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CDC Scientist Pivotal in Defining AIDS Epidemic Highlights Global Health Day

CDC Scientist Pivotal in Defining AIDS Epidemic Highlights Global Health Day

Students Share Global Health Research Experiences at Poster Session –

STONY BROOK, N.Y., November 17, 2011 – Harold W. Jaffe, M.D., M.A., Associate Director for Science at the Centers for 
Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and a leading member of a 1981 CDC task force investigating a new disease at the time, which became known as AIDS, delivered a one hour presentation titled, “AIDS: Early History and Lessons Learned,” at Stony Brook University School of Medicine’s Global Health Day on November 9.  


Stony Brook fourth-year medical students Brian Jonat and Kamron Pourmand (in center), discussed their work researching the potential medicinal properties of plants in Peru during Global Health Day. Pictured with them, from left: Samuel L. Stanley, Jr., M.D., Stony Brook University President; Pierce Gardner, M.D., Senior Advisor for Global Health International Programs; and Harold W. Jaffe, M.D., M.A., Associate Director for Science at the CDC.

 Dr. Jaffe recounted the emergency of HIV/AIDS from the perspective of someone working at the CDC from the moment of the outbreak, to the recognition of the disease and the cause, and to what it was like handle as a public health professional as the outbreak gained momentum. Internationally recognized as a scientist and public health leader, Dr. Jaffe led the first national case-control study to determine risk factors for AIDS, as well as the first natural history study of HIV. For more than 20 years he served in leadership positions at the CDC in its expanding HIV/AIDS programs.

 Dr. Jaffe included a multi-media presentation outlining the early history of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and some of the CDC’s initial epidemiologic investigations of AIDS. He illustrated some of the initial challenges regarding how medical practitioners would define and diagnose HIV/AIDS from the 1993 film, “And the Band Played On,” which depicts the story of the discovery of the AIDS epidemic and the political infighting of the scientific community hampering the early fight against the disease.

The lecture brought insight to the beginnings and globalization of the AIDS epidemic, which remains in the spotlight of the global health community. The lens is on the developing world as the fight continues to bring the most effective anti-retroviral therapy and preventive therapies to all corners of the globe.

Stony Brook University medical students have taken part in a diverse range of global health education initiatives in recent years and are actively involved in HIV/AIDS global health research and clinical care. These endeavors are one aspect of the School’s support of global health education initiatives tackling major issues in infectious diseases, public health, and emerging diseases. 

Featured before the lecture was a session that included posters highlighting the previous global health projects involving medical students, many of whom were funded by the School’s Barry Coller Scholarship Fund. Several topics were related to HIV/AIDS research in developing nations. However, the spectrum of global health outreach projects varied widely. These included  one initiative involving the study of the potential medicinal properties of plants in Peru, many of which have activity against bacteria; public health outreach to the indigent of Nicaragua; and a dental/public health mission in Madagascar.

The School of Medicine plans to strengthen its global medicine program by further developing its relationships for ongoing programs with institutions in Africa and Latin America. Additionally, programs will be expanded to include not only undergraduate medical students but residents, fellows and faculty.

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