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The training grant reinforces the mission of Global Women’s Health by developing the local research capacity needed to improve women’s healthcare in sustainable, lasting ways.

Dr. Carla Chibwesha and Dr. Ben Chi
Dr. Carla Chibwesha and Dr. Ben Chi

Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have been awarded a five-year, $1.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) Fogarty International Center to train promising Zambian investigators in HIV and women’s reproductive health research.

Drs. Carla Chibwesha and Benjamin Chi, faculty in the UNC Division of Global Women’s Health (GWH) in UNC School of Medicine’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, will lead this new initiative. They will work closely with Dr. Bellington Vwalika, professor at the University of Zambia, and Dr. Tobias Chirwa, professor at the University of the Witwatersrand, as well as faculty mentors from all three academic institutions. Dr. Chibwesha lives and works full-time in South Africa and travels regularly to Zambia.

Over the next five years, this program will provide Ph.D. training for five Zambian investigators from the University of Zambia’s Schools of Medicine and Public Health. Trainees will complete doctoral coursework at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa and then return to Zambia for dissertation research. The program will also support five postdoctoral positions, as well as professional development opportunities for junior and midcareer Zambian faculty.

“Our program leadership is deeply committed to building research capacity in Zambia and has a strong understanding of the training environment. We are uniquely positioned to oversee a project of this scope given our strong field presence in South Africa and Zambia,” said Dr. Chibwesha. “Our training program is designed to meet the training needs of the University of Zambia and the national priorities of the Zambian Ministry of Health.”

Although UNC faculty members have long worked in Zambia, this one of few awards that provides dedicated funding to develop young Zambian investigators.

“This program will address a major gap in research capacity in Zambia,” said Dr. Chi. “It also brings together two of UNC’s long-time international partners – the University of Zambia and the University of the Witwatersrand – in an innovative and collaborative regional training model.”

Dr. Jeff Stringer, professor and director of UNC GWH, said the program would help to create a global network of researchers dedicated to women’s health issues.

“By bringing together faculty from these three prominent universities, we will foster the collaborative environment to advance the science around HIV and women’s reproductive health,” he said.

The Fogarty International Center is dedicated to advancing the mission of NIH by supporting and facilitating global health research conducted by U.S. and international investigators, building partnerships between health research institutions in the U.S. and abroad and training the next generation of scientists to address global health needs. Learn more at