Research on HIV and other chronic diseases by an instructor at the University of West Florida Usha Kundu, MD College of Health has led to a year-long, international fellowship.
It’s called the PRIDE Fellowship and it’s sponsored by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, which is a division of the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Peter Memiah, an assistant professor of epidemiology and public health at UWF, is one of a dozen academics from around the country who won the fellowship. "What I saw were a lot of people from, I would say Ivy League schools. A lot on minority scholars from Ivy League schools. A lot of other schools get forgotten. So I think this was a good thing, it was good exposure for the University of West Florida as well, especially on the east coast. The visibility of just who the University of West Florida is and some of the work that we do." Memiah says HIV rates in Florida are high, so the work he does with HIV impressed the decision makers at the institute. "I think, going forward, I would try to talk to some of my colleagues here to apply for this [fellowship]."
Dr. Memiah is currently working on three studies. One is developing a method to help researchers and health care providers around the world make sense of the huge amounts of data being produced for patients. Another is working with a company to develop mobile health platforms for pregnant and post-natal woman. But the work that earned Dr. Memiah the fellowship is his research into HIV and other chronic diseases. "We are looking at biomarkers of diabetes and cardiovascular disease among HIV patients. We are doing this study in Tanzania. We would have preferred to do it in the US, however the amount of time it takes to do it [here] is much longer. PRIDE is sponsored by the National Heart, Blood and Lung Institute of the NIH. And so they are really interested in finding out the intersection between HIV and other chronic diseases. So that's what caught their attention.
The study hopes to show the link between the conditions so screening for other chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease can be incorporated into the treatment guidelines for HIV. The yearlong fellowship to the PRIDE institute, which loosely stands for Programs to Increase Diversity Among Individuals Engaged in Health-Related Research, has already begun. Dr. Memiah and the other fellows started two weeks of orientation in July. "We have all these [educators] that come in from different parts of the country, I would say [different parts of] the world who are experts mostly in addressing health disparities. This PRIDE fellowship is really geared towards minority scholars." He says there is a concerted effort by NIH and other partners in the program to make sure minority scholars are trained to advance their research, to write good proposals that will get attention and funding, and network with the right people. And he says participating in the fellowship will ultimately help his students. "I'm now able to partner them with [other professors who could help them in their research and studies]. So if one of my students, for example, in understanding fatigue, now I know [an educator] who is interested in fatigue studies and I will be able to link some of my students to such scholars."
In addition to the fellowship and his other work, Dr. Memiah is currently conducting an evaluation of the elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV, a national document that is a public health priority for Kenya and the World Health Organization. The document highlights strategies aimed at reducing infant mortality and is critical in primary prevention of HIV and curbing the spread of the epidemic.
Dr. Peter Memiah is an assistant professor of epidemiology and public health in the University of West Florida Usha Kundu, MD College of Health. He has lived in nine African and two Caribbean countries and has designed courses used to train more than 1,000 health care workers in resource-limited settings.