RISE Scholars

Kaku So-Armah, PhD
Boston University School of Medicine
RISE Cohort 6

The most exciting thing in my life right now is our growing family – my wife, Cynthia, and I, have a 15 month old called Miinshe – pronounced like “mean chef” without the “f”.

When I’m not thinking about them, I’m often thinking about the intersection of infectious disease and chronic disease, which is where my research interests live. I grew up in Accra, Ghana and lived/worked for the past decade in the US. We have a lot of acute infectious disease in Ghana and a growing epidemic of chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease and cardiovascular disease risk factors. I have always wanted my work to be relevant and useful to my native and adoptive countries. The intersection of HIV and cardiovascular disease provides a great opportunity to do so.

My background in epidemiology has enabled me to investigate mechanisms driving the increased risk of cardiovascular disease among HIV infected people. This work excites me because of the potential public health implications, which differ by context. In Ghana and Sub-Saharan Africa, there is a looming problem of double-burden of acute/infectious disease and chronic disease that may overwhelm healthcare systems that are not set up to deal effectively with chronic disease. A mechanistic understanding of how one infectious disease (HIV) contributes to risk of a chronic disease (cardiovascular disease) can inform research into other infectious/chronic disease pairs. In the U.S., HIV infected people with access to antiretroviral therapy are now living long enough to be at risk for diseases of aging like cardiovascular disease. Again, a mechanistic understanding of how HIV drives cardiovascular disease risk can improve cardiovascular disease risk prediction, reveal disparities in primary, secondary and tertiary prevention, and possibly even teach us something new about cardiovascular disease mechanisms among HIV uninfected people.