STD Association Names Bill Miller Editor-in-Chief of Journal

Bill Miller, MD, PhD, MPH

Bill Miller, MD, PhD, MPH

The American Sexually Transmitted Diseases Association appointed Bill Miller, MD, PhD, MPH, editor of its journal. Miller is professor of medicine at the School of Medicine and professor of epidemiology at the Gillings School of Global Public Health.

This is the first time in 25 years that the journal has had a new editor.

Miller has served on the journal’s editorial board since 2003. He also served as an associate editor at the other major journal in the field, Sexually Transmitted Infections. Miller answered questions about his vision for the journal in a recent podcast. He hopes to cultivate a group of young STD researchers.

Miller is taking over the role of editor from Julius Schachter, PhD, who is retiring.

Cohen Receives UNC General Alumni Association’s 2015 Faculty Service Award

Myron Cohen, MD

Myron Cohen, MD

Myron Cohen, MD, Director of UNC’s Institute for Global Health & Infectious Diseases, accepted the UNC General Alumni Association’s 2015 Faculty Service Award during a ceremony held Friday, Jan. 16.

In his acceptance speech, Cohen acknowledged the role UNC played in his HIV research being named “Breakthrough of the Year” by the prestigious journal Science in 2011.

“When I came to UNC I could not have envisioned any of what I have described,” Cohen said. “I was a 30-year-old assistant professor. But it all happened. And it was only possible because of the following: the support of my family, and especially my wife, Gail. It happened because of all my students and collaborators across UNC, and Malawi, and many other organizations as well. And mostly it happened because of my good fortune of coming to UNC.  I would not have been able to do this work anywhere else on this planet. So thank you for this recognition and thank you to UNC for making all of this possible.”

Since 1990, the GAA’s Faculty Service Award has recognized faculty members who have performed outstanding service for the University or the alumni association.

Cohen is Associate Vice Chancellor for Global Health, Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases and the Yeargan-Bate Eminent Professor of Medicine, Microbiology and Immunology, and Epidemiology at UNC.

UNC & Partners Awarded $1M Federal Grant to Develop HIV App

Lisa Hightow-Weidman, MD

Lisa Hightow-Weidman, MD

Durham-based web application firm Caktus Group and research partners from Duke and UNC have been awarded a $1 million federal research grant to refine and test the efficacy of Epic Allies, an innovative HIV medication adherence app. The app uses gaming and social networking features to increase HIV medication uptake and adherence among HIV-positive young men who have sex with men.

“In the United States, gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (MSM) are disproportionately affected by HIV with young MSM most impacted,” said Lisa Hightow-Weidman, MD, MPH, Principal Investigator and UNC Associate Professor of Medicine. “Interventions to help these young men adhere to lifelong medications to control the virus are sorely needed. This is critically important given research that shows that consistent use of antiretrovirals can preserve an individual’s health and reduce the spread of HIV.”

The grant is from the National Institutes of Health’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program for the second phase of the project. The SBIR program supports small entrepreneurial businesses like Caktus Group to help the U.S. meet specific research needs. The funding will go towards a 2.75 year study that includes the final phase of app development and a randomized controlled trial. The grant also supports the addition of three full-time positions for six months including a game designer, a game developer, and a product manager. Assistance from the Adolescent Medicine Trials Network (ATN) for HIV/AIDS will enable the team to test the app at the 14 ATN sites across the United States.

“Too often, technological advancements leave behind populations in need,” said Tobias McNulty, Caktus Group CEO. “We’re excited about combining great technology with world-class research in order to make a difference for those living with HIV.”

Caktus, Duke, and UNC are working together to conceptually develop the application. Caktus leads technological development. Research expertise and the conduct and evaluation of the randomized controlled trial are being led by Lisa Hightow-Weidman, MD, MPH, Associate Professor of Medicine at UNC and Sara LeGrand, PhD, Assistant Research Professor at the Duke Global Health Institute and Center for Health Policy and Inequalities Research. Additional research team members include Sybil Hosek, PhD, Kathryn Muessig, PhD, and Joseph Egger, PhD.

Susan Fiscus Retires after 25 Years at UNC

Susan Fiscus, PhD, prepares to cut her cake during her retirement party.

Susan Fiscus, PhD, prepares to cut her cake during her retirement party.

“I love you,” declared a child’s voice among the crowd of health professionals gathered at the home of Myron Cohen, MD, Director of UNC’s Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases. The room erupted in laughter, but the sentiment expressed by the grandson of Susan Fiscus, PhD, summed up the feelings of everyone attending the party to mark Fiscus’ retirement.

“This is bittersweet,” said Cohen. “Susan is a wonderful friend and an honest, reliable and sensitive colleague. Every time discussion of her retirement comes up, we write other grants to ensure she will stay.”

But this time, Fiscus is leaving. She spent 25 years as Director of UNC’s Retrovirology Core Laboratory. Fiscus originally turned down the job offer after learning her husband’s request for a transfer from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) offices in Colorado to North Carolina had been denied.

