My research interests broadly encompass investigating the impact of sleep and circadian rhythm disorders on health disparities in the US and Africa. As an epidemiologist and primary care physician specialized in sleep medicine I am bridging my clinical experience in sleep medicine with my research interests in health disparities and population health. My clinical background has focused on serving medically neglected populations in the US and West Africa, while my research background has concentrated on investigating the role of sleep in health disparities among people of African ancestry in both the US and West Africa. It is my objective to help uncover explanations for the racial/ethnic disparities in sleep disorders, the physiological and/or genetic mechanism(s) by which they occur and solutions or interventions to significantly minimize or eliminate these disparities.
Since, becoming a PERT Scholar at the University of Arizona I have focused my current research on investigating the role of genetics in the relationship between sleep and depression in people of African ancestry. We have identified a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) of an important enzyme involved in the synthesis of melatonin that also happens to be strongly associated with depression and highly prevalent in people of African ancestry. The objective of this research is to investigate the role of circadian phase delay on the relationship between carriers of this SNP and depression. I have the privilege of collaborating with the H-3 Africa research network giving me access to data collected from a large prospective cohort in Ghana and Nigeria.
The future directions of my research are to further expand the collection of objective and subjective sleep data to other H-3 Africa sites in East, Central, and Southern Africa forming the largest repository of sleep data in Africa. With this data I plan on analyzing the impact of sleep culture, quality, and duration on non-communicable diseases in Africa. Additionally, understanding how the environment and migration impact the sleep of people of African ancestry, potentially contributing to health disparities in the US, is of particular interest to my work. Fundamentally, It is my goal to contribute to the understanding of the role of sleep in global health disparities; hopefully impacting social-environmental policies that inform and inspire development capable of improving the health of entire populations.