Wools-Kaloustian Named AMPATH North American Co-Director of Research
Kara Wools-Kaloustian, MD, MS, has been named co-director of research (North America) for the AMPATH partnership and director of research for the Indiana University Center for Global Health (IUCGH). Wools-Kaloustian was in the first IU School of Medicine residency class to complete rotations at Moi University and Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital in Kenya in 1991 and the first fellow to conduct research as part of the partnership in 1992.
These early global health experiences shaped Wools-Kaloustian’s entire career. “I had been committed to providing health care to marginalized populations from the time that I entered medical school, but what I learned during my first residence rotation in Kenya was that I really enjoyed participating in improving health systems and creating systems where they did not previously exist,” she said.
She served as one of the earliest medicine team leaders from 1993-94 and, with support from the World AIDS Foundation, she established both an educational program about sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV for health care providers, and an STI diagnostic laboratory in collaboration with the Faculty of Health Sciences at Moi University. Her work in Kenya commenced again in 2003 when she became one of the founding co-directors of field research.
In her new role, Wools-Kaloustian collaborates with Professor Winstone Nyandiko, AMPATH’s co-director of research (Kenya) and associate professor of child health and pediatrics at Moi University. Prof. Nyandiko is one of the pioneer pediatric HIV specialists in Kenya and has been integral to the development of the AMPATH research program as well the Kenyan National guidelines and curricula on HIV care, treatment and prevention. He has contributed to the treatment of thousands of children and his research has led to policy changes as well.
Wools-Kaloustian’s research portfolio is focused on HIV in resource-limited settings and includes clinical trials, implementation science and epidemiology. With Kenyan and North American colleagues she has conducted HIV research related to adults, children, complications and prevention of mother-to-child transmission that has improved the treatment and care of patients around the world.
“I entered medical school the year that HIV was discovered to be the virus that causes AIDS. By the time I started my clinical rotations in 1986, there was a test for HIV, but no treatment, and the life expectancy from diagnosis to death was about a year,” said Wools-Kaloustian. “As I progressed through my training, even though it was clear that HIV could not be spread by casual contact, my patients’ trays were left outside their rooms where they couldn’t get to them, some people would gown and glove just to enter a patient room, and very few people would touch patients that had HIV,” she continued. “Ultimately I felt that people with HIV needed a voice, someone who was willing to care for them and touch them without fear.”
Wools-Kaloustian is also the principal investigator for the East Africa IeDEA (EA-IeDEA) consortium, one of seven regional data centers funded by the National Institutes of Health to provide global HIV/AIDS data. The IeDEA regional data centers have the capacity to merge, share and analyze data for more than 1.7 million HIV patients worldwide.