At the Nexus of Substance Abuse and HIV

UC San Diego Researcher Wins Major Award to Study New Treatments and Preventions —

Dan Werb, PhD, an internationally noted epidemiologist at University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, has been named one of four inaugural recipients of the Avenir Award, a prestigious $1.5 million research grant from the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). … Read the full story from the UC San Diego Newsroom

Preventing Drug-Abuse-Related HIV in Tijuana by Educating Police

Dr. Steffanie Strathdee

Dr. Steffanie Strathdee

The NIH Record recently highlighted Dr. Steffanie Strathdee, Dr. Leo Beletsky, and their binational team for their efforts to prevent drug abuse-related HIV in Tijuana, Mexico, by changing the knowledge, attitudes and behaviors of the Tijuana police.

With support from the Open Society Institute and the UC San Diego Center for AIDS Research, the pilot phase of the project taught Tijuana police instructors how to prevent needle stick injuries by proper syringe handling, which advises them against breaking needles they apprehend from drug users. The training program is now being adopted by Tijuana’s police academy, whereby the police trainers will be teaching the program to their colleagues.

“We believe this program is the best way to reduce needle sharing among people who inject drugs, which is driven by policing practices,” Strathdee said.

The program will soon be tested in a newly funded grant by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Proyecto ESCUDO (Project Shield): Harmonizing Law Enforcement and HIV Prevention through a Police Education Program.

Steffanie Strathdee, PhD, is Associate Dean of Global Health Sciences and Harold Simon Professor and Chief of the Division of Global Public Health and Director of the Global Health Initiative.

Strathdee co-leads Proyecto ESCUDO with Leo Beletsky, JD, MPH, adjunct assistant professor in the Division of Global Public Health at UC San Diego and assistant professor of law and health sciences at the Northeastern University School of Law.

Herpes Infected Humans Before They Were Human

The virus originated in chimpanzees, jumping into humans 1.6 million years ago

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have identified the evolutionary origins of human herpes simplex virus (HSV) -1 and -2, reporting that the former infected hominids before their evolutionary split from chimpanzees 6 million years ago while the latter jumped from ancient chimpanzees to ancestors of modern humans – Homo erectus – approximately 1.6 million years ago. … Read the full story from the UC San Diego News Center

Sara Browne Awarded $1M Innovation Initiative Grant

$1 Million Grant from Alliance Healthcare Foundation Awarded to UC San Diego

Dr. Sara BrowneThe Alliance Healthcare Foundation has awarded the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine a $1 million Innovation Initiative (i2) Grant to support the work of Dr. Sara Browne, associate professor in the School of Medicine’s Division of Infectious Diseases. The grant is funding groundbreaking research in the use of wireless technologies in the management of personal and public health. … Read the full story from the UC San Diego News Center

Non-Invasive Test Optimizes Colon Cancer Screening Rates

Underserved populations need options for colorectal cancer screening if screening rates are to be improved, study finds

Organized mailing campaigns could substantially increase colorectal cancer screening among uninsured patients, a study published in the August 5 online edition of JAMA Internal Medicine reveals. The research also suggests that a non-invasive colorectal screening approach, such as a fecal immunochemical test (FIT) might be more effective in promoting participation in potentially life-saving colon cancer screening among underserved populations than a colonoscopy, a more expensive and invasive procedure. … Read the full story from the UCSD Newsroom


Dr. Samir GuptaLead investigator in the study was Samir Gupta, MD, MSCS, associate professor of clinical medicine in the Division of Gastroenterology.

Gupta specializes in screening for and preventing colorectal cancer and polyps.

Before he joined the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine faculty in January 2013, Gupta was assistant professor in the Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Digestive and Liver Diseases at the UT Southwestern Medical Center. He was a National Institutes of Health KL2 Clinical Scholar there from 2007 to 2010, earning his Masters of Science in Clinical Science (MSCS) degree.

Gupta sees patients at the Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System and UC San Diego Health System.

