This story was originally posted on UGA’s College of Public Health website on July 26, 2019, and was written by Lauren Baggett.
Dr. Christopher Whalen, a leading international researcher on HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis transmission in Africa, has been named to the Karen and Jim Holbrook Distinguished Professorship in Global Health.
Karen Holbrook served as provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at the University of Georgia from 1998 to 2002 before being named president of The Ohio State University. Jim Holbrook is a retired oceanographer and past deputy director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Pacific Marine Environmental Research Laboratory in Seattle.
The Holbrooks established the professorship to build upon existing strengths in global health research throughout the college, increase international collaborations and expand experiential learning activities for students in international public health.
“I was very fortunate to work with colleagues at UGA during a time of real transformation and expansion into new program areas,” said Karen Holbrook. “It is so gratifying to see many of those ideas have taken root. Now seems like a good time to invest in realizing more of the college’s potential for conducting meaningful international research and to emphasize the impact this activity can have for students.”
Whalen is the director of the Global Health Institute and a faculty member in the department of epidemiology and biostatistics in UGA’s College of Public Health.
His research and clinical activities focus on Sub-Saharan Africa, especially Uganda, where he aims to improve current methods and strategies for tuberculosis control and to improve clinical care for tuberculosis among HIV-infected persons.
Beginning in the 1990s, Whalen and a team of Ugandan scientists performed some of the first epidemiological studies on the effect of the HIV epidemic on the sister epidemic of TB in high-burden communities. The results of these studies have influenced policy at the World Health Organization and motivated further research in the field.
An equal part of Whalen’s work involves building capacity for research, teaching and clinical care in Africa. Twenty years ago, Whalen established a program to train Ugandan health professionals in the scientific disciplines necessary to address the infectious disease crisis in their home country and throughout Africa.
His program has thrived at UGA, supported by a $1.9 million grant from the Fogarty Training Center at the National Institutes of Health. Over his career, Whalen has trained more than 75 students who have returned to Uganda and made immediate impacts on the health care system there. He was awarded the Elizabeth Hurlock Beckman Award for teaching excellence in 2017.
“We are incredibly grateful for the generosity of the Holbrooks,” said Marsha Davis, dean of the College of Public Health. “This funding will not only allow Dr. Whalen to accelerate the college’s current global health educational and research initiatives, but will further expand our ability to make positive impacts on the health of the communities in which we serve.”