Adolescent Medicine Leadership

J. Dennis Fortenberry, MD, MS

J. Dennis Fortenberry, MD, MS Director of Adolescent Medicine
Donald Orr Professor of Adolescent Medicine

Dr. Fortenberry is a Professor of Pediatrics and has guided a research program focused on adolescents over the past 17 years. Initial efforts demonstrated the importance of Chlamydia reinfection among adolescent women and addressed whether the covariation of health-protective and health-harming behaviors were important outcomes. Using structural equation modeling, contraceptive and condom use were shown to be most closely related to other health-protective behaviors such as seatbelt use. More recent efforts address the contextual and interpersonal factors associated with adolescent sexual activity. The importance of partners as sources of social support for adolescents’ care-seeking for STD's was identified. Stigma and low health literacy are important barriers to appropriate health care for adolescents. Using coital diaries, the use of alcohol or marijuana before sexual intercourse did not alter the probability of event-specific condom use. Interpersonal relationship factors are important predictors of sexual and contraceptive behaviors. For example, adolescents reporting higher levels of emotional comfort and trust with a sex partner are less likely to use a condom with that partner. Condom use declines over time in adolescent sexual relationships as comfort and trust increase. Manuscripts published during the past year address day-to-day variations in mood as predictors of sexual activity among adolescent women. More detailed assessment of the personal and interpersonal risk and protective factors associated with adolescent sexual behaviors are central elements of the current research program. Detailed longitudinal analysis of STD data from the Young Women’s Project will allow better understanding of STD during the transition from adolescence into young adulthood and the acceptability of vaginal microbicides. More recently, projects have addressed the intersection between the urethral microbiomes of young men and their risk of STD. These ongoing projects are currently funded through 2013. Dr. Fortenberry has served as a research mentor to 17 adolescent medicine fellows, a similar number of pre-doctoral and post-doctoral students (nursing, psychology, social work and sociology), and several junior faculty members including those in mentored research development positions.