• John. G. Gerber, MD

    1946 – 2021

    We share sad news with the ACTG family that John G. Gerber, M.D., passed away on February 6, 2021.

    John was born in Budapest, Hungary. He attended Queens College in Flushing, New York. He received a Doctor of Medicine degree from the Medical College of Virginia in Richmond, VA, where he also completed his residency in internal medicine. He trained in two postdoctoral NIH fellowships at the Division of Clinical Pharmacology at Vanderbilt University, and at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Denver. He joined the faculty in the Division of Clinical Pharmacology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine as an Assistant Professor of Medicine and Pharmacology in 1978 and was promoted rapidly to Associate Professor and then full Professor. In 1993, John turned his focus to infectious diseases and HIV, following his passion to complete a clinical fellowship in infectious diseases he became board certified in Infectious Diseases and received an appointment in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.

    John was an outstanding physician, scientist and educator. His research was focused on pharmacology at both the basic science and clinical level. Broadly, John was interested in drug metabolism and aging. His early work focused on cardiovascular pharmacology, including work with prostaglandins, histamine analogs and beta-adrenergic blockers. He pursued questions of the influence of age and gender on drug effects, and stereoselective drug metabolism, which he subsequently carried over to his work in HIV. John led clinical pharmacologic studies of pharmacokinetic interactions between HIV protease inhibitors and statins, the role of protein binding, stereoselective metabolism of methadone, and antiretroviral drug pharmacokinetics in persons with hepatic dysfunction. He authored more than 160 papers in scientific journals. He used his research program, in his career as a scientist and physician, to learn and to teach other health professionals how to make drugs better and safer in humans. In particular, John was an excellent mentor. He was always encouraging of young scientists in pharmacology, helping them navigate their career path, and providing them with many scientific ideas and opportunities.

    John’s work in HIV pharmacology and pharmacotherapy made an important difference in improving treatment and the lives of persons living with HIV infection. He was actively involved in the clinical trials of the ACTG, serving as both protocol chair and clinical pharmacologist. He was a highly valued member of the AIDS Clinical Trials Group’s Pharmacology Committee and served as Vice Chair and then Chair of the Committee; he also served as a member of the SASC. His pharmacology expertise was recognized and put to good use when he was invited to serve as a member of the Antiviral Drug Advisory Committee for the FDA.

    John was a loyal and kind friend to many and a devoted godfather to Sam Keene. He especially enjoyed socializing with his colleagues and friends. He loved a good dinner with wine (always red!), with the conversation flowing about his three passions of poker, horse racing and tennis. He enthusiastically enjoyed his retirement in Palm Springs where he expanded his friendships and played tennis frequently. We will all cherish the time we had with John.

     

    -Courtney Fletcher, PharmD; Elizabeth Connick, MD; Edward Acosta, PharmD; Jennifer Kiser, PharmD, PhD; Peter Anderson, PharmD; Angela Kashuba, PharmD; Jane Oppenheim, MPH; Robert “Chip” Schooley, MD; Constance Benson, MD

  • John G. Bartlett, MD

    February 2, 2021 Alexis Sexton In Memorium

    1937 – 2021

    John G. Bartlett, MD

    Dr. John Bartlett, an iconic and visionary leader in infectious diseases and HIV/AIDS died on January 19, 2021, at the age of 83. Dr. Bartlett was an original principal investigator in what became the ACTG and a legendary scientist, clinician, teacher, and writer who made major contributions to an astonishingly wide range of infectious disease threats. In addition to his leadership within the ACTG, Dr. Bartlett played a pivotal role in leading numerous other professional and public health entities, including co-chairing the Department of Health and Human Services HIV Guidelines Panel, serving as president of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, and chairing the board of directors of Baltimore’s Health Education Resources Organization (HERO), one of the earliest AIDS advocacy groups in the country.

