University of Washington School of Public Health

UW SPH Close Up: Close Up September 2016: Carey Farquhar

Close Up September 2016: Carey Farquhar

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Close Up September 2016: Carey Farquhar
Close Up September 2016: Carey Farquhar
"High-quality training means influencing culture to create a richer environment for learning"
Carey Farquhar
Professor, Global Health, Epidemiology

By 8:30 most mornings, Carey Farquhar has already exercised, dropped her kids at school and taken part in at least two calls with colleagues in Kenya. A ground-breaking HIV researcher and long-time mentor, she hopes to develop a more diverse student body as well as launch more fieldwork opportunities for students in Asia. She was recently named associate chair for academic programs in the Department of Global Health.

What do you see as the future of global health training?

I think more training will take place in-country. Our in-country colleagues know the problems and are the ones who are ultimately going to be coming up with solutions. But high-quality training means you have to have the kind of academic environment and the level of student and faculty engagement that you have at the UW.

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Carey Farquhar teaching AIDS: A Multidisciplinary Approach

That means creating not just the didactic excellence, but influencing the culture to create a richer environment for learning. You need a core, or a critical mass. The International AIDS Research and Training Program (IARTP) has helped us get closer to that because we’ve been able to train so many people, including more than 60 researchers and public health leaders in Kenya who earned their masters degrees and PhDs. When you start getting to that point, you have mentorship and the culture to make a real impact on population health.

In terms of public health, some big gaps in training are around leadership and practice. More programs could focus on training individuals from across the globe in the skills to actually improve the health of populations in-country through implementation science, policy and advocacy.

What is your vision as new Associate Chair of Academic Programs? 

We are working towards having a more diverse student body, including more under-represented minorities, across all our programs. I would be very proud of being able to say that that happened under my watch.

And I hope we can build out more into the practice arena, potentially with a doctorate of global health, which would be a practice-oriented global health degree.

It would also be great if our academic programs could expand to other regions. In the same way that we’ve developed strong programs for students and residents to engage and learn in sub-Saharan Africa, I hope we could do the same in Asia. In each area where we expand our partnerships, it needs to be mutually beneficial in such a way that it’s building capacity there. That’s really important to me. I’m not interested in starting a bunch of programs all over the place and sending students there. 

What are you doing to cultivate and support diversity?

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Carey (far right) in Kenya with the Director of the NIH, Francis Collins, Director of Fogarty, Roger Glass, and University of Nairobi partners

I think we have to be very deliberate about recruitment and think hard about: Why do individuals who may not have the resources not come to the University of Washington? Well, our lack of resources are a big reason. We’re a public institution and we don’t have the same money that private universities have.

If we can overcome that by providing some support and also provide them with the mentorship they need, that could help. Starting this fall, the Department has two new Research Assistantships that will pay for two quarters, with a faculty mentor supporting the third.

This is just one step toward building a more diverse student body.

Highlights

  • Professor, Global Health, Epidemiology, Allergy and Infectious Diseases 
  • Assoc. Chair for Academic Programs, Global Health
  • Director, UW Kenya Research and Training Center
  • Director, International AIDS Research and Training Program (IARTP)
  • Director, Afya Bora Consortium Fellowship in African Global Health Leadership
  • Director, UW Internal Medicine Global Health Pathway
  • MPH, University of Washington, 2001
  • MD, Harvard University, 1994

What impact do you think your research has had on health?

Since 2000, I’ve been working to promote partner testing during pregnancy and I was one of the first researchers to explore this. Our research found it was really important and beneficial to the health of the woman and the baby to have the partner get tested for HIV. It was a paradigm shift to focus on the partner, but now it’s widely accepted.

I’ve also been helping the Kenyan Ministry of Health get to the first 90 percent of HIV-positive people knowing their status. Right now, around half of HIV-positive people in Kenya know their status. One of our large studies found that assisted partner services helped get people tested, and this is now being integrated into their approach. We are helping reach these individuals who wouldn’t otherwise test and are hard to reach.

You have a busy schedule yet still provide care for patients living with HIV at Harborview’s Madison Clinic.

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With family in Versailles, France

I really enjoy clinical work. There was actually a time when I wasn’t being paid for working in an outpatient clinic, but I would never have given it up. You’re kind of in a shell at that time, you’re removed from everything else -- it’s just you and that patient. You’re not checking your email; you’re not responding to others or multitasking. It’s a nice reprieve from the rest of the day.

What’s a typical day like? 

I wake up between 4:30 and 5 am. I start the day with exercise, usually I run, bike or swim. I often have conference calls at 6 or 6:30 am with a mentee or one of my research groups, because of the time difference with Kenya. Then, around 7 am I get the kids (ages 8, 15 and 18) ready for school and drop them off. Often I’m on another conference call with someone in Kenya in my car via Bluetooth at 8:30 am!

After that, every day varies and I really don’t have a typical day. Sometimes I’m in clinic, sometimes I’m meeting with students or staff discussing different projects or training programs, or I'm writing grants or on service in the hospital. In the fall I teach three classes and that occupies lots of time.

At the end of the day, if it starts to slow down, I may have time to look at my email.

What brought you to the UW?

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During the Cascade Crest 100-Mile Endurance Run

I came out here while I was in medical school and fell in love with the Pacific Northwest. My husband and I couples-matched at UW for residency. He was doing orthopedics and I was interested in infectious disease fellowships after training in internal medicine. In the Pacific Northwest you have great livable cities, and at the same time you can have cherry blossoms blooming and snow on the mountains.

What are your hopes for students studying at the UW?

I hope students have a positive yet challenging experience, academically and socially and emotionally -- something that pushes them to grow. I would hope that they have that type of experience and emerge with a set of skills that they are then able to take with them in that next step in their career.

Most importantly, I hope they emerge with that sense of going into the world to do something with a broader view of health, and the factors that are most important in determining why people have access to health care, why people are more healthy or less healthy, and a desire to work toward changing those factors.

(By Amelia Vader)