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IGHID is the engine that drives UNC’s global health research, in a culture that both inspires and unites people who are working to solve global health problems. Sandy Barnhart is known for her multiple skills and contributions to grant management, and she’s passionate about IGHID’s purpose.

sandy-barn hart-iamighid
When Ryan White died, Sandy Barnhart was 12 years old. That’s when the prevention of HIV/AIDS became her passion. Today, she has a tattoo of an AIDS ribbon, pierced by a dagger.

1) What do you do as financial coordinator for IGHID’s Clinical Trials Unit (CTU)? 

I negotiate clinical trial budgets with industry sponsors and work with the clinical research team to develop internal budgets for the Office of Sponsored Programs. I work closely with the finance team at Moses Cone, our Greensboro Clinical Research Site (CRS), and regularly meet with Susan Pedersen (CTU Program Manager) and Erin Hoffman (Chapel Hill CRS Operations Manager) to discuss financial status or new studies. I participate in monthly accounting and operations meetings with the Malawi and Vietnam CRS. Right now, we’re working on a large progress report, due October 1, and that truly requires a team effort.

2) What do you do with the grant management team?

I help with the development and processing of federal, non-profit, and industry applications for general IGHID faculty.  This includes a variety of grant mechanisms and complexity levels.  Once a grant is awarded, I work closely with the post-award team and am involved with a project until it has been closed out.

3) Why is your work important?

I am jokingly referred to as a Swiss Army Knife because of my long and varied research background. My job requires an understanding of the overall federal research regulations as well as day-to-day financial questions. I don’t really have one specific role in IGHID because I help out wherever I am needed.

4) How long have you worked with IGHID?

I’ve been at UNC since 2000, but I began working with IGHID part time in 2017. I was the research manager in Ophthalmology at the time, and it was supposed to be a six-week arrangement.  I joined IGHID full-time in August 2021.

5) Why did you join IGHID?

I was 12 years old when Ryan White died, and the prevention of HIV/AIDS became my passion. I sent a sympathy card to his mother Jeanne and sister Andrea (now part of a digital collection at the Indiana Children’s Museum). I did my 9th grade science project on the myths surrounding how HIV/AIDS is spread, and I volunteered with the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin while in college working with at-risk youth.

When I moved to North Carolina and started working as a temp in Ophthalmology, I interviewed for a position at the Center For Aids Research (CFAR) but was not hired because I didn’t have any research experience. I stayed in Ophthalmology and became the study coordinator for the Longitudinal Study of Ocular Complications of AIDS until it was shut down during the sequester in 2013. When Lou Anne Loschin (Post-Award Manager) asked for part-time help in IGHID Pre-Award, I jumped at the chance. Later that year, Cheryl Marcus was planning to retire as the CTU Director and asked me if I would be interested in the joining the CTU management team. At that time, my career came full circle and the rest is history.

6) How would you describe IGHID to someone who may be considering employment?

 I feel like IGHID truly makes a difference throughout the world, and it is exciting to be involved in ground-breaking research and technology. We are game changers.

7) What do you most enjoy about your work?

I love being part of something much bigger than myself.  When I work on a new grant application with a faculty member, I really get excited about the science.  In addition to my position in IGHID, I am education coordinator for the UNC Network for Research Professionals.

8) What is a typical day like for you?

I wake at 5 am and after I eat breakfast, I check email to see if anything came in overnight from Malawi or Vietnam that I would have to address first.  I start my work day at 7:30 am, but I always try to have a plan for how my day will flow, sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn’t. Monday through Thursday I join the grant management team for a 9 am meeting. The rest of the day is usually busy with meetings with faculty working on grants, the CTU team, or other departments or sponsors. Family and work-life balance is important to me, so I end my work day at 4:30 pm.

9) What’s something about you that not many people know?

I have a tattoo with a dagger through an AIDS ribbon. I designed it myself.

The Institute for Global Health & Infectious Diseases (IGHID) attracts people who are driven to make big change. From principal investigators and grant managers to regulatory specialists and study coordinators, everyone has an important role to play in what we do. We are pleased to highlight colleagues who proudly serve IGHID.