Dear Colleagues,

Dr. Kathleen J. SikkemaIt gives me great pleasure to announce the appointment of the next Chair of the Department of Sociomedical Sciences, Dr. Kathleen J. Sikkema. Dr. Sikkema, a clinical psychologist, is currently the Gosnell Family Professor of Global Health, and Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at Duke University. She is the founding director of the Global Mental Health Initiative at the Duke Global Health Institute (DGHI) and leads the Social and Behavioral Sciences Core in Duke's Center for AIDS Research. Reflecting her longstanding interdisciplinary approach to research and mentoring, and commitment to graduate education and training, she also serves as the Director of the Doctoral Scholars Program at DGHI, a training program in global health. Her interdisciplinary HIV research has been supported by the National Institutes of Health for 25 years and has resulted in more than 200 publications in peer-reviewed journals. She will join us on July 1, 2019.

Dr. Sikkema has led pioneering scholarship in global mental health, specifically related to traumatic stress, coping, and gender violence; HIV prevention and care engagement; trial conduct; community-level prevention interventions; and university-community research collaboration. Her current research focuses on the conduct of community-based HIV prevention and mental health intervention trials across a variety of populations in the United States and South Africa. 

I am confident her work will complement the current scholarship of our very strong department. She will also develop a broader focus on global mental health for public health and lead a new interdisciplinary, schoolwide program, expanding our activities to address the syndemic nature of mental disorders, wherein social and economic contextual factors create and exacerbate the risk of disease progression.

Throughout her esteemed career, Dr. Sikkema has championed ground-breaking interdisciplinary approaches to research and education, a commitment which will further SMS collaborations and advance our School’s work to address cross-cutting issues of public and global health significance.

Dr. Sikkema’s research on HIV and mental health has had a wide-ranging impact, including in developing prevention programs and improving access to treatment in low-resource settings in this country and abroad. Her scientific contributions have had significant implications for the allocation of HIV/AIDS prevention and intervention resources and led to a deeper understanding of the psychological correlates of transmission risk behavior. Her team's interventions for HIV-infected adults with histories of childhood sexual abuse was named a CDC Best Evidence Intervention in 2008 and included in the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices in 2011. Dr. Sikkema’s early HIV prevention work in the U.S. during the 1990s resulted in the first community-level interventions for women and adolescents in low-income housing developments. 

In South Africa, where she has worked with local partners since 2001, her current research focuses on integrating mental health treatment into HIV primary care in Cape Town. Building on prior work with abused women, she recently completed a multi-method longitudinal study to inform the development of interventions related to gender, HIV risk, and alcohol use in South African women, including the development of a mental health intervention to reduce traumatic stress and improve care engagement among HIV-infected women. Previously, Dr. Sikkema undertook studies in Pretoria and Johannesburg related to women’s health and trauma, and she continues research focused on women and girls in Tanzania.

Dr. Sikkema held prior faculty positions at Yale University and the Medical College of Wisconsin, and is an honorary professor at the University of Cape Town. She received her PhD in clinical psychology from Virginia Tech, MS from Illinois State University, and BA from Central College in Pella, Iowa, where she currently serves on the Board of Trustees.

Throughout her research career, Dr. Sikkema has demonstrated that the social sciences are essential to identify priorities and develop strategies to address health inequities and assess the impact of interventions to reduce them. As she relocates to our School, I look forward to the insight and leadership that Dr. Sikkema will bring to our renowned and innovative Department of Sociomedical Sciences.

I would also like to express my deepest gratitude to James Colgrove for his service as Interim Chair of the Department. He will remain in this role for the duration of the academic year. As Interim Chair, Dr. Colgrove has supported the department's world-class faculty in conducting their exceptional research, teaching, and service work and led the planning of SMS's 50th anniversary activities during the 2018-19 academic year. Thank you, Dr. Colgrove, for your dedication, leadership, and good cheer over the last year.

I look forward to all of you getting to know Dr. Sikkema as we welcome her to our School.

With warm regards, 


Linda P. Fried, MD, MPH

Dean and DeLamar Professor of Public Health
Mailman School of Public Health
Senior Vice President
Columbia University Medical Center
Professor of Epidemiology and Medicine