“Then the USDA changed its mind and I called UNC. I knew the job had been filled, but I wondered if they had any other openings I would be qualified for,” Fiscus said. “When UNC told me the offer to the new person had fallen through, I immediately reapplied.”

Charlie van der Horst, MD, served on the search committee back in 1989 and remembers interviewing Fiscus.

“Susan was clearly the best candidate,” said van der Horst, UNC CFAR Developmental Core Director.

Stan Lemon, MD, hired Fiscus.

“Susan had strong scientific qualifications and a clinical lab background,” Lemon said. “She has been a great fit.”

Fiscus earned her bachelor’s degree in biology from Bates College and then pursued a master’s degree in botany from Duke University. She received her doctoral degree in microbiology from Colorado State University. Fiscus left Fort Collins, Colorado, to accept the position at UNC in 1989.

“The people who make up the first crew of a ship are called plank members,” said Ron Swanstrom, PhD, Director of the UNC Center for AIDS Research. “Susan is a plank member of the CFAR.”

Under her direction, the laboratory performed virologic testing for more than 400 adult and pediatric studies, both nationally and internationally. Fiscus worked on studies for the AIDS Clinical Trials Group (ACTG), the Pediatric ACTG, the HIV Prevention Trials Network, the International Maternal Pediatric and Adolescent AIDS Clinical Trials (IMPAACT) group, the Center for HIV/AIDS Vaccine Immunology (CHAVI) and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Fiscus’ research interest involved measuring HIV in different body compartments, such as semen, cervico-vaginal fluids, breast milk, and spinal fluid to determine the role these compartments played in HIV transmission and pathogenesis.

She co-chaired a recent ACTG study that showed combination antiretroviral therapy (cART) decreases the viral load in men and women’s genital tracts differently. The study conducted in seven countries showed women continued to have detectable genital tract viral load despite taking anti-HIV medications. Therefore, women would have a greater chance of transmitting the virus. She encouraged researchers conducting domestic and international studies to include the collection of genital secretions and other bodily fluids in their studies, and she gave them the tools necessary to conduct these tests.

“Susan helped set up our lab in Malawi,” van der Horst said. “She ensured measuring a person’s viral load in Lilongwe, Malawi, would be done the same way as in Chapel Hill.”

Known as a consummate collaborator, Fiscus worked with Catherine Wilfert, MD, a researcher at Duke who was among the first to propose giving pregnant women living with HIV anti-HIV medications to prevent transmission from mother to child.

“There were three babies at our Duke research site and three at our UNC site enrolled in ACTG 076,” Wilfert said. “Susan pulled together the information on these and other HIV-exposed infants born in North Carolina from 1993-1994 and demonstrated a significant decrease in the transmission rate from mother to child before and after the results of ACTG 076 were announced.”

Being elected the Principal Investigator for all of the domestic and international labs in the IMPAACT research network stands out for Fiscus as a career accomplishment. She served in this capacity for more than 7 years. Throughout all of the roles she held during her time with UNC, IMPAACT and the ACTG, Fiscus says she will miss her colleagues the most.

“I am truly lucky to have worked with such amazing people for the past 25 years,” she said.

Fiscus is looking forward to having more time for quilting and researching her family’s genealogy during retirement.

UNC – Nicaragua Pilot Research Grant Recipients 2014 -15

The UNC Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases (IGHID) and the UNC Program in Nicaragua (UNC ProNica) are pleased to announce the award recipients for the Nicaraguan pilot research grants.

The Nicaragua pilot research grants are designed to support infectious diseases research and collaboration between UNC faculty and faculty from the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Nicaragua, León (UNAN-León). Following a competitive application process, three diverse programs received awards of up to $10,000 each for one year of support in July 2014.

Award Recipients and Grant Overview

Natalie Bowman

Natalie Bowman

Risk factors for norovirus infection in Nicaraguan children

Recipients: Natalie Bowman (PI), Co-investigators: Joann Gruber (UNC), Filemon Bucardo (UNAN)

Grant Overview: Following the introduction of the rotavirus vaccine in Nicaragua, norovirus is now the most common cause of infectious diarrhea in Nicaraguan children. We propose to identify risk factors for norovirus infection in young children in León, Nicaragua. Currently, we do not understand the most important risk factors of norovirus infection in developing countries and by conducting this study we will collect preliminary data to understand key risk factors. Specifically, we will determine if there is a significant number of “mini outbreaks” within families to see if person-to-person contact within the household is a critical point of norovirus transmission in Nicaragua.

Mark Sobsey

Mark Sobsey

Evaluation of monitoring methods for surveillance of antimicrobial resistant Gram negative bacteria in water and wastewater sources of human exposure

Recipients: Mark Sobsey (PI), Co-investigators: Daniel Reyes (UNAN), Samuel Vilchez (UNAN)

Grant Overview: The purpose of this research is to determine the presence, concentrations and properties of species of antimicrobial resistant Gram-negative bacteria of health concern in wastewaters and ambient waters of León, Nicaragua, and Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA. We will obtain water samples from multiple locations and analyze these samples quantitatively for ESBL and KPC Gram-negative enteric bacteria such as E. coli and Klebsiella pneumoniae. The properties of these bacteria will be compared to bacterial isolates in hospitalized patients.

