Meet 12 Elite HIV Experts on the Front Lines of COVID-19

12 Elite HIV Experts on the Front Lines of COVID19

Dr. Anthony Fauci has been thrust to the spotlight during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. His scientific expertise and no-nonsense approach to the management and control of a global outbreak has proven essential. He has become a source of key information and a competent figure of hope as we have adjusted to the new reality in which we find ourselves. 

In honor of World AIDS Day this year, in which we find ourselves in the midst of a third wave of COVID-19 in the US, we at MediFind wanted to see if there were others like Fauci: infectious disease experts who have stepped into the fold during times of crisis to apply their knowledge in new ways to save lives. 

Utilizing our extensive datasets, we have identified a few experts who fit the mold. These doctors are elite infectious disease specialists (IDs) who have turned their attention to the COVID-19 crisis. Research into the disease now accounts for nearly 25% of all medical research, these experts have boldly stepped up to the plate.

Like Dr. Fauci, this is not their first time dealing with a novel infectious disease outbreak. Each of these doctors is also well established in confronting the emergence of HIV, beginning in the 80’s and 90’s. They have turned their insights and learnings from that national emergency and applied it to COVID-19. 

Below, you’ll meet 12 infectious disease specialists from 4 hubs of progressive medical research across the U.S. We’re highlighting these individuals to issue a collective thanks from the global community for their long-running and groundbreaking efforts. You can also find and follow along with the progress of 10 elite medical researchers who are fighting COVID-19 from the lab here.


The Harvard Hub

Rochelle P. Walensky, MD, MPH

Harvard Medical SchoolMassachusetts General Hospital in Boston, MA

Twitter: @RWalensky

Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky is an Infectious Disease specialist and Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital and Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Walensky’s research interests focus on model-based analyses of the cost-effectiveness of HIV testing, care, and prevention strategies to inform HIV/AIDS policy internationally and domestically.

On December 7, 2020 (after initial publication of this list), President-Elect Joe Biden named Dr. Walensky as the new Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Using both traditional novel methods of microsimulation modeling and decision analysis, Dr. Walensky has been active in and nationally recognized for motivating health policy and informing clinical trial design and evaluation in a variety of settings. In addition, Dr. Walensky has been influential in advancing international health policy towards the promotion of HIV treatment as prevention (TasP) and the adoption of other effective and efficient strategies of HIV care.

Dr. Walensky serves as Chair of the Office of AIDS Research Advisory Council (NIH) and as a member of the US Department of Health and Human Services Panel on Antiretroviral Guidelines for Adults and Adolescents. 

She has been an author on 280 peer reviewed articles in the past 15 years.


Mark J. Siedner, MD, MPH

Harvard Medical School / Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, MA

Dr. Mark J. Siedner is an Infectious Disease clinician and researcher in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital, Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, and Africa Health Research Institute (AHRI) faculty member. His clinical work focuses on clinical infectious disease care both at Mass General and also as an HIV care provider in southwestern Uganda. He also contributes a significant portion of his time to research, largely focused in southwestern Uganda with the Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Global Health, where he pursues studies aimed at mitigating the causes of morbidity and mortality among people living with HIV in low and middle-income countries.

He has been an author on 176 peer reviewed articles in the past 15 years.

Dr. Siedner recently co-published an article on how to spot good results from COVID-19 vaccine trials for STAT News with Dr. Paul Sax, who is also an elite Infectious Disease specialist and HIV researcher affiliated with Harvard. 


Rajesh T. Gandhi, MD

Harvard Medical School / Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, MA

Twitter: @RMKGandhi

Dr. Rajesh T. Gandhi is an Infectious Disease specialist and Oncologist, and is Director of HIV Clinical Services and Education at Massachusetts General Hospital and a Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Gandhi is the site leader of the MGH AIDS Clinical Research Site in the Harvard/Miriam AIDS Clinical Trials Unit and chair of the AIDS Clinical Trials Group (ACTG) HIV Reservoirs and Eradication Transformative Science Group. He is also the Director of the Harvard University Center for AIDS Research Clinical Core (CFAR).

Dr. Gandhi is the editor of Partners ID Images, an educational infectious diseases website, and organizer of the HIV Online Provider Education (HOPE) program, which is an Internet-based educational conference series for physicians caring for HIV-infected patients in resource-limited settings. He is also a Deputy Editor of NEJM Journal Watch Infectious Diseases and NEJM Journal Watch HIV/AIDS. He has written for NEJM Journal Watch Infectious Diseases since 2005 and has served as Deputy Editor since 2016. Dr. Gandhi is a scientific member of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Panel on Antiretroviral Guidelines for Adults and Adolescents, and the International Antiviral Society-USA Panel on Antiretroviral Drugs for Treatment and Prevention of HIV in Adults.