    Born in upstate New York, John studied medicine at SUNY Syracuse, was an intern at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston, and a resident at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, where he planned to become a cardiologist. He was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1965 and sent to Vietnam where he helped run a hospital that cared for soldiers with a variety of infections.  Returning to the U.S., he decided to study infectious diseases because “you can look in the microscope and see the enemy.” He began studying anaerobic infections and helped elucidate the causes of both pulmonary and abdominal infections caused by anaerobes, publishing a number of seminal papers on the subject. He then focused his attention on antibiotic-associated colitis, and discovered the toxin produced by Clostridium difficile (C. diff) that caused the disease. His landmark study of C. diff colitis, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, led to the development of diagnostic tests and treatments for this extremely common and debilitating disease.

    John was recruited to Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in 1980 to lead the Infectious Disease division and over the next 26 years built it into a global leader across the entire spectrum of infectious diseases. In 1982, his interests shifted to the AIDS epidemic and he and his colleague Frank Polk mobilized resources within the institution to both care for patients and better understand the disease. He created the second dedicated inpatient AIDS ward in the world, after San Francisco General Hospital, and recruited a multidisciplinary team of clinicians to provide care and develop treatments.

    Over the next 30+ years he became an internationally renowned expert in HIV therapeutics, always driven by his own direct involvement in caring for patients. John maintained a busy clinic caring for people living with HIV and other infections, taught on the inpatient wards, and always attended on the AIDS Ward on Christmas, giving gifts to every patient while wearing a Santa hat. He befriended Garey Lambert, a prominent local AIDS activist who had written highly critical articles about the medical community’s response to the epidemic. John and Garey became close friends; Garey relied on John’s insights into HIV research, and John brought Garey to scientific meetings, including ACTG meetings, to both learn and provide community perspective to researchers and clinicians. Following Garey’s death, the Hopkins HIV Research Clinic was named in his honor, and a large portrait of Garey hung over John’s desk for the remainder of his career.

    John was one of the most sought-after speakers on HIV and infectious diseases. He lectured around the world with an absolutely brilliant ability to synthesize data, explain it to scientists, clinicians, and laypeople, and look into the future to predict what would come next. John’s “Top 10” lists of advances in HIV and infectious diseases were extremely popular talks at conferences and have been emulated by many. He was an early adopter of internet tools, establishing an HIV website, conducting online clinical conferences for clinicians in Ethiopia, Uganda, and India, and pioneering telemedicine for inmates in the Maryland state prison system. His teaching in the classroom and at the bedside was equally awe-inspiring, with his encyclopedic knowledge and insightful interpretation. He wrote prodigiously, producing dozens of books, including his “Pocket Guide to HIV Infection” and “The Medical Management of HIV Infection,” now in their 19th and 17th editions, respectively. In addition to HIV, he was a leader in areas as diverse as bioterrorism, emerging infections, community-acquired pneumonia, and antimicrobial resistance.

    John was famed for his extraordinary work ethic, maintaining a schedule that made most people weary just to think about. He arrived at his office in the wee hours of the morning and worked for 15 hours, but still managed to be home for dinner and spend the evening with his wife Jean and their three children, Valerie, Josh, and Scott. He explained his secret to me once when he returned from a two-week vacation with Jean in Australia and showed me the hand-written manuscript he had produced while they were there, the first edition of his “Pocket Guide to HIV/AIDS.” I scolded him and told him he was supposed to have been on vacation, and he responded, “Yes, but you have to understand that Jean sleeps at night.” In addition to time spent with his family, John was a talented artist, and he once took a sabbatical to Paris to paint.

    Following his retirement in 2014, John and Jean moved to Tupelo, Mississippi, where he continued to write, read, lecture, and serve on committees, but he was able to spend even more time with friends and family. Sadly, Jean Bartlett died in October 2020.

    In 2016 the Johns Hopkins HIV and viral hepatitis clinics were merged into a magnificent new facility named The John G. Bartlett Specialty Practice. The clinic continues the work that John began 36 years ago, caring for people from all walks of life with HIV infection.

    John’s death is a huge loss to the HIV and medical communities. He commented at his retirement, “It would be difficult to find another discipline in medicine that has such extraordinary diversity, surprises, value in patient care, and clinical relevance for both domestic and international applications.”[1] Similarly, it would be difficult to name another individual who contributed more to our understanding of, provided better care for, or helped educate more practitioners to combat the diverse spectrum of microbes that threaten human health and happiness than John Bartlett.

