Erin Hoffman is the Operations Manager for the Institute’s Chapel Hill Clinical Research Site (CRS), one of four research sites supporting IGHID’s Clinical Trials Unit. She learned about HIV from two people who were living openly with the disease, and it was their inspiring stories that would later influence her career path. In her free time, Erin rides horses and reads books. Recently, she and co-workers with the CTU started a book club.
How did you choose to support research in infectious diseases?
When I was in high school I met a women named Sharon Wagner at a youth educational forum. She was there as someone living openly positive and was teaching and allowing people to ask her (often inappropriate) questions about living with HIV. Later, in college, my advisor was a man living openly with HIV and I took his one credit class on the HIV epidemic. I found those experiences interesting, but they didn’t initially push me to this role. However, when I was moving to North Carolina and applying to health related jobs at random and came upon this opportunity, I was immediately drawn to it because of their stories. I’ve met a lot more wonderful people since then (coworkers and study participants), held several different roles for the research team here, and continue to love it.
What was your pathway?
I joined the Chapel Hill CRS as a Research Assistant in 2010, helping out with study visits, running to the pharmacy or the IRB, processing lab samples, etc. I’ve tried to always fill in gaps and be helpful when and where it was needed. Eventually, I started coordinating a few trials. In 2020, our team expanded dramatically to accommodate the portfolio of COVID-19 trials. Many of our team members stepped up in really impressive ways. We outfitted a new research clinic, we saw participants in tents and vans and trailers. I helped lead the Novavax vaccine clinical trial and run our off campus research clinic. Now, I help lead our research team as the CRS Operations Manager.
Where are you from?
The easy answer is ‘the Southeast.’ I was born in Mississippi and lived in Virginia for many years, but moved to North Carolina to be with my husband 12 years ago. I think I’ll stay. 😊
What do you find most rewarding about your work?
I love working in infectious disease because it changes so much and so often. When I started we were excited about having a one pill once a day treatment option for people living with HIV. Then, Hepatitis C treatments got better and better. Then U=U and PrEP. Now, we are launching trials looking at once weekly oral treatments and injectable or infusible options that take people off pills completely. It’s really rewarding to watch therapies become easier and more convenient for people. I love that we are on the cutting edge and there is always something new to learn.
What are some of the new developments that you’re excited about?
I’m really excited to watch the advances of long acting therapies for people living with HIV. I think the more options people have to find a therapy that fits their lifestyle, the better.
Is there a particular achievement (professional or personal) that has been most gratifying to you?
We recently completed 2 years of follow up on the Moderna covid-19 vaccine trial and are nearing that timepoint with the Novavax vaccine trial. The work of the team here at UNC towards the approval of those vaccines was nothing short of heroic. Our entire staff was touched by those trials and even people that didn’t work on them directly took on additional tasks so that other people could devote more time to them.
What hobbies do you enjoy?
When I was younger, I very much enjoyed riding horses. I took a break for a dozen or so years after moving to North Carolina, but early in the covid-19 pandemic decided to start riding again. It’s much harder as an adult! I’ve been riding dressage for a little over two years now and really love it. I hope to participate in a few recognized shows this spring but mostly just feel lucky to be around and learning from some really talented riders.
Do you have a favorite quote or life motto?
I’m not sure if it’s a favorite, but I’ve had the following quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in my email signature for many years: The moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends towards justice. It feels so hopeful and reminds me that when it doesn’t seem like things are going your way, to just keep pushing the agenda. It also reminds me a lot of our work. Perhaps what we are doing right this second doesn’t always feel glamorous or important, but every sticky note from data, aliquot from the lab, and submission by regulatory is a step towards the larger goals of the department.
What was the last book you read?
Interestingly enough, our unit just started a book club! We have been really focusing on helping our team reconnect and get to know each other since there were such significant challenges throughout the last few years. That felt like a nice way to work towards that. We just finished Crying in H-Mart by Michelle Zauner. It is a poignant memoir about the loss of the author’s mother and her connection to her Korean background. It led to some really thoughtful conversations amongst our team. Books are such a nice way to connect and see something from someone else’s perspective.
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 around the world. We are pleased to highlight colleagues who proudly serve IGHID.