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Improving health services for women and children in Nigeria

My introduction to global health came when I was finishing my hematology/oncology fellowship at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in the mid-1980s in Boston. During that fellowship, and after co-organizing the first AIDS care clinic in the New England region with Jerry Groopman, I was learning the ropes in retrovirology and molecular biology as a part of Max Essex’s laboratory group at Harvard School of Public Health. 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.

Making a Difference

As a clinician, I was able to set up clinical care clinics in Senegal, creating a research cohort comprising hundreds of women sex workers in Dakar who had been infected with this new human retrovirus. In the clinics, we also cared for the women’s children and 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.

Impacting Global Health

After losing friends and patients to AIDS since the onset of the epidemic, I have spent my career fighting AIDS in the United States and abroad. I have worked in sub-Saharan African countries which lacked the funding, infrastructure, and trained personnel to implement large-scale treatment programs. With partners in many countries, comprehensive HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, and care programs have been created. Today, similar to HIV/AIDS, a worldwide disparity is playing out with regard to cancer care and prevention. Through the work at Rutgers Global Health Institute, we endeavor to equip health systems in developing countries to be able to care for, treat, and prevent cancer. We also work closer to home in New Jersey to improve the health of our neighbors who are vulnerable to health inequity.

This map illustrates where my contributions to global health are located. Click on a pin to see a description of the initiatives with which I have been involved at each location.