Graduate Student Receives Pre-Doctoral Fellowship from the American Heart Association

Anna Pinkert | December 18, 2013
Jacob Kariuki will study metabolic diseases in his native Kenya.

Jacob Kariuki will study metabolic diseases in his native Kenya.
Image by: Harry Brett

You've got to believe in possibilities.

College of Nursing and Health Sciences graduate student Jacob Kariuki has been selected to receive a selective pre-doctoral fellowship from the American Heart Association. The fellowship includes a stipend of up to $46,000 over two years, and supports career development and research efforts. The fellowship is highly competitive. Only 12% of nursing students in the New England region receive funding.

Kariuki came to UMass Boston from Kenya after receiving his nursing degree. His doctoral research focuses on preventing metabolic diseases (like heart disease and diabetes) in resource-constrained environments. Infectious diseases like AIDS get a lot of attention in sub-Saharan African countries like Kenya, but the rate of non-infectious diseases is growing in the region. The World Health Organization predicts that by 2030, rates of non-communicable diseases will overtake infectious diseases in sub-Saharan Africa. To slow the growth of these diseases, governments must invest in screenings, health education, and preventative care.

“Secondary intervention is great, but primary interventions may mean everything in places like Kenya,” says Kariuki. “You don’t have to wait until the whole building is on fire to start acting.”

However, primary care doctors in Kenyan villages don’t always have the resources they need to screen and prevent metabolic diseases. Many hospitals in rural Kenya lack basic necessities. Things that American clinicians take for granted, like sufficient electricity, medical supplies, and diagnostic tools, are harder to come by. Kariuki is turning some digital tools for analyzing diagnostic results into paper charts that clinicians can use even when they don’t have Internet access.

Kariuki is one of the graduate students who works yearly to coordinate Kenya Heart and Sole, a collaborative project between UMass Boston and three Kenyan nursing schools: the Tumutumu Hospital School of Nursing, the Kijabe Hospital School of Nursing, and the University of Nairobi School of Nursing Sciences. Students and faculty from UMass Boston collaborate with their peers at Kenyan schools to provide health screenings to Kenyan villagers, many of whom have never been screened for high cholesterol or diabetes.

As a student in the College of Nursing and Health Sciences, Kariuki has a strong mentor in Eileen Stuart-Shor, director of Kenya Heart and Sole. Kariuki also credits CNHS faculty members Suzanne Leveille and Jerry Cromwell for their assistance in bringing his research projects to fruition.

“One of the greatest lessons you learn in [CNHS] is that you’ve got to believe in possibilities,” says Kariuki, “With UMass Boston leading the way, we’re seeing the [Kenyan] schools committing their resources, students, and faculty” to preventing heart disease.

Tags: africa , aha , cnhs , fellowship , health , heart disease , kariuki , kenya heart and sole , nursing , research

Comment on this story

Comments (16)

Posted by Selam | March 15, 2014 - 12:54 a.m.

Congratulations, Jacob.

I am very thrilled for you.
I wish you success and
May God be with you and guide you in your everyday journey.

Posted by Simon Kamoni | February 22, 2014 - 12:01 p.m.

Congratulations, Kigo! You have represented our continent in a mighty way and set the bar high for us who aspire to be in this field to emulate.

Posted by Michael Shor | January 28, 2014 - 10:08 a.m.

Teamwork is such an amazing thing. Take individuals from different parts of the globe, different expertise but a shared vision and unwavering commitment to succeed ... and all things are possible. Nicely done Kigo and a tribute to the UMass Boston nursing students and faculty who brought this vision to reality. And maybe I am just a bit biased by the forces of nature.

Posted by LaVerne Dickson | January 02, 2014 - 10:05 p.m.

Dear Jacob,
This is an awesome opportunity that has been bestowed upon you. May you take this baton and run with it like a wildfire out of control. You are such an intelligently humble young man; I really admire you. Kenya is proud of their son. You are a shining example of what men of color can do. Eileen is a wonderful mentor. Keep up the good work. Congratulations.

Posted by Jane Cloutterbuck | January 01, 2014 - 6:27 p.m.

Congratulations, Jacob!

Jane Cloutterbuck

Posted by Darlyne Augustin | December 22, 2013 - 10:14 a.m.

You once told me that health care is “glocal.” Your work with KH&S will have a positive effect on so many around the world. Continue with the great work that you do!

Posted by Jacob Kariuki | December 20, 2013 - 2:53 p.m.

I feel humbled by the way Anna pieced this story, and your kind comments. Behind every story there is a story. The story behind this story is the amazing environment we have at UMass Boston, and great mentorship. The work on this has just begun.

Posted by Mustapha | December 20, 2013 - 1:29 p.m.

Congratulations for seizing the opportunity to bring out the unannounced healthcare concerns in not only Kenya or the horn, but for the whole of Africa. Nelson Mandela is smiling down on you for caring for the health of our people. One small step for you, but a giant step of the continent. Congratulations again.
Mustapha Coker, EdD, student in Urban Education Leadership

Posted by velina | December 20, 2013 - 12:19 p.m.

Amazing accomplishment! Jacob was on the job from the first day he arrived at UMass and worked hard to receive this recognition.

Posted by VOFEEKROMAH | December 19, 2013 - 11:02 p.m.


Posted by Missy Westhaver | December 19, 2013 - 12:53 p.m.

A worthy cause.  Congratulations!

Posted by Naomi Karangatha | December 19, 2013 - 9:55 a.m.

Wow, congrats Jacob! I’m so proud of you, and how you are making a great name for our great nation Kenya! Good job.

Posted by Marcus A. Jackson | December 18, 2013 - 1:14 p.m.

I just want to say how proud I am of you, Jacob. I applaud you in your efforts as a future leader in the health care field.

Posted by Gabrielle | December 18, 2013 - 12:47 p.m.


Posted by Jesse Wright | December 18, 2013 - 12:32 p.m.

Jacob, your foresight, intentions, and success are inspirational. Very proud!

Posted by Shauna Murray | December 18, 2013 - 11:38 a.m.

Congratulations, Jacob!!!!!!