    [1] Bartlett JG. Why infectious diseases. Clin Infect Dis. 2014, 59(suppl 2):S85–S92,

     

  • Professor James G. Hakim

    February 2, 2021 Alexis Sexton In Memorium

    1954 – 2021

    Professor James G. Hakim

    The world lost an African medical legend when Dr. James Hakim passed away in Harare, Zimbabwe on January 26, 2021 after battling COVID-19. His death marks an enormous loss to Africa and low- and middle-income countries around the world. His contributions to science and medicine were invaluable. He was an exceptional physician, a brilliant researcher, and a committed teacher. He was a humble and respected person, both in the medical and patient communities.

    Dr. Hakim studied medicine at the University of Makerere in Uganda (MBChB) and specialized in internal medicine in Kenya (MMed-internal medicine), at Royal Colleges of Physicians UK (MRCP-UK); University of Newcastle, Australia (MMedSci-Clinical Epidemiology); and at University of Cape Town (Health Professions Education). He did a post-doctorate in Cardiology at Aachen, Germany and was a fellow of the Royal Colleges of Physicians of London and Edinburgh.

    Dr. Hakim was the Professor of Medicine, formerly Chair of Medicine, at the University of Zimbabwe College of Health Sciences. In addition, he was the Director of the UZ Clinical Research Centre and a co-PI in the UZ-UCSF Collaborative Research Program. He was engaged in a broad range of HIV/AIDS research, including ARV therapy, prevention, opportunistic infections, and perinatal HIV.

    Dr. Hakim was the CRS leader of one of the initial ACTG International sites established in the early 2000s, now known as the Milton Park Clinical Research Site in Harare. He played a key role in advancing the ACTG’s original international science agenda and was one of the co-chairs for the ACTG’s flagship international study, A5175 (Once-Daily PI + Non-NRTI Regimens for Initial Tx in Resource-Limited Settings).

    Dr. Hakim was a member of the ACTG Executive Committee at the time of his passing. Previously, he was a member of the Scientific Agenda Steering Committee and Antiretroviral Therapy Strategies Transformation Science Group. He authored numerous ACTG Publications. He authored and co-authored more than 200 manuscripts and book chapters and was most loved for his passion for mentorship and for promoting younger investigators.

    He was involved in seminal HIV research in collaboration with MRC-CTU (UK), NIH (USA), EDCTP (Europe), Rockefeller Foundation, DIFD, and Wellcome Trust. He was the PI of the UZ Medical Education Partnership Initiative- NECTAR, a PEPFAR and NIH-funded program (2010-2016), which aimed to improve medical education capacity and research capacity strengthening to cope with the heavy burden of all diseases, especially HIV/AIDS in Africa. In 2019, he received the Ward Cates Spirit Award for his outstanding commitment and leadership to health, scientific excellence, and generosity in mentorship and support.

    Dr. Hakim was a dear friend and a respected collaborator. Dear James, we cannot get our minds around losing you. Rest in peace.

  • David Katzenstein, MD

    February 2, 2021 Alexis Sexton In Memorium

    1952 – 2021

    David Katzenstein, MD

    Last week, the world lost a special person, David Katzenstein, MD. David was a good friend, brilliant scientist and researcher, and phenomenal mentor. His enthusiasm and passion for his work and life was infectious. Born in Hartford, CT, David received his BA and MD from the University of California, San Diego. He began his career in the early 1980s working with underserved populations at a Native Tribal clinic in New Mexico and with people living with AIDS at the Haight Ashbury Clinic in San Francisco. As a junior faculty member, he conducted CMV research at the University of Minnesota and then took a position working as a microbiologist at the University of Zimbabwe in Harare between 1985 and 1987. When the devastating effects of the HIV pandemic became apparent, David pivoted to join the early pioneers conducting HIV research. Between 1987 and 1989, he was a Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Biologics, Evaluation, and Research at the Food and Drug Administration. In 1989, David joined the faculty at Stanford University where he remained until his retirement to emeritus status in 2017.

