Dr. Christopher Whalen Leads International Efforts in Epidemiology, Public Health
Dr. Christopher Whalen, Ernest Corn Professor of Infectious Disease Epidemiology, has assembled an impressive array of internationally-focused research projects in the areas of epidemiology and public health. His most recent grant, $1.49 million from the NIH Fogarty International Center in 2015, helps train Ugandan scientists to study the transmission of HIV and tuberculosis — a global health threat that kills 50,000 people annually in East Africa alone. Through this grant, UGA is partnering with Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda, to train Ugandan scientists in new and emerging methods increasingly important in understanding the complex transmission dynamics of HIV and Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacterium responsible for tuberculosis.
In 2012, Dr. Whalen received a five-year, $2.82 million grant to understand how tuberculosis is transmitted in urban environments in Africa, also in partnership with Makerere University. This funding has allowed Whalen and his co-investigators to tracking a group of patients not infected with TB over the course of one year in an attempt to closely monitor the types of interaction they are having. The researchers looked for individuals who become infected during that year, in hopes of chronicling the various social patterns that led to the new infection. As part of this project, Whalen has traveled to Uganda twice a year for the duration of the grant. An on-the-ground presence in Uganda has assisted with monitoring the progress of the research and also ensure that members of Whalen's team from UGA are getting a first-hand look at the impact of the disease on the African population.
Whalen, who has been working in East Africa for more than 25 years, helped forge UGA’s partnership with Makerere University in 2008 to achieve his goal of reducing global inequalities in health. He notes that, “Infectious diseases do not respect man-made borders. An outbreak of disease in Africa today could spread to the U.S. tomorrow…we must go to the places where these diseases are most serious and build the necessary capacity to address them. Unless we do this, the infectious disease threats that affect us all will never be resolved.”