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Jefferson Award: Carlos del Rio is a lifelong fighter of disease

Carlos del Rio is the 2014 recipient of the Thomas Jefferson Award, Emory's highest award for distinguished service to the university. Emory Photo/Video.

As a physician, researcher, and public health leader, Carlos del Rio has spent his career working to prevent, treat and improve patient outcomes for infectious diseases locally and globally, with a particular focus on HIV/AIDS.

As an educator, he was program director of the Department of Medicine Residency Program, and co-chaired the committee that revised the medical school curriculum. He has taught and mentored hundreds of Emory medical and public health students, residents and fellows, and trained public health investigators all over the world.

As the 2014 recipient of the Thomas Jefferson Award, Emory's highest award for distinguished service to the University, del Rio exemplifies the personal and professional qualities of community involvement, influence, and leadership that are the hallmarks of the award.

Del Rio is the Hubert Professor and Chair of the Hubert Department of Global Health and professor of epidemiology at Rollins School of Public Health, as well as a professor of medicine at Emory School of Medicine and chief of the infectious disease service at Emory University Hospital. He is also the director for clinical sciences and international research of the Emory Center for AIDS Research (CFAR) and directs the Emory AIDS International Training and Research Program.

Working with Mexico

A native of Mexico, del Rio grew up admiring heroes like Louis Pasteur, who developed vaccines to combat infectious disease. He first came to Emory as a visiting medical student in 1982 and then as medical resident (1983–1989). He returned to Mexico as a physician and educator, and from 1992 until 1996 he was executive director of the national AIDS Council of Mexico.

He is still a leading collaborator with Mexico in a variety of Emory programs. In 1996 del Rio joined the Emory School of Medicine faculty, and in 2009 he became chair of the Hubert Department of Public Health at Rollins.

As a clinician, and researcher and former chief of medicine at Grady Memorial Hospital, he has witnessed firsthand the toll of HIV/AIDS on patients in innercity Atlanta and in countries around the world. He has focused his work in the United States and developing countries on prevention and early diagnosis of HIV, access to care and compliance with antiretrovirals in hard-to-reach populations, including substance abusers.  

"Dr. del Rio is an exceptional and incredibly committed local and global citizen," says James W. Curran, dean of the Rollins School of Public Health. "He has had an extraordinary impact on Emory not only in multiple areas of scholarship, research, administration, teaching and clinical care, but also in international research, training and intervention."

Over his years at Emory del Rio has always enjoyed the collegiality and collaborative environment that exists here.  "Emory is a place that attracts outstanding students and faculty and fosters an environment that encourages and facilitates collaboration and cooperation across units.  Emory is also a place committed to improving health locally and globally," del Rio says.

The association with Grady Health System is something that has been particularly attractive to del Rio, and he continues to see patients at the Grady Infectious Diseases Program HIV clinic.  

As a national and international public health leader, del Rio is the vice-chair of the board of directors of the HIV Medicine Association of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, member of the board of directors of the International Antiviral Society and member of the advisory committee on HIV and STD of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control land Prevention (CDC), and the Health Resources and Services Administration. He is editor-in-chief of NEJM Journal Watch HIV/AIDS, senior clinical editor for AIDS Research and Human Retroviruses, and is a member of the editorial boards for the Journal of AIDS; Women, Children and HIV; and Global Public Health.

Del Rio has received many honors and awards including the James H. Nakano Citation from the CDC for an outstanding scientific paper published in 2000 and Emory's Marion V. Creekmore Achievement Award for Internationalization. Atlanta Magazine selected him as one of the 55 most influential foreign-born Atlantans in 2007 and he was elected in 2013 to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, one of 23 Emory faculty members who have been elected to the Institute of Medicine.

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