSU's annual Outreach Scholarship Community Partnership (OSCP) Award, which is conferred at the all-university Awards Convocation in February. The OSCP award gives University-wide recognition to highly engaged research collaborations that positively impact both communities and scholarship. The award goes to both the researcher and the community partner.

In May, Birbeck was notified that the Chikankata collaboration had received the prestigious regional Outreach Scholarship/W.K. Kellogg Foundation Engagement Award from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU). This award will be honored at the 12th Annual National Outreach Scholarship Conference, which is being hosted by MSU in October.

Winning the regional Kellogg award also qualifies recipients to compete for the APLU's national C. Peter Magrath University Community Engagement Award, which will be conferred in November at the APLU's annual meeting in San Francisco. Established in 2006, the Kellogg Outreach Scholarship and Magrath University Community Engagement awards both recognize four-year public universities that have redesigned their learning, discovery, and engagement functions to become more closely and productively involved with their communities.

Learn more about the OSCP Award at


  • Gretchen Birbeck
  • Professor, Department of Neurology and Epidemiology
  • Director, International Neurologic and Psychiatric Epidemiology Program
  • College of Osteopathic Medicine
  • (517) 884-0277


  1. Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (2011, May 12). Michigan State, Montana State, Penn State, and University of Tennessee win regional community engagement awards. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved from
  2. Hills, C. (2011, February 8). Zambia epilepsy care team awarded Outreach Scholarship Community Partnership Award. East Lansing: MSU University Outreach and Engagement. Retrieved from,_Outreach_Award_2011,_Epilepsy_Care_Team,_2.08.11.pdf
  3. Hills, C. (2011, May 12). MSU's Birbeck wins outreach award for work on epilepsy in Zambia. East Lansing: MSU University Relations. Retrieved from

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