He has been an author on 133 peer reviewed articles and participated in 1 clinical trial in the past 15 years.


Paul E. Sax, MD

Harvard Medical School / Brigham and Women’s Hospital

Twitter: @PaulSaxMD

Dr. Paul Sax is an Infectious Disease specialist, Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, and Clinical Director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), where he has been on the faculty since 1992. He served his residency in Internal Medicine at BWH, while continuing his fellowship in Infectious Disease at Massachusetts General Hospital.

His ongoing areas of research include clinical trials of antiretroviral therapies, cost-effectiveness of management strategies for HIV, and toxicity of antiretroviral therapy.  He is presently the principal investigator at the BWH AIDS Clinical Trials Unit, and a member of the Cost-Effectiveness of Preventing AIDS Complications (CEPAC) Research Group. As Associate Program Director, he oversees the BWH component of the MGH/BWH ID fellowship, and is the primary mentor for the BWH HIV Fellow.

He has been an author on 216 peer reviewed articles and participated in 1 clinical trial in the past 15 years.

Dr. Sax recently co-published an article on how to spot good results from COVID-19 vaccine trials for STAT News with Dr. Mark Siedner, who is also an elite Infectious Disease specialist and HIV researcher affiliated with Harvard. 


Dan H. Barouch, MD, PhD

Harvard Medical School / Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, MA

Dr. Dan H. Barouch is Director of the Center for Virology and Vaccine Research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. 

In addition, he is a key part of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Collaboration for AIDS Vaccine Discovery, the National Institutes of Health Martin Delaney HIV-1 Cure Collaboratory, and the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT, and Harvard. He received his Ph.D. in immunology from Oxford University and his M.D. summa cum laude from Harvard Medical School. 

Dr. Barouch’s laboratory focuses on studying the immunology and virology of HIV-1 infection and developing novel vaccine and cure strategies. He and his team have explored a series of novel vaccine technologies, and he is also working on strategies to address other global infectious diseases. He has also applied his vaccine expertise to other infectious diseases such as Zika virus and tuberculosis.  He has advanced novel adenovirus vector-based HIV-1 vaccine candidates from concept and design to preclinical testing, ten phase 1/2a clinical trials, and a large phase 2b efficacy trial with the mosaic Ad26/Env vaccine in sub-Saharan Africa. He has also pioneered the use of broadly neutralizing antibodies for HIV-1 cure strategies, and a series of phase 1 clinical trials are currently underway. Dr. Barouch also led the world’s first demonstration of Zika vaccine protection in preclinical studies and has launched a series of phase 1 Zika vaccine clinical trials.

Dr. Barouch is board certified in internal medicine and infectious diseases, and he is committed to mentoring students, clinical fellows, research fellows, and junior faculty and to providing clinical care to patients with infectious diseases.

He has been an author on 242 peer reviewed articles in the past 15 years.


The Emory Hub

Carlos C. del Rio, MD

Emory University / Grady Health System in Atlanta, GA

Twitter: @CarlosdelRio7

Dr. Carlos del Rio is an Infectious Disease specialist, Distinguished Professor of Medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Emory University School of Medicine, and Executive Associate Dean for Emory at Grady.  He is also Professor of Global Health in the Department of Global Health and Professor of Epidemiology at the Rollins School of Public Health. He is also co-Director of the Emory Center for AIDS Research (CFAR) and co-PI of the Emory-CDC HIV Clinical Trials Unit and the Emory Vaccine and Treatment Evaluation Unit.

Dr. del Rio is a native of Mexico where he attended medical school at Universidad La Salle, graduating in 1983.  He did his Internal Medicine and Infectious Diseases residencies at Emory University.  In 1989 he returned to Mexico where he was Executive Director of the National AIDS Council of Mexico (CONASIDA, the Federal agency of the Mexican Government responsible for AIDS Policy throughout Mexico), from 1992 through 1996. In November of 1996 he returned to Emory where he has been involved in patient care, teaching and research. Dr. del Rio was Chief of the Emory Medical Service at Grady Memorial Hospital from 2001 – 2009 and Chair of the Department of Global Health from 2009 – 2019. 

