Mohammad Karamouzian

Mohammad Karamouzian poses in front of trees
Early injecting careers: Implications for health, HIV risk behaviours, and clinical care

Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?

I am an HIV/AIDS epidemiologist who is passionate about global equity in health and social justice. My interest in HIV/AIDS research initially developed in 2011 when I first volunteered at an NGO food bank that served homeless people who used drugs in Kerman, Iran – a setting with a large drug use problem. Concerned for those who are hindered by limited access to social and healthcare resources, I decided to give up a successful career in veterinary medicine and pursue a career in public health to help the disadvantaged populations.

Why did you decide to study at UBC?

My thesis research with the Vancouver Injection Drug Users Study at the British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS (BCCfE), provides me with a unique opportunity to conduct research with one of the world’s largest and longest-running cohort studies of PWID. BCCfE is one of the major treatment and research facilities in Canada, with a proven track record of obtaining peer-reviewed funding from large funding institutes. Furthermore, the senior researchers at the BCCfE have extensive experience with mentoring young investigators; this mentorship and support will continue to be an instrumental aspect of my development. Therefore, I want to remain at UBC and be trained by world-renowned harm reduction academics such as Profs. Thomas Kerr (Director of the Addiction and Urban Health Research Initiative at the BCCfE) and Jane Buxton (Physician Epidemiologist and Harm Reduction Lead at the BC Centre for Disease Control, and Chair of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada Public Health and Preventive Medicine Specialty Committee). I will also attend monthly student meetings and the BCCfE’s monthly “Forefront” lectures that highlight emerging research in the field of HIV/AIDS. Importantly, I will continue to gain experience with the practical aspects of health research, including developing original grants, collecting and analyzing data, and publishing first author papers in peer-reviewed journals.

What is it specifically, that your program offers, that attracted you?

In SPPH I have learned that asking the right question is a key and fundamental part of any research project.

What was the best surprise about UBC or life in Vancouver?

I started hiking here (was never a hiker) and have so far been to most of the hikes around the city. I didn't know it is going to be this much fun!

What aspect of your graduate program do you enjoy the most or are looking forward to with the greatest curiosity?

The impact of the research down the road. I cannot wait to see that my research is informing positive change in the current harm reduction policies.

What aspects of your life or career before now have best prepared you for your UBC graduate program?

Working with the community and various research teams.

What do you like to do for fun or relaxation?

Sports! Soccer, volleyball, swimming, tennis, and hiking.

What advice do you have for new graduate students?

Follow your passion! If you don't like your research, lab, program, etc., do yourself a favor and change it! Also, engage when people reach out to you for collaboration or help with a project. It will all pay off one day...


Learn more about Mohammad's research

Injection drug use among youth is a significant public health concern that is associated with severe harms among youth including fatal drug overdose, violence, and risk of HIV and Hepatitis C (HCV) incidence. However, initiation of injection drug use among early injecting careers remains understudied. While there is growing recognition that contextual factors play a central role in determining youth’s high-risk drug using behaviors, little is known about initiation into injecting, early injecting careers, and potential interventions that may help prevent initiation into injecting. Furthermore, our understanding of factors that determine early cessation or predict sustained injecting among recent initiates remains very limited. Therefore, this study proposes to employ longitudinal data analyses to characterize early injecting careers, with a focus on the individual (e.g., childhood trauma, drug use patterns) and social-structural (e.g., homelessness, incarceration) factors that shape injection initiation, early cessation of injecting, and sustained injecting. Findings of this study are essential to developing meaningful and effective policy and program interventions that seek to prevent early injecting careers from progressing to sustained injecting.