Citation for the study report: Gupta S, Halm EA, Rockey DC, et al. Comparative Effectiveness of Fecal Immunochemical Test Outreach, Colonoscopy Outreach, and Usual Care for Boosting Colorectal Cancer Screening Among the Underserved: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Intern Med. 2013;():-. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.9294. |  Full text (UCSD only)

More Information:

  • Gupta’s academic profile
  • Gupta’s clinical profile
  • JAMA Network Author Video: Samir Gupta, MD, MSCS, discusses Comparative Effectiveness of Fecal Immunochemical Test Outreach, Colonoscopy Outreach, and Usual Care for Boosting Colorectal Cancer Screening Among the Underserved: A Randomized Clinical Trial.  |  Watch video  (UCSD only)
  • Gupta is an organizer and speaker at the UCSD Division of Gastroenterology’s 7th Annual Research Symposium on Malignancies of the Digestive System  |  Details

No Sons Linked to Lower Contraception Use in Nepal

While poverty and under-education continue to dampen contraception use in Nepal, exacerbating the country’s efforts to reduce maternal and child mortality rates, researchers say another, more surprising factor may be more intractable: Deeply held cultural preferences for sons over daughters. … Read the full story from the UCSD Newsroom


Dr. Anita RajFirst author Anita Raj, PhD, is a professor of medicine in the Division of Global Public Health and a Senior Fellow in the UC San Diego Center on Global Justice.

She focuses her global public health research on sexual and reproductive health, gender-based violence and substance misuse and abuse.

Funds from the Lucile and David Packard Foundation’s Population and Reproductive Health program support Dr. Raj’s study, Assessment of Girl Child Marriage and Adolescent Motherhood and Its Public Health Impact in South Asia.

The coauthors of the Nepal study report are three Division of Global Public Health colleagues: medical student Rohan J. Vilms, postdoctoral researcher Lotus McDougal and professor Jay G. Silverman, PhD.

Raj and Silverman are faculty members and Lotus McDougal is a graduate of the Global Health track of the UC San Diego – San Diego State University Joint Doctoral Program in Public Health.

Vilms is a second-year medical student who had the opportunity to take part in the Nepal study via a summer internship supported by UC San Diego’s National Institutes of Health Short-Term Research Training Grant for medical students.

His undergraduate degree is from the Global Health and Development track of the Human Biology program at Stanford University.

Rohan J. Vilms

Medical student Rohan J. Vilms

Vilms was born in the United States and spent his childhood years from age 3 to age 12 in India. Living in the two nations shaped his perceptions of disparities in standard of living and health outcomes because of social circumstances, he said.

He has particular concern for reproductive health.

“I think working for reproductive health is extremely important,” he said. “The standard of what we can do is not what we are doing. There are preventable deaths — infant and maternal mortality. That these still occur is a travesty.”

The Nepal project also attracted him because it gave him a chance to work with data from the Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS), a respected source of information from United States-conducted fieldwork around the world. The DHS database includes reproductive health information.

In working with the DHS data, he said, postdoctoral researcher Lotus McDougal gave him invaluable coaching and expert help.

Vilms makes the most of every opportunity to work and study in global public health. “I have had a lot of mentors,” he said. “I’m learning a lot.”

He has taken Dr. Richard Garfein’s San Quintin Field Course (FPM 244/MED248) three times, the maximum possible in the first two years of medical school.

Dr. Richard Garfein

Dr. Richard Garfein, professor in the Division of Global Public Health.

The San Quintin Field Course is associated with project VIIDAI: Viaje Interinstitucional de Integracion, Docente, Asistencia y de Investigacion (Retreat for Educational Integration, Assistance and Investigation), first conducted by Tijuana’s Universidad Autonoma de Baja California School of Medicine in 1981.

UCSD’s San Quintin Field Course is a School of Medicine elective built around VIIDAI’s academic and research field trips to rural regions in Baja California and Sonora. Students have the opportunity for hands-on clinical experience as well as public health research and practice. The course includes a required 3-day trip to the town of San Quintin on the west coast of Baja California.

Vilms hopes to arrange a global public health research year between his third and fourth years of medical school. Beyond that, his aspiration is to work in a setting where he can make a difference in health and in social justice.

In February, he presented data from the Nepal study as lead author of a poster presentation at the multidisciplinary Consortium of Universities for Global Health (CUGH) annual meeting in Washington, DC.

