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Leonardo & Heather Bonilha

This summer, prominent researchers with Gamecock DNA returned to the roost.

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This summer, two prominent researchers with Gamecock DNA returned to the roost. Dr. Leonardo Bonilha was named senior associate dean for research at the School of Medicine Columbia and clinical director for the USC Brain Health Network. Bonilha’s wife, Heather Shaw Bonilha, was named graduate director of the Arnold School of Public Health’s communication sciences and disorders Ph.D. program. 

The couple’s South Carolina connections date back to the mid-2000s. From 2005 to 2007, when Leo was a research assistant professor of neurology at USC and Heather (Ph.D. speech language pathology, ’05) was a research assistant professor in the Arnold School.

But it’s what the two have accomplished since that makes the Bonilhas a bona fide power couple.

An internationally recognized physician-scientist, Leo Bonilha earned his M.D. and a Ph.D. in neuroscience at the State University of Campinas in Brazil. His research focuses on language recovery for patients with aphasia as well as outcomes of epilepsy treatment. 

From 2012 to 2022, he put together an impressive CV at the Medical Uni­versity of South Carolina. He was director of the Neurology Residency Clinic, the Language and Aphasia Clinic, and the Comprehensive Epilepsy Center. He also served as medical director of the Stroke Recovery Research Center, vice chair for research for the Department of Neurology and the Smart State Endowed Chair for Neuroimaging.

Most recently, he was a professor of neurology, vice chair of research and director of the Emory Comprehensive Epilepsy Center. 

Heather Shaw Bonilha, meanwhile, researches dysphagia and dysphonia — i.e., swallowing and voice disorders. She was previously a professor in the College of Health Professions at MUSC, where she was division director for speech-language pathology and co-director of the interdisciplinary doctoral program in health and rehabilitation sciences. She also served as the medical director of speech-language pathology for the hospital at MUSC and associate director for translational workforce development for the South Carolina Translational Research Institute.


Carolinian Magazine

This article was originally published in Carolinian, the alumni magazine for the University of South Carolina. Meet more dynamic Carolinians and discover once again what makes our university great.

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Cover of the Carolinian Magazine.