Benigno Rodriguez, MD

Feb 02, 2021

1968 – 2020

Benigno Rodriguez, MD

Benigno Rodriguez was known among colleagues as not only a brilliant clinical trialist in HIV research, but also a kind and generous person.

Dr. Rodriguez was a gifted physician scientist, a strong leader, and a wonderful colleague and friend. He was a remarkable physician, caring for many in Case Western’s Special Immunology Unit and he was a superbly trained, highly insightful, and productive clinical trialist. As PI of the Case Western Reserve University ACTU, he brought together talented researchers in Cincinnati, Kampala, and Cleveland to form a highly effective unit that contributed to activities of the ACTG, the HVTN, and the HPTN. Now, Rodriguez’s friends and colleagues are mourning the loss of Rodriguez after he passed away July 9, 2020 at the age of 49.

After earning his medical degree and starting his career in his native Colombia, Rodriguez arrived in Cleveland in the early 2000s, completing a fellowship in infectious disease at Case Western Reserve University and University Hospitals.

“From early on, it was clear that he was a rising star,” said Dr. Robert Salata, a colleague of Rodriguez and the STERIS Chair of Excellence in Medicine.

In the years that followed, Rodriguez proved that to be true. He was named the 2008 recipient of the John T. Carey Young Investigator Award from the ACTG.

Rodriguez’s contributions to HIV research were broad. Clinical trials he led were designed to prevent the morbidities of HIV infection and more recently targeted mechanisms that might eradicate infection.

Dr. Michael Lederman, the Scott R. Inkley Professor of Medicine, described Rodriguez as “brilliant” and one of the most “thoughtful, careful, analytical” people he ever met.

Rodriguez’s contributions to the field were notable. Dr. Lederman pointed to a first-authored paper by Rodriguez that appeared in JAMA in 2006. The paper, titled “Predictive value of plasma HIV RNA level on rate of CD4 T‐cell decline in untreated HIV infection,” was initially received as controversial, Lederman said, but the key conclusion of the work—that factors besides HIV replication are major determinants of HIV pathogenesis—is now widely accepted in the HIV research and care communities.

Rodriguez established a legacy at CWRU, and Dr. Salata said his shoes will “be hard to fill.”

“Benigno was an immensely talented physician, not only as an excellent infectious diseases physician and teacher but also as a leader in clinical research focused on innovative clinical trials and studies related to HIV/AIDS,” said Dr. Henry Boom, professor of medicine.

Outside of his work, Rodriguez was an experienced SCUBA diver and took captivating photos of his underwater finds, many of which came to adorn the walls in his office.

“Benigno was a friend and colleague,” remarked Dr. Carl Fichtenbaum, Cincinnati CRS Leader. “I worked closely with him over the last eight years. He was dedicated to excellence and was always kind to others. We will miss him.” Dr. Fichtenbaum pays tribute to Dr. Rodriquez with an original song that can be heard here.