    David’s involvement with the ACTG dates back to his earliest days at Stanford, where he served as Associate Medical Director of the Stanford AIDS Clinical Trials Unit, a position he held for 25 years. As a beginning clinical investigator, David became co-chair with Scott Hammer (then another early-stage investigator) of ACTG 175, a phase 3 trial comparing ZDV monotherapy to ddI monotherapy or combination therapy of ZDV+ddI or ZDV+ddC. This early pivotal trial of nearly 2500 participants demonstrated the superiority of ddI and of ZDV+ddI over ZDV alone.  Virologic analyses from the study helped lay the foundation for the use of virus load monitoring as a surrogate marker for ARV efficacy.

    In the decades to follow, David contributed to dozens of ACTG trials, New Works Concept Sheets, and Data Analysis Concept Sheets as chair, co-investigator, team member, and virologist. Of the nearly 300 publications listed on his CV, nearly one-third were related to his work with the ACTG. As a virologist, David became a leader in the field of HIV drug resistance, supported by numerous NIH grants. For many years he directed the ACTG Virology Advanced Technology Laboratory, as the Virology Specialty Laboratories were then known.

    Early on, David recognized the disparate impact of HIV in low-resource settings, and was a pioneer in perinatal HIV transmission prevention and adapting technologies to different settings.

    His time in Zimbabwe in the late 1980s had a lasting impact on him, and he returned frequently to build collaborations and help mentor emerging investigators. Notably, in 2000 David received a Distinguished Clinical Scientist Award from the Doris Duke Charitable Trust to explore affordable, feasible treatment for women living with HIV in Southern Africa. He emphasized the importance of studying drug resistance in Africa and published some of the first studies of HIV drug resistance in non-subtype B viruses. Following his retirement from Stanford University in 2017, David became the director of the Biomedical Research Training Institute in Zimbabwe, where he led the molecular diagnostics laboratory to support laboratory monitoring of community-based treatment programs in Zimbabwe.

    In all his work, David engaged researchers and trainees from different parts of the world. Sitting in a world-class laboratory, he helped to train and mentor many rising scientists and physicians. His collaborations spanned from industry to community, bringing forth novel approaches. David’s major strength was his scientific imagination and how he shared this with his friends and colleagues. He had a wonderful, warm manner, which made him a great mentor, friend, and leader. Generous with his time, effort and ideas, David was a cherished teacher for many young and mid-career physicians and scientists, now scattered throughout different academic institutions and agencies in the U.S. and around the world. With his encyclopedic knowledge, deep intellect, and strong belief in social justice, David helped level the playing field for those from diverse backgrounds. He exemplified academic excellence and he inspired those around him to aspire to high achievement, all with the goal of contributing to the common good. He nurtured the careers of clinicians, basic and social scientists, while encouraging multidisciplinary efforts to tackle the global HIV pandemic.

    David lived every day to the fullest, accomplishing more each day than many would in the course of a week or a month. He worked tirelessly and with great joy, giving of himself without reserve. As the true free spirit that he was, David intermingled his academic pursuits while basking in the wonders of this world, always seeking adventure and new experiences. His work led to his many travels around the world, and indeed, his experiences were woven intricately into his work life and would easily read as a bucket list for a true adventurer.

    David lost his life to COVID-19 on January 25, 2021 in Harare, Zimbabwe. He died in the place that he loved, cared for in the hospital by those that he mentored along the way. The outpouring of grief at his loss is a testament to David, who helped so many, touched so many lives, improved the livelihoods of innumerable men and women, inspired, and motivated. Friend, family, colleague, mentor – truly a one of a kind. His death leaves us all poorer, but his life serves as an example to us all. Rest in peace, David – we will continue to draw on the foundation with which you left us. Fearless, eager, and joyful.

