I am Harvard Catalyst: Ingrid Katz
Ingrid Katz, MD, MHS
HMS Instructor in Medicine
Brigham and Women's Hospital
Dr. Katz studies factors driving health-seeking behavior related to HPV and HIV in South Africa.
I had just finished my fellowship. I was on a T32 grant and in terms of funding support I was getting to the edge of my rope. I felt like I was at a decision point in the transition from clinician to researcher. I had a great mentor and scientific advisors and a really interesting project, but funding being what it is, I just wasn't sure.
Tell us about yourself and your research interests.
I am an Instructor in Medicine and an Associate Physician at Brigham and Women's Hospital in the Division of Women's Health. I also have appointments through the Division of Infectious Diseases and Medical Communications. My research focuses on the socio-cultural determinants of health behavior in sub-Saharan Africa. I am currently involved in two primary research projects - the first examines the factors impacting HPV vaccine adherence among adolescents. We have been finding that these adolescents, in contrast to their U.S. counterparts, may be more autonomous in decision-making regarding vaccination; and that, in fact, there is a very high uptake and completion of the vaccine. The second project focuses on factors affecting refusal to participate in HIV treatment programs in South Africa. Our goal is to understand what is driving this behavior in order to inform interventions aimed at preventing early mortality in this population.
I'm most interested in areas that have a high potential for policy impact. I did a Master's in Health Science and worked overseas prior to medical school. I always knew that I would move towards a more public health-oriented or research-oriented career upon completion of my clinical training. I think, as a clinician, one has a tremendous role in individual lives, but it can be hard to effect change at a systemic level. Still, I love thinking about clinical issues. The mix of direct patient care and population research is incredible. It allows me to dive in and focus on patient care and then pull back and think from the 36,000 foot level.
How does Harvard Catalyst fit into your research and career?
Without the KL2/Catalyst Medical Research Investigator Training award, I never would have been able to launch my research career. I had a great mentor and advisors and a really interesting project, but funding was tight. I wasn't sure if I was eligible for the KL2. I didn't consider myself a translational researcher. I thought of translational research as being bench to bedside and I'm much more focused on socio-behavioral research. Now my vision of translational research has expanded.
The KL2 allowed me to get my project in South Africa up and running. It covered 75% of my salary and provided some research support. It also made it possible to generate enough preliminary data to apply for and get funding through the Harvard Global Health Institute and the Eleanor and Miles Shore Foundation.
Part of what I've loved about the KL2 is that it has a great educational component that also allows you to go out and do your research; collect data, publish and apply for grants. It helps build the bridge to your next stage of research. This really has been the accelerator for me at this stage of my career. I've learned so much from the people in the KL2 Program, in areas I'm not familiar with at all. Everyone in the program is so interesting and smart and doing really different things. It's been a phenomenal gift.
Harvard Catalyst is so innovative in its mission to purposefully bring people together across disciplines and hospitals. It helped me assemble my scientific advisory committee. I'm at the Brigham, my direct mentor is at the Institute of Global Health at Massachusetts General Hospital, another mentor is at Harvard Medical School, and another one is at Boston Children's Hospital. I have an anthropologist, an infectious disease physician, a psychologist, and a pediatrician. I feel like this is what Harvard Catalyst is all about.
What insights can you offer other researchers?
Academic researchers at Harvard can be incredibly collaborative. It just takes reaching out and building bridges. Everyone is busy and it can be hard to connect with the right people. Sometimes it's the person half a block away who's doing the exact research you want to do. I can't even tell you how many times I've used Harvard Catalyst Profiles to look up someone or to search new collaborators in the network. I am incredibly lucky to work with an excellent team of mentors.
Choosing a research career can be a very solitary path, especially at the beginning when you're mostly sitting with your ideas and trying to carve things out with your mentor. Swinging from the clinical world into the research world is not the easiest transition. I think a lot of people give up, thinking they can't make a go of it. To have people read your grant proposal and say "yeah, go for it" -- that is huge.
My experience with Harvard Catalyst has inspired me to help more junior researchers and fellows connect with senior-level investigators. With the help of my Division Chair, Dr. Paula Johnson, and my mentor, Dr. David Bangsberg, I am developing a series of retreats geared towards investigators interested in global women's health research. Ideally, by linking junior and senior-level people doing this work, we can build a few more bridges of our own.
"I am Harvard Catalyst" is a series of spotlights on clinical/translational investigators, showcasing examples of innovation, collaboration, community engagement, or professional development that have been supported by Harvard Catalyst.