Michael Emch

Michael Emch

Spatio-temporal dynamics and environmental risk factors of norovirus in León, Nicaragua

Recipients: Michael Emch (PI), Co-investigators: Carmen Cuthbertson (UNC), Filemon Bucardo (UNAN)

Grant Overview: A population-based sample of 826 children in León, Nicaragua, was followed over the course of one year for diarrhea episodes. We will describe the spatio-temporal distribution of norovirus diarrhea and identify environmental risk factors for norovirus using a geospatial approach. This study will enable us to better understand transmission dynamics of norovirus diarrhea in this Central American community.

Explorations in Global Health Grants–Call for Applications

The Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases is pleased to announce a new round of Explorations in Global Health faculty research grants.


These grants are designed to foster the development of research partnerships and projects in global health. Grants will be made to UNC faculty for international travel or to bring international colleagues to campus to establish or cultivate research relationships (e.g. clarify joint research interests, plan and organize institutional linkages, jointly develop or write research proposals, etc.) or to undertake small-scale, discrete research projects with international collaborators. Read More

The North Carolina Biotechnology Center and the Triangle Health Consortium invite you to attend: Ebola NC: Local Response – Global Impact

Ebola NC: Local Response – Global Impact

A forum developed in partnership between the North Carolina Biotechnology Center and the Triangle Global Health Consortium

When: Dec 08, 2014
Time: 8:00 AM – 1:00 PM
Where: North Carolina Biotechnology Center

Ebola represents one of several viral hemorrhagic fevers that can cause severe illness in humans often leading to death. The recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa has resulted in an unprecedented number of Ebola cases with widespread transmission in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. Moreover, travel associated cases have occurred in Mali and Senegal and cases of limited transmission have occurred in the United States, Spain and Nigeria. The highly infectious nature of the Ebola virus and the rate of morbidity associated with infection have elicited a global response to treat infected patients and to prevent further spread of the virus.

Here in North Carolina public health officials are coordinating with federal agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, the Department of Homeland Security and others developing prevention, detection and treatment strategies as well as comprehensive standards for patient care. In addition, several North Carolina companies are directly involved in developing therapies, providing treatments, leading clinical trials or preparing to manufacture Ebola vaccines or therapies. The forum will address the global challenge of the Ebola outbreak and coordination underway among responding ministries, government agencies, non-governmental organizations and clinical practitioners. Furthermore, North Carolina’s preparation for the isolation and treatment of infected individuals that travel to North Carolina as well as the state’s readiness for protecting citizens from exposure will be addressed. Finally, the forum will also highlight pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies in our state that are responding to the crisis.

See the full agenda.

Register Now – space is limited.

Five of Global Health’s Faculty Published in the Current Issue of JAMA

Five members of the UNC Global Health and Infectious Diseases faculty were published in the most recent issue if the Journal of American Medical Association.

Claire Farel, MD, MPH - Water, Water, Everywhere  

Joseph J. Eron, MD -Antiretroviral Treatment of Adult HIV Infection:  2014 Recommendations of the International Antiviral Society–USA Panel    

Benjamin Chi, MD, MSc, Harha Thirumunthr PhD, and Jeffrey Stringer, MD – Maximizing Benefits of New Strategies to Prevent Mother-to-Child HIV Transmission Without Harming Existing Services    

Lemon-Stanley-2010-235x300According to the media firm Thomson Reuters, Dr. Stan Lemon, a professor of Microbiology and IGHID faculty member, was among the top 1 percent most cited for their subject field and year of publications.


Congratulations, Stan!

Click here to see all of Dr. Lemon’s published articles.

Gillings Global Gateway™ and RTI International Receive USAID Award

RTI International and Gillings School of Global Public Health are pleased to announce the award of the USAID-funded IDIQ contract for the TASC4-Africa Project. RTI is prime on the project, and the Gillings School and several other consortium members are project partners.Faculty members in a number of campus units, including the Gillings School, look forward to participating in this project by providing research, training and technical assistance expertise in the areas of:

  • Maternal and child health
  • HIV/AIDs and other infectious diseases
  • Epidemiology and surveillance
  • Monitoring and evaluation of population health and nutrition programs
  • Capacity building and healthcare workforce development
  • Nutrition
  • Health systems strengthening and
  • Water and hygiene.

The Gillings Global Gateway™ will receive notice of the IDQs and will contact faculty members whose work aligns with a particular task order to assess their interest in developing a proposal.

Peggy Bentley, PhD, associate dean for global health, and Naya Villarreal, MPH, program coordinator for the Gillings Global Gateway™, will lead this effort.

Please contact Peggy ( or Naya ( if you have questions.