Dr. del Rio’s research focuses on the early diagnosis, access to care, engagement in care, compliance with antiretrovirals and the prevention of HIV infection.  He has worked for over a decade with hard-to-reach populations including substance users to improve outcomes of those infected with HIV and to prevent infection with those at risk. He is also interested in the translation of research findings into practice and policy. His international work includes collaborations in the country of Georgia, Ethiopia, Vietnam, Mexico, Kenya and Thailand. He has also worked on emerging infections such as pandemic influenza and was a member of the WHO Influenza A(H1N1) Clinical Advisory Group and of the CDC Influenza A(H1N1) Task Force during the 2009 pandemic. 

Dr. del Rio is a Member of the Board of Directors of the International Antiviral Society-USA (IAS-USA) and was a Board member and Chair of HIVMA of the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA). He is also the Chair of the PEPFAR Scientific Advisory Board. He is Chief Section Editor for HIV/AIDS for NEJM Journal Watch Infectious Diseases, Associate Editor for Clinical Infectious Diseases and member of the editorial board of Journal of AIDS and Global Public Health. 

Dr. del Rio has co-authored 30 book chapters and over 350 scientific papers.  Among his many honors are the James H. Nakano Citation received in 2001 and awarded by the CDC for an outstanding scientific paper published in 2000; the Emory University Marion V. Creekmore Achievement Award for Internationalization; he was selected by the “Atlanta Magazine” as one of the 55 most influential foreign born Atlantans in 2007.  In 2013 Dr. del Rio was elected to the National Academy of Medicine and in 2020 was elected as Foreign Secretary of the National Academy of Medicine.

He has been an author on 353 peer reviewed articles in the past 15 years.


Vincent C. Marconi, MD

Emory University / Grady Health System in Atlanta, GA

Dr. Vincent C. Marconi is an Infectious Disease specialist and joined the faculty in 2009 as the Associate Medical Director of the Grady Health System’s Infectious Disease Program at the Ponce de Leon Center (Ponce Clinic). He then became the Director of the Infectious Disease Research Program at the Atlanta Veterans Affairs Medical Center in 2015. He is a Professor of Medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases, Department of Medicine, Emory University School of Medicine and jointly a Professor of Global Health in the Rollins School of Public Health and the Emory Vaccine Center, in the Yerkes National Primate Research Center, Emory University.

He is also a staff physician at the Ponce Clinic which serves a clinic population of over 6,000 patients living with HIV in Atlanta and the Atlanta Veterans Affairs Medical Center Infectious Disease Clinic which serves over 1900 patients living with HIV throughout the Southeast. In addition to his work at Emory, he maintains an ongoing collaboration that began in 2004 with colleagues in Durban, South Africa. He also began working with colleagues in Shanghai, China in 2015 and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in 2016.

Dr. Marconi received his Bachelor of Science degree in Microbiology and Cell Science from the University of Florida and his MD degree from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, MD. He completed his clinical and research training in Internal Medicine and Infectious Diseases at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School in Boston, MA. Dr. Marconi was then called to active duty service with the United States Air Force from 2005 to 2009 where he served as the Director of the HIV Medical Evaluation Unit and Research Program in San Antonio, TX.

The main focus of Dr. Marconi’s research is to identify the biological, social and behavioral conditions which lead to disparities in HIV treatment response for domestic and international populations. Results from these studies inform the design of interventional trials with the goal to improve the quality of life for individuals living with HIV.

His domestic research activities have two primary components: (1) elucidating the role of inflammation in age-related diseases and HIV cure/eradication and (2) improving adherence and clinic retention for patients on ART. These studies have provided critical insights into the mechanisms driving virologic control and immunologic stability for Elite Controllers as well as HIV reservoir size and CD4 recovery for individuals receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART). Additional studies have identified key drivers of cardiovascular, metabolic, and renal disease. Ongoing clinical trials have been exploring ART simplification, Jak-STAT inhibition and other immune-based therapies. Research aimed at improving ART adherence and retention in care have included assessing the cost-effectiveness of ART in a free-access healthcare setting and examining the role of various behavioral interventions including a comprehensive, palliative care model, financial incentives, tablet-based technology, telehealth and cognitive-based meditation.

