On a sunny February day in Kampala, Uganda, respected University of Georgia infectious disease researcher Christopher Whalen was bestowed an honorary doctorate by Makerere University.
The honor recognizes Whalen’s “extraordinary level of personal commitment to rebuild the academic and educational programs at Makerere University.”
Surrounded by colleagues and former students, Whalen was celebrated for his contributions to Makerere, Uganda and Africa.
“While it is evident that Professor Whalen is a superb researcher, an influential academic leader and a highly productive educator of new scientists in Africa and the U.S.,” said Makerere University vice chancellor Barnabas Nawangwe at the ceremony, “he also should be recognized for his faith in humanity and his determination to improve the well-being of Ugandan men, women, and children.”
As a physician-epidemiologist, Whalen is one of the leading international researchers studying HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis transmission in Africa and has devoted his career to controlling these diseases in Uganda.
Whalen currently serves as the Karen and Jim Holbrook Professor of Global Health and Distinguished Research Professor at the UGA College of Public Health, where he directs the Global Health Institute.
“I am very honored to receive the doctoral degree from Makerere University. It is the highlight of my professional career. I am very grateful to my previous trainees in Uganda who nominated and supported me for this recognition,” said Whalen.
Whalen first began working in Uganda in 1991 as an assistant professor at Case Western University collaborating with Ugandan colleagues at Makerere University to develop a multi-disciplinary research program to address HIV and tuberculosis in Uganda.
They performed some of the first epidemiological studies on the effect of the HIV epidemic on the sister epidemic of TB in high-burden communities, the results of which have influenced policy at the World Health Organization and motivated further research in the field.
An equal part of Whalen’s mission involved building capacity for research, teaching and clinical care in Africa. Twenty years ago, Whalen and colleagues at Makerere established a program to train Ugandan health professionals in the scientific disciplines necessary to address the infectious disease crisis in their home country and throughout Africa.
Supported by multiple training grants from the Fogarty Training Center at the National Institutes of Health, Whalen has trained more than150 students over his career, who have returned to Uganda and made immediate impacts on the health care system there.
Stephen Asiimwe, who was mentored by Whalen at Case Western and UGA, says that Whalen’s impact is best viewed through “his army of trainees who he has personally impacted through his meticulous selection, training and continued mentorship over the years.”
“This honor was long overdue. It was a special moment for us to give something back. It’s really a small token (in my opinion) to a man of Chris’s caliber, for his determination, honesty, consistent hard work and belief in us – the public health leaders of Uganda for over all these years.”
– Lauren Baggett
Posted on April 24, 2023.