He said he couldn’t speak highly enough about the Global Public Health division faculty members and graduate students he has worked with.

Of Vilms and his contributions, Anita Raj said, “He worked incredibly hard and did a terrific job.”

More About Dr. Raj and Her Work

Earlier this month, Raj and Ulrike Boehmer, PhD, of the Boston University School of Public Health reported that rates of maternal and infant mortality are significantly higher in nations in which it is common for girls to be married before the age of 18.  |  Read the UCSD press release

At UC San Diego’s International Women’s Day event March 8, 2013, Raj spoke on “The Movement to End Rape Post-Delhi – Public Health Perspectives and Solutions.”

She was an online panelist on Public Radio International’s program The World February 25. The topic: whether there is a global movement for women’s safety in the wake of the Delhi rape protests.  |  Watch the video

In May 2012, Raj and her colleagues published a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association on the results of two decades of efforts to eliminate the practice of girl-child marriage in South Asia.  |  Read the UCSD press release  |  Read the report

Anita Raj is also affiliated with the Section of General Internal Medicine, Clinical Addiction Research and Education in the Department of Medicine at Boston University School of Medicine/Boston Medical Center.

Citation for the Nepal study report:  Anita Raj, Rohan J. Vilms, Lotus McDougal, Jay G. Silverman. Association between having no sons and using no contraception among a nationally representative sample of young wives in Nepal. International journal of gynaecology and obstetrics: the official organ of the International Federation of Gynaecology and Obstetrics – May 2013 (Vol. 121, Issue 2, Pages 162-165, DOI: 10.1016/j.ijgo.2012.12.011)  |  Read article abstract

Dr. Anita Raj Speaking at UC San Diego International Women’s Day Event on March 8

DrAnitaRaj_120x150Global health professor Anita Raj will speak on the topic, “The Movement to End Rape Post-Delhi – Public Health Perspectives and Solutions” at UC San Diego’s International Women’s Day 2013 event on March 8, 2013.

Anita Raj, PhD, a developmental psychologist, is professor of medicine in the Division of Global Public Health and a Senior Fellow in the Center on Global Justice.

Her research addresses gender-based violence, substance misuse and abuse, and sexual and reproductive health, with active projects currently in South Asia, Russia and the United States.

In May 2012, Raj and her colleagues published a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association on the results of two decades of efforts to eliminate the practice of girl-child marriage in South Asia.  |  Read the UCSD press release  |  Read the report

More Information:

In the Spotlight: Global Public Health Division’s El Cuete and Mujer Mas Segura Projects

Dr. Steffanie Strathdee on El Cuete outreachAs the XIX International AIDS Conference met in Washington, DC, this month, Science highlighted the UC San Diego Division of Global Public Health’s El Cuete project and KPBS released a video and story about another of the division’s studies, Mujer Mas Segura.

Science magazine profiled the El Cuete project in a special issue, HIV/AIDS in America, released to coincide with the International AIDS Conference. Read “My Virus Is Your Virus” in Science

In the local media, KPBS interviewed Dr. Steffanie Strathdee (pictured at left above) and Dr. Jose Luis Burgos about the Changing HIV Risks in Female Sex Workers-Injection Drug Users on the Mexico-US Border study, known as Mujer Mas Segura.  Go to video story “UC San Diego Study Aims To Reduce The Risks In The Sex Trade”

Steffanie Strathdee, PhD, is Associate Dean of Global Health Sciences and Harold Simon Professor and Chief of the UC San Diego Division of Global Public Health. She directs the UC San Diego Global Health Initiative and is founding co-director of the UC Global Health Institute’s Center for Migration and Health.

Jose Luis Burgos, MD, MPH, is assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Global Public Health.

Related stories from UC San Diego and the University of California:

Dr. Joseph Vinetz Awarded $9.2 Million for International Malaria Project

Dr. Joseph Vinetz is principal investigator of the new 7-year, $9.2 million malaria research project described in the UCSD Newsroom story, “UC San Diego To Lead New Malaria Research Center in South America.”

Joseph M. Vinetz, M.D., is Professor of Medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases.

Read the abstract of the project.