His international research has identified the prevalence of and risk factors for virologic failure and HIV drug resistance. He has examined clinical outcomes of second-line ART, as well as the impact of various adherence and pharmacy refill patterns, the contrast between urban and rural settings, ART drug levels and minority resistance variants on ART response. Ongoing clinical trials include genotype resistance testing and engagement with Traditional Healers. For the Emory Center for AIDS Research (CFAR), he oversees an extensive registry of HIV+ patients (~20,000 seen at Emory affiliated clinics) that has been instrumental in identifying eligible patients for research and conducting cohort analyses.

He has been an author on 163 peer reviewed articles in the past 15 years.


The UCSF Hub

Diane V. Havlir, MD

UCSF / Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital in San Francisco, CA

Twitter: @DHavlir

Dr. Diane V. Havlir is an Infectious Disease specialist, Chief of the HIV/Infectious Diseases and Global Health Division at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center, and Professor of Medicine at University of California San Francisco (UCSF). The goal of her research is to develop therapeutic strategies to improve the lives of persons living with HIV, to reduce the global burden of HIV, and to advance public health in East Africa:


“Antiretroviral therapy is one of the greatest successes in medicine, yet we have not fully used it to eliminate HIV or tuberculosis (TB). My current areas of focus include 1) optimal HIV treatment approaches in the US with special attention to vulnerable populations in San Francisco, 2) optimal treatment strategies for HIV and TB, including new TB drug agents, 3) strategies to reduce the burden of HIV and malaria in children and pregnant women, and 4) testing of innovative approaches to early treatment of HIV using a community-based multi-disease approach following 320,000 persons in Uganda and Kenya to benefit the overall health, education and economics of communities in East Africa in the SEARCH study.”


Monica Gandhi, MD, MPH

UCSF / Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital in San Francisco, CA

Twitter: @MonicaGandhi9

Dr. Monica Gandhi is an Infectious Disease specialist, Professor of Medicine, and Associate Division Chief (Clinical Operations/ Education) of the Division of HIV, Infectious Diseases, and Global Medicine at UCSF/San Francisco General Hospital. She also serves as the medical director of the HIV Clinic at SFGH (“Ward 86”). Dr. Gandhi completed her M.D. at Harvard Medical School and then came to UCSF in 1996 for residency training in Internal Medicine. After her residency, Dr. Gandhi completed a fellowship in Infectious Diseases and a postdoctoral fellowship at the Center for AIDS Prevention Studies, both at UCSF. She also obtained a Masters in Public Health from Berkeley in 2001 with a focus on Epidemiology and Biostatistics. 

Dr. Gandhi’s current research program is on identifying low-cost solutions to measuring antiretroviral levels in resource-poor settings, such as determining drug levels in hair samples. Dr. Gandhi also works on pre-exposure prophylaxis and treatment strategies for HIV infection in women. 

Dr. Gandhi also has an interest at UCSF in HIV education and mentorship. Dr. Gandhi co-directed the “Communicable Diseases of Global Health Importance” course in the Global Health Sciences Masters program from 2008-2015, and serves as the overall Education Director of the HIV, ID and Global Medicine Division. She also served as the principal investigator of an R24 mentoring grant from the NIH focused on nurturing early career investigators of diversity in HIV research, is the co-Director for the Center for AIDS Research (CFAR) Mentoring Program, and is the Chair of the Advisory Board for the UCSF Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women’s Health (BIRCWH). She directs the HIV/ID Consult Service at San Francisco General Hospital (SFGH) and attends on the inpatient Infectious Diseases consult service.

She has been an author on 194 peer reviewed articles in the past 15 years. 


The Brown Hub

Josiah D. Rich, MD, MPH

Brown University / The Miriam Hospital in Providence, RI

Dr. Josiah D. Rich is Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, and a practicing Infectious Disease specialist since 1994 at The Miriam Hospital Immunology Center, and at the Rhode Island Department of Corrections caring for prisoners with HIV infection and working in the correctional setting doing research. He has published close to 190 peer-reviewed publications, predominantly in the overlap between infectious diseases, addictions and incarceration. He is the Director and Co-founder of The Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights at The Miriam Hospital. He is also a Co-Founder of the nationwide Centers for AIDS Research (CFAR) collaboration in HIV in corrections (CFAR/CHIC) initiative.

