Campus News

Doctoral candidate will use fellowship to develop HIV medication reminder

Jane Mutanga-Mutembo (Credit: Rebecca Ayer/UGA)

Dr. Jane Mutanga-Mutembo, a doctoral student in epidemiology at the College of Public Health, has been awarded the 2015-2016 Schlumberger Foundation Faculty for the Future Fellowship.

The one-year renewable grant provides female scientists from developing and emerging countries up to $50,000 to pursue advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering or mathematics—commonly known as STEM—fields.

A physician, Mutanga-Mutembo has spent a decade working with children who are living with HIV. The award will help support her research to develop mobile technology to help people living with HIV maintain good adherence to the lifelong medication regimens needed to keep the virus suppressed.

“Antiretroviral medication must be taken consistently to make sure the HIV virus is suppressed,” she said. “A lot of young patients are orphans who are being looked after by their grandparents, older siblings or other relatives. It’s challenging to make sure that they take their medications correctly and daily.”

Mutanga-Mutembo plans to address this issue by developing mobile technology capable of sending interactive text messages that remind caregivers about when medications need to be taken while keeping track of the patient’s adherence to treatment.

Mobile phones have become widely available in Zambia and most of Africa. According to current estimates, nearly 78 percent of Zambia’s adult population owns a mobile phone.

By building on mobile-health solutions currently supported by the Zambian government, Mutanga-Mutembo hopes to be able to offer the service free of charge. If successful, this new technology could be expanded to help patients manage other chronic diseases, such as hypertension and diabetes.

Mutanga-Mutembo completed her medical training at the University of Zambia School of Medicine in 2005 and holds a certificate in pediatric antiretroviral therapy from Stellenbosch University in South Africa.

In 2010, she received a Fulbright fellowship to study in the U.S. at the UGA College of Public Health, where she completed a Master of Public Health in epidemiology in 2012.

Mutanga-Mutembo returned to UGA in 2013 to work on a doctorate in epidemiology under the mentorship of Dr. Christopher Whalen, the Ernest Corn Professor of Infectious Disease Epidemiology. Working with Whalen, she also is combining her skills in medicine, data analysis, computer programming and community health to study the dynamics of tuberculosis transmission among social networks in Kampala, Uganda.

Recognizing the link between science, technology and socioeconomic development as well as the role of education in realizing individual potential, the Schlumberger Foundation established its flagship program, Faculty for the Future, in 2004.