Profile with Karine Dubé

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Karine Dubé (Québec, Canada and Pembroke College 2003 – 2005) is Assistant Professor at the University of North Carolina (UNC) Gillings School of Global Public Health. Prior to joining academia, Karine worked with the U.S. Military HIV Research Program (MHRP)/Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine/Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR), FHI 360 and the Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR). Karine holds a Doctor of Public Health (DrPH) from the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, and a MPhil in Development Studies from the Queen Elizabeth House, University of Oxford.

Rhodes Project: Where do you call home?

Karine Dubé: My home is now in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA, although I am originally from Lévis, Québec, Canada. I consider myself a citizen of the world, since I have worked in 9 African countries. I acquired an African name in 3 of those countries, as a sign of my acceptance by the local communities.

Although my feet are nomadic, my conscience is global.

Rhodes Project: What first got you interested in public health?

Karine Dubé: I became interested in global public health in 2000, the summer I spent in northwestern Tanzania working with HIV/AIDS orphans. Since then, my passion became finding solutions to improve the public’s health, particularly as it relates to alleviating the burden of infectious diseases.

What keeps me interested in public health is the multi-disciplinary and team science approach that we use to try to solve complex challenges.

Rhodes Project: What was most surprising about your experiences as a Rhodes Scholar?

Karine Dubé: What surprised me the most is that the Rhodes scholarship was never merely a title for me. Growing up under the French system (with very limited English), I have never really felt like I deserved the title, and I always try to pay it forward. I now serve on the Rhodes scholarship selection committee at my University. I am amazed at the talents of the young candidates who come forward. This helps remind me the criteria by which Rhodes scholars are selected. I still try to use my energy and talents to the fullest, and to be in the pursuit of truth, courage, devotion, sympathy, kindness, unselfishness and fellowship, and scholastic achievements wherever I can. The moment I felt most proud to be a Rhodes scholar was serving as ‘boots on the ground’ in Mozambique building HIV research capacity to tackle one of the worst global disease epidemics.

Rhodes Project: What was the last book you couldn't put down?

Karine Dubé: I honestly do not remember the last book I could not put down. I have to read and review so many scientific journal articles that I have limited time for leisurely readings. But I have a brand-new copy of Helene Cooper’s book ‘The House at Sugar Beach’, in which Helene recounts her childhood growing up in Liberia and surviving the coup that changed everything. Having worked in Liberia after the Ebola outbreak, I hope this is the next book I won’t be able to put down.

Rhodes Project: If you had unlimited resources to address any issue, local or global, what would it be?

Karine Dubé: If I had unlimited resources to address any issue, I would focus on global climate change. I think this is the crisis of our generation and humanity moving forward, and we need a global environmental revolution to tackle it. Although my work focuses on infectious diseases, I honestly think global climate change will have the most profound impact on global public health, and we have no time left to change its course. We need better education and policy on all aspects of the environment. Preserving the quality of life for humankind should surpass all economic and political interests moving forward.

Rhodes Project: What are the greatest challenges you face as a public health researcher, specifically in HIV cure studies?

Karine Dubé: The greatest challenge I face as a researcher is reconciling the gaps between biomedical science, and community and patient interests and realities. I try to improve the dialogue and remove silos between different levels of consciousness.

My ultimate goal and vision for change would entail greater recognition on the part of the entire HIV cure research community of the importance of giving a voice to study participants and to address their unique concerns. This would in turn lead to more effective and ethical implementation of HIV cure studies, stronger community partnerships and greater preparedness for and acceptability of HIV cure studies in the long haul. Ethical implementation of HIV cure research starts with setting realistic expectations for these studies as well as conscious attempts to avoid unwanted consequences. Moving forward, it will be important to foster public trust in the research and ensure true informed consent of study participants in the face of scientific uncertainty. A long-term investment in a sound HIV cure research enterprise will require a meaningful involvement of people living with HIV.

Rhodes Project: What advice would you give to a young person interested in a career in public health research?

Karine Dubé: Fight hard for what you believe in. Never give up. Follow your bliss and your passion. Manage cycles of sacrifice and self-renewal.

Rhodes Project: What do you do outside of work to relax?

Karine Dubé: I love to travel internationally to admire nature with my husband at least once per year. Due to the academic calendar, this now usually happens in the summer, after the international HIV/AIDS conference each year.

Rhodes Project: How would you define success?

Karine Dubé: Spending time with my husband (we were engaged when I was in Oxford). Finding balance between life and work. Loving what I do, and not having to explain myself. And to finally be able to grow my PubMed (online repository of journal articles)! (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=Karine+dube)

Rhodes Project: What are you looking forward to right now?

Karine Dubé: I look forward to advancing the scientific field of socio-behavioral sciences in HIV cure-related research. This Lancet HIV paper reflects my current research and thinking: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30772419.

I look forward to seeing where this new journey takes me – hopefully back to Africa, one day.

I return to Oxford every two years for the Global Health and Bioethics conference at Keble College. I enjoy every minute of it, and 20+ years later, now finally feel somewhat like a Rhodes scholar.