Dr. Rich has advocated for public health policy changes to improve the health of people with addiction, including improving legal access to sterile syringes and increasing drug treatment for the incarcerated and formerly incarcerated populations. His primary field and area of specialization and expertise is in the overlap between infectious diseases and illicit substance use, the treatment and prevention of HIV infection, and the care and prevention of disease in addicted and incarcerated individuals. He has served as an expert for the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine and many others. He has been appointed by RI Governor to the Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force Expert Team, selected to advise the task force and formulate a strategic plan to address addiction and stop overdose in Rhode Island. The RI Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force was created to propose a strategic plan that puts forth the most impactful initiatives in the areas of prevention of opioid addiction, reversal of opioid overdose, treatment of opioid addiction, and recovery to reduce addiction and stop overdose death in Rhode Island. Their efforts are targeted at identifying the components for prevention, treatment, reversal, and recovery that will ‘shift the epidemic curve’ of overdose deaths.

He has been an author on 226 peer reviewed articles and participated in 1 clinical trial in the past 15 years.


Philip A. Chan, MD, MS

Brown University / The Miriam Hospital in Providence, RI

Dr. Philip A. Chan is an Infectious Disease and Emergency Medicine specialist, and Associate Professor in the Department of Medicine at Brown University. He has a secondary appointment in the Department of Behavioral and Social Sciences at the Brown University School of Public Health. Dr. Chan is Medical Director of the only publicly funded sexually transmitted diseases (STD) clinic in Rhode Island, as well as Rhode Island’s only dedicated Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) Program. Dr. Chan is Principal Investigator (PI) of multiple National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants to study HIV prevention including intervention to promote PrEP uptake and HIV testing.

He is PI of a three-site PrEP clinical implementation science program in Jackson, Mississippi, St. Louis, Missouri and Providence, Rhode Island. He is evaluating ways to promote home-based HIV testing among at-risk populations. To date, Dr. Chan has over 90 peer-reviewed publications. Dr. Chan is also site PI of the local AIDS Education and Training Center (AETC) in Rhode Island. He serves as Consultant Medical Director for the Rhode Island Department of Health Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STDs, and TB and is actively engaged in many clinical and community-based public health programs to respond to STD and HIV rates among sexual and gender minorities in Rhode Island and beyond.

He has been an author on 142 peer reviewed articles in the past 15 years.


Timothy P. Flanigan, MD

Brown University / The Miriam Hospital in Providence, RI

Dr. Timothy P. Flanigan is an Infectious Disease specialist and a member of the Division of Infectious Diseases at The Miriam and Rhode Island Hospitals and Alpert Medical School of Brown University. He came to Brown Medical School in 1991 to help establish a network of primary care for HIV infected individuals with a particular focus on women, substance abusers and individuals leaving prison. Dr. Flanigan developed the HIV Core Program at the State Prison to provide care for HIV infected individuals and link them to community based resources upon release. Over 70% of individuals in Rhode Island who are HIV infected link with primary medical care at The Immunology Center. Dr. Flanigan has been the Principal Investigator (PI) on two special projects of national significance funded by HRSA to develop combined therapy for opiate addiction and HIV, as well as a model program of linkage to care for HIV positive persons leaving jail. He is also associate director of The Miriam/Brown Fogarty Program which trains and mentors overseas investigators in HIV/AIDS.

He was the recipient of a community health leadership award from The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for the development of outstanding primary care for underserved HIV infected individuals. In 2005, he received an honorary doctorate from Salve Regina University for his support of educational opportunities for children of incarcerated parents. In 2014 he spent 2 months in Liberia training health care workers to maintain safety in the face of the Ebola epidemic and to reopen St. Joseph’s Hospital.  More recently, he has initiated research projects in the area of Lyme Disease and Tickborne Illnesses.

He has been an author on 141 peer reviewed articles and participated in 1 clinical trial in the past 15 years.


Behind the List

MediFind is the industry authority on identifying the leading medical experts and latest research in order to help patients facing the most complex and challenging diseases make better health decisions. Leveraging our expertise in natural language processing and machine learning, we applied our world-class models to uncover infectious disease specialists leading the United States’ response to COVID-19. MediFind identifies these experts using models that assess over 2.5 million global doctors based on a range of variables, including research leadership, patient volume, peer standing, and connectedness to other experts. To learn more about MediFind and how it works, visit MediFind.com.

To find top HIV experts near you, click here.

In addition to this piece and a list of 10 researchers working on COVID-19 in the lab, MediFind also published a recent analysis finding that research into COVID-19 and closely-related conditions now represents 23% of all research output. Given that there are limited resources in the medical community, this new investment into COVID-19 resulted in decreases across nearly every other condition, with particularly steep declines in cancer and infectious disease research. Additional coverage of this “crowding out effect” was featured in a series on Contagion Live

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