  • Frances Canchola

    February 2, 2021 Alexis Sexton In Memorium

    Frances Canchola

    With great sadness, the USC CRS and ACTG Network mourn the loss of Frances Canchola, RN. Frances had been a research nurse in the unit since January 1994. She joined us in the pre-HAART era and was a tremendous contributor to trials of disseminated MAC treatment. Frances was there with us and her patients as we transitioned into a period where HIV was no longer a progressive, fatal disease. Over the years she contributed to countless clinical trials in the ACTG. Frances was active in her role right up to the point when she was diagnosed with COVID-19 in November 2020 and ultimately succumbed to its complications in January 2021 after a prolonged hospitalization.

    Frances was a bright light in the lives of her patients and co-workers and always willing to learn new tasks. Her sense of humor was remarkable and uplifting to those around her. Frances was able to support many patients and co-workers with her bright personality. When out for dinner, we could always count on Frances to be the instigator for a round of hilarity. We, and her patients, will miss her tremendously but feel so grateful for having known her.

  • Ned Sacktor, MD

    February 2, 2021 Alexis Sexton In Memorium

    1963 – 2020

    Ned Sacktor, MD

    We learned the sad news on Monday that our colleague Dr. Ned Sacktor passed away on November 11, 2020 from pancreatic cancer. Ned was a neurologist and investigator at the Johns Hopkins University ACTG CRS for 20 years. During that time, he contributed to carrying out the ACTG’s neurology agenda as a long-standing member and former chair of the neurology committee and as a protocol leader or member on several neurology protocols. We extend our heart-felt condolences to his wife and daughters and to his colleagues from around the globe.

  • Timothy Ray Brown

    February 2, 2021 Alexis Sexton In Memorium

    1966 – 2020

    Timothy Ray Brown

    With great sorrow, we share the news that Timothy Ray Brown passed on September 29, 2020. Timothy, who was previously known as the “Berlin Patient,” was the first person cured of HIV when he received bone marrow and stem cell transplants to treat his leukemia. The return of that cancer caused his death. To read more about Timothy please click here. To read the NY Times article on him click here.

  • David Hughes

    February 2, 2021 Alexis Sexton In Memorium

    1980 – 2020

    David Hughes

    The ACTG Network Coordinating Center at Social & Scientific Systems (SSS) and colleagues throughout the group mourn the unexpected passing of David Hughes, 40, on August 7, 2020. David was a Senior Research Associate and Certified Clinical Research Professional. He managed the ACTG’s Performance Evaluation Committee and its site and laboratory evaluation programs. Many also knew David from past support in coordinating the network’s meetings and retreats and the Site Management and Clinical Committee’s Training and Evaluation Working Group.

    During his 16 years at SSS, David also worked in the operations center for the IMPAACT Network and the Community Program for Clinical Research on AIDS, serving in the roles of network community coordinator, meeting planning, and administrative group manager.

    David graduated from Virginia Tech with a BS in Electrical Engineering. Although he was of the analytical mindset, he soon realized he wanted a career that would contribute to improving public health.

    David was committed to community service. He served on SSS’ Community Service Committee and volunteered as Co-Chair of the Legacy Project Working Group, Office of HIV/AIDS Network Coordination. David also served as an advisor and grant reviewer for HIV prevention and public health programs overseen by local health departments and community-based organizations, including Washington D.C.’s Department of Health HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis, STD and TB Administration and the Regional Planning Commission on Health and HIV.

    David enjoyed traveling, having fun with family and friends, and performing as part of a West African dance company. He was a bright, happy, energetic, kind, and selfless individual who served as a mentor, role model, and friend to many. He always had a smile on his face, was willing to help, looked at the positives in every situation, and genuinely made the world a better and happier place. We join together to grieve the loss of this member of our ACTG family.

  • Benigno Rodriguez, MD

    February 2, 2021 Alexis Sexton In Memorium

    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.

  • James Weihe, MD

    February 2, 2021 Alexis Sexton In Memorium

    1950 – 2020

    James Weihe, MD

    It is with great sadness that we inform you of the passing of James Weihe, MD. James was a member of the, now, Community Scientific Subcommittee (CSS) from 1997 to 2001, a Community Advisory Board (CAB) member at the former ACTG site in Hawaii and remained active with the Neurology Committee for many years. He was also a community representative to the AIDS Malignancy Consortium (AMC). His impact lives on even while he will be missed dearly.