Tell us about your professional background and what you do at UMMC.
I am originally from the Dominican Republic and went to medical school at Universidad Nacional P. Henriquez Urena. I completed residency in internal medicine and fellowship in Infectious Diseases at the Cabrini Medical Center at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. I currently hold appointments in the Department of Medicine and the School of Population Health and I practice infectious diseases.
What are you passionate about?
My passion is to provide comprehensive HIV care from the moment my patients are diagnosed with HIV. This has been possible through establishing a strong rapport with people living with HIV, enabling low dropout of care as well as impacting the community viral load and HIV transmission. My work also emphasizes on the diagnosis and treatment and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases in this population as well as diagnosis and treatment of co-infections with acute and chronic Hepatitis C and B virus.
Tell us about your research and why it is important.
I have worked closely with Dr. Leandro Mena in several research studies recruiting young black men who have sex with men and other gender minorities to help implement Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for HIV. PrEP is a new tool in the world of HIV that could help get to zero new HIV infections in the near future. Clinical trials have established more than 90% risk reduction for PrEP in preventing HIV among high-risk men who have sex with men (MSM) and heterosexual serodiscordant couples adherent to treatment. There are many health inequities in Mississippians, our population is disproportionally affected by HIV and unfortunately have a very low self-perception of risk for HIV infection. Working in UMMC’s HIV clinics and other community health centers who collaborate with UMMC has provided me with a unique opportunity to counsel the youth at risk for HIV acquisition. It has been a great experience for me to be part of the first PrEP clinic in the state of Mississippi to date, at Open Arms Healthcare Center. I have been PI and co-investigator of research studies on Implementation of PrEP as well as diagnosis and treatment of other sexually transmitted diseases. My current and future efforts are concentrated in implementing new strategies to increase the PrEP uptake in high risk individuals including the transgender and non-conforming/non-binary individuals. I work with a talented team of infectious disease, primary care providers, behavioral health providers and endocrinologists at the UMMC’s LGBT Center of Excellence, where I serve as Medical Director, implementing transgender health care, gender affirming treatment and HIV care and prevention. Our LGBT clinic will start serving this vulnerable community this summer. I am committed to end the HIV epidemic through promoting PrEP use in populations at risk and providing individualized high standard of care to each unique patient affected with HIV in my community.
What advice would you give to someone pursuing medicine today?
Medicine is a carrier that fulfills my passionate desire to help others. At the end of each day, I feel immense gratification for having the opportunity to be part of people’s lives and help towards facilitating a healthier and balanced life for each patient I care for. Currently there is an urgent need for Infectious Disease physicians, and this makes me think that there is a lack of appreciation for the important work we do. This is a great medicine field which will satisfy many of your goals to prevent and treat acute and chronic diseases.
What do you like most about UMMC?
Working at UMMC has provided me with a perfect balance within clinical outpatient and inpatient care, research and education in my career. My mentor and colleagues have made my experience one full of never ending professional growth.