Richard MarlinkMy introduction to global health came when I was finishing my hematology/oncology fellowship at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in the mid-1980’s in Boston. During that fellowship, and after co-organizing the first AIDS care clinic in the New England region with Jerry Groopman, I was trying to learn the ropes in virology and molecular biology as a part of Max Essex’s laboratory group at Harvard. Our laboratory group, along with Senegalese and French collaborators, discovered the first evidence for the existence of a new human retrovirus, HIV-2, a second human AIDS virus with apparent origins in West Africa.

Senegalese Mother and her child in our family care clinic
Senegalese Mother and her child in our family care clinic

As a clinician, I was able to make a difference in Senegal then, helping to set up clinical care, to create a research cohort comprising hundreds of women sex workers in Dakar who had been infected with this new human retrovirus, and to care for them and their families. I discovered that even a small investment of time and money can go a long way when helping those in need in low-resource settings. I became hooked on creating solutions to help people in such settings. Long story short, I have conducted clinical, epidemiological, and implementation research throughout Africa since 1985, and I have built long-term partnerships—and, along the way, deep friendships.

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