Researching new strategies to prevent transmission of HIV from mothers to babies aligns with the training and clinical interests of John Humphrey, MD, assistant professor of medicine at IU School of Medicine. But when he met mothers and healthcare workers in Kenya and listened to their stories, the interest became a passion.
Dr. Humphrey’s passion recently led to a successful K23 career development award from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). “I hope that this research can help to improve the quality of prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) services for mothers, their infants, and the clinicians and nurses who care for them,” said Dr. Humphrey.
Dr. Humphrey’s research focuses on developing a differentiated service delivery (DSD) model for PMTCT programs. With this award, he aims to determine women’s preferences for PMTCT services and use this knowledge to tailor service delivery to better meet women’s needs and preferences. The DSD model will be developed with client input and implemented and evaluated at one maternal and child health clinic in Kenya. “I am thrilled to receive this award. It is something that IU and the AMPATH program have supported me to pursue, so I feel very grateful for this opportunity,” he said.
Dr. Humphrey will conduct this research with colleagues in the AMPATH Kenya partnership, under the mentorship of Drs. Kara Wools-Kaloustian and Winstone Nyandiko, co-directors of research at AMPATH. His research will utilize the research infrastructure of the East Africa International Epidemiology Databases to Evaluate AIDS (EA-IeDEA) Consortium.
According to Dr. Humphrey’s research abstract, approximately 1.4 million pregnancies are impacted by HIV every year. In eastern and southern Africa, nearly one third of women living with HIV who start antiretroviral therapy during pregnancy become lost to follow-up and 29-42 percent do not maintain viral suppression in the postpartum period. Maintaining viral suppression during pregnancy and breastfeeding is necessary in preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
Dr. Humphrey served as AMPATH’s pediatric team leader in Kenya from 2016-19. In addition to providing clinical care and supervising visiting students and residents, the position provided the opportunity to conduct HIV research with mentorship from Dr. Wools-Kaloustian. His wife, Connie Keung, MD, served as surgery team leader at the same time. Their 3-year-old son, Isaac, is also a member of the AMPATH family.
“The people are what make AMPATH special for me. It is wonderful and inspiring to be connected with so many people who have committed themselves to AMPATH’s mission in different ways,” Dr. Humphrey said. “I will be very happy if I can remain connected with the AMPATH community and make a difference for the care program through my research.”
K awards from the NIH are career development awards. “The objective of these programs is to bring candidates to the point where they are able to conduct their research independently and are competitive for major grant support,” according to the NICHD website. Dr. Humphrey’s career goal is to become an independent investigator with expertise in implementation strategies to improve HIV outcomes in resource-limited settings, with a specific focus on PMTCT.
When he’s not working to improve the lives of mothers and babies in Kenya and other resource-limited settings, Dr. Humphrey enjoys spending time with his family. “That’s about all I have time for!” he mused.
Learn more about Dr. Humphrey’s research and view his recent presentation at the Global Health Research Speaker Series.