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The award will allow Dr. Joni Price to continue in-depth research around HIV and obstetric outcomes in Zambian women.

Dr. Joni Price
Dr. Joni Price

Dr. Joni Price, a fellow in UNC OB-GYN’s Division of Global Women’s Health, has received a Fogarty International Research Scientist Development Award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to support her research in HIV and preterm birth and break new ground in improving maternal health outcomes for African women.

This K01 career development award will allow her to take advantage of two NIH trials investigating the efficacy of progesterone in preventing preterm birth among HIV-infected women in Zambia. Dr. Price has lived in Lusaka, Zambia since July 2016. As part of the UNC Global Women’s Health Fellowship, she has established a career foundation for clinical, epidemiologic and implementation research around HIV and obstetric outcomes.

“I am thrilled to receive this funding from the Fogarty International Center,” said Dr. Price. “I see it foremost as recognition of the importance of our team’s work and the dedication of my outstanding mentorship team. It is a great honor to receive such generous support to develop an academic career in global women’s health, especially in the current funding climate.”

Her work has three separate research aims, all of which will take advantage of these ongoing parent trials.

First, she will investigate whether the timing of antiretroviral therapy (ART) initiation is associated with preterm birth within the trial cohorts and whether the progesterone intervention is effective in preventing preterm birth for women beginning ART in pregnancy.

Second, Dr. Price will assess serum progesterone levels in those who received this intervention to evaluate the extent to which these levels correlate with risk of preterm birth.

Third, she will measure the healthcare-associated costs of caring for a preterm infant and of delivering a public-sector progesterone supplementation program. Her goal is to create a model to estimate the cost-effectiveness of progesterone to prevent preterm birth among women for different indications – including HIV infection alone – in resource-constrained settings like Zambia.

To accomplish these aims, Dr. Price will be mentored by a multidisciplinary team from UNC-Chapel Hill (Dr. Jeff Stringer, Dr. Steve Cole, Dr. Ben Chi), the University of Zambia (Dr. Bellington Vwalika), and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (Dr. Helen Ayles, Dr. Gabriela Gomez).

Over the next five years, Dr. Price will spend at least half of her time living and working in Zambia. The results will not only contribute to the growing field of HIV and adverse birth outcomes, but will also provide important preliminary data for Dr. Price as she pursues independent NIH funding.

“The Fogarty International Research Scientist Development Award is one of the few that provides dedicated support to promising young investigators working overseas,” said Dr. Chi, professor of obstetrics and gynecology, director of the UNC Global Women’s Health Fellowship and former K01 recipient. “With this support, Dr. Price will better understand the opportunities and challenges of healthcare in global settings. She will have protected time to develop her research skills and address longstanding health problems in new and innovative ways.”