My 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.
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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