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Katherine G. Michel, PhD, MPH

Photo of KL2 Scholar Kate MichelIn Spring 2019 Dr. Michel received a KL2 award from the Georgetown-Howard Universities Center for Clinical and Translational Science (GHUCCTS). Prior to her KL2 appointment, Dr. Michel was received a TL1 award under GHUCCTS, and has been an asset to our center and her department. We are proud to see her transition from the TL1 to the KL2. 

My research at WIHS has focused on the natural history of cervical intraepithelial neoplasia-2 in women living with HIV, the effects of the cervicovaginal microbiota on HIV progression, and how trust in healthcare systems affects HIV viral suppression. In my Immunology PhD at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, my research focused on the effects of hormonal contraception on the systemic and genital immune milieu. During my MPH in Global Epidemiology at Emory University, I conducted work on sexual minority health on college campuses, contraception and reproductive health care access in Atlanta, and couple's HIV testing in Zambia.

Describe your research interests and how you chose this area of research.

My research interests are broad, from trust in health systems to the interactions between commensal microbes and the immune system. Mostly, my research focuses on improving the health of those living with HIV. I came to focus on HIV-related research because this virus is a worthy adversary, and understanding it helps us better understand the immune system, the human body, and how to improve healthcare for everyone living with chronic diseases.

How does GHUCCTS help you to achieve your research goals and advance your career in clinical and translational research? How will the CTSA program help to advance knowledge and treatments for patients with the disease(s) you study?

The GHUCCTS TL1 Scholar program helped me improve my grant writing, expose me to new avenues of research, and establish collaborations with students and faculty across DC. As a GHUCCTS KL2 Scholar, I hope to build on these skill sets as I work towards an independent research career. The KL2 program will allow me to investigate how mucosal microbiomes and the immune system communicate among women who elitely control HIV progression. This can not only improve genital and reproductive health for women living with HIV, but give us insight into how the gut and vaginal microbiome communicate with the immune system.

Why is it important to have both disciplinary and ethnic/cultural diversity in medical research? How does diversity contribute to your research? How does diversity enhance scientific discovery?

Ethnic/cultural diversity in medicine and research brings marginalized persons--and issues important to their security, well-being, and health--to the forefront. Disciplinary diversity in research--particularly including experts in multiple fields on a project--allows for higher-impact and more thoughtful results.

How does clinical translational research benefit our communities, both directly and indirectly?

The days of silo-ed clinical and scientific research are over. If we as health practitioners and scientists fail to work across disciplines, we do a deep disservice to our patients and communities. No cell type, organ system, person, or community is an island -- to better improve health we need to develop multi-disciplinary scientists, collaborations, and research projects.

July 17, 2019