COVID-19 public health information from the US CDC |
COVID-19 research information from the US NIH |
COVID-19 resources for global health researchers
Former Fogarty trainee now leads infectious disease research in Uganda
July / August 2021 | Volume 20 Number 4
Q&A with Dr. Andrew Kambugu
Andrew Kambugu, MBCHB, MMED
Dr. Andrew Kambugu is the Sande-McKinnell Executive Director of the Infectious Disease Institute (IDI) in Kampala,
Uganda. He is also honorary lecturer at Makerere University and associate professor at the
University of Minnesota. Kambugu earned his basic and residency medical degree from Makerere with Fogarty support and then received
advanced training in infectious disease research in the U.S. with Fogarty support. Since then,
he has been a principal investigator on numerous NIH grants involving topics such as Kaposi’s
sarcoma and cervical cancer, in addition to a Fogarty training grant that is helping to enhance
HIV research capacity in East Africa.
Tell us about your early career.
After five years of medical school and then my internship—all sponsored by the Ugandan government—I was
surprised to find no openings for doctors in government
departments, so I became a research assistant for
projects at Makerere University. I was then selected as
one of the first Ugandan trainees under Fogarty’s AIDS
International Training and Research Program (AITRP)
grant and my life has never been the same. In life there
are significant forks in the road and this was one for me.
My training in the U.S. was transformative. That’s when
I began to have an inkling that I might have a propensity
for research even though I loved clinical medicine.
How did you benefit from Fogarty training?
During my time at Case Western Reserve University in the U.S., I honed my clinical and
research skills. This was my baptism into research, from
conception of the idea, undertaking a literature review
to shape it into a good research question, writing up
the full proposal and navigating it through the research
ethics approval process. I then made all the logistical
arrangements to undertake the study and to collect the
relevant data, analyze it and write the paper. It gave me
a good grounding in the nuts and bolts of research.
How did you progress on the research track?
When I returned to Uganda, I was asked to lead IDI’s
prevention, care and treatment program. After seven
years in that role, I became head of research and have
been leading the entire Institute for three years now. I
transitioned to research because of my conviction that
the visibility of African leadership in research should be enhanced
at IDI. We created a program that supports African
scientists—many who are women—over the longer term
so they can truly become independent research thought leaders.
Another area of focus is implementation science. We
were generating a lot of data from our HIV programs
and I recognized we needed to use that information in
crafting evidence-based interventions.
I also served as principal investigator on a CDC-funded national study that examined whether well-trained nurses could perform as well as doctors
with respect to initiating and monitoring patients
on antiretroviral therapy. The resulting data was
published and helped influence government policy.
I am also a member of HIV advisory groups, which
influence our health ministry’s development of
treatment protocols. Finally, I have been principal
investigator on several NIH research grants and am
currently PI on a Fogarty grant focusing on HIV and
co-infections. I began as a Fogarty trainee and evolved
into a Fogarty PI, where I help cultivate the next
generation of research leaders.
What are your priorities for the future?
The institute is keen to continue contributing to HIV
knowledge through our research innovations and
evidence-based programming. During a strategy
planning meeting, we saw that the IDI has done
a really good job of identifying people with HIV,
putting them in care and making sure they adhere to
medication. What else can we do? If you look at a map
of Africa, Uganda is near a hotspot where there is a
lot of human-animal interaction that could give rise
to emerging infectious diseases. In 2016, we began to
establish a global health security program by piecing
together a growing portfolio of projects, including
infection treatment and antimicrobial resistance.
When COVID-19 appeared, we felt vindicated for
making an investment in emerging infectious diseases.
Data science is also a focus area for IDI, which has
become a center of excellence in this space. I want to
create an environment where younger scientists can
build their careers as I have. Fogarty can take pride in
seeing African research leaders like me, who had their
initial exposure to global public health through their
programs, now mentoring the next generation.
To view Adobe PDF files,
download current, free accessible plug-ins from Adobe's website.