Alisson Sombredero, MD, and Natasha Travis, MD, will dedicate the next phase of their careers to addressing the disproportionate impact of HIV infection on minorities and the lack of qualified medical experts to treat them. Both have been awarded a 2012 Minority Clinical Fellowship by the HIV Medicine Association (HIVMA).
Thirty years after the first cases of HIV/AIDS were reported, many HIV clinicians are now nearing retirement or have already left the workforce, depleting the number of clinicians capable of treating the disease. At the same time, demand for HIV care continues to grow, as more than 50,000 new cases are diagnosed annually. Minorities bear a disproportionate burden of these diagnoses: African Americans and Latinos account for 69 percent of the more than one million AIDS cases in the United States today. However, there are few African American or Latino physicians specializing in HIV/AIDs care.
“In order to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic, we must provide high-quality care to underserved minority communities, ensuring that they have access to routine HIV testing and expert HIV care and treatment,” said Judith A. Aberg, MD, FIDSA, chair of HIVMA. “To accomplish this, HIVMA created the Minority Clinical Fellowship program to provide a pathway for talented minority health providers to enter the field of HIV medicine.”
The fellowship is now in its sixth year and has seen all of the previous fellows continue their careers in HIV medicine, focused on providing HIV care to underserved populations.
Each of this year’s fellows received funding to support a year of dedicated HIV clinical training in clinics largely serving minority populations and with mentoring and clinical support from HIVMA members. The training year began July 1. Dr. Sombredero will complete her fellowship at the University of California in San Francisco and will receive mentoring and clinical instruction from Monica Gandhi, MD, MPH. Dr. Travis will complete her fellowship at Emory University, the Ponce De Leon Clinic at Grady Memorial Hospital under the mentorship of David Malebranche, MD, and Wendy Armstrong, MD.
The Minority Clinical Fellowship Program is supported by unrestricted grants from pharmaceutical companies, including the Gilead Foundation, Genentech, and Janssen Therapeutics. Applications for 2013 are currently being accepted. Information is available at www.hivma.org.
About the HIVMA Minority Clinical Fellowship 2012 Recipients
Alisson Sombredero, MD
Alisson Sombredero, MD, had her first contact with the HIV epidemic 12 years ago, when she was a medical student in Colombia. After she delivered the news of two positive diagnoses to a couple, she was moved by their fighting spirit and genuine support for each other in the face of illness. Inspired by their resolve, she decided to pursue more scholarship in the field of HIV/AIDS care, a pursuit which led her from Bogota, Colombia and Spain to the rural areas of the Pacific coast in Colombia and California.
After her graduation from Universidad de la Sabana Medical school in Colombia, Dr. Sombredero completed a clinical internship in HIV medicine in Spain, where she was able to experience HIV medicine in the era of antiretroviral medication. After her internship, armed with a greater understanding of the disease, she returned to Colombia and served as a physician in the rural communities of Tumaco and Cali, overseeing research and leading health campaigns against leishmaniasis and syphilis/HIV co-infection. She also led population screenings in small villages and for sex workers in urban centers.
Dr. Sombredero completed her residency training program at Highland Hospital in Oakland, California, a county hospital in a diverse and underserved community. While there, she worked primarily with Latino immigrant patients, benefiting from a shared language and culture as she built doctor-patient relationships. “During my experience at Highland Hospital, the lack of HIV awareness and medication adherence among the Latino population was clear,” said Dr. Sombredero. “I have seen first-hand the need for Spanish-speaking physicians who can meet the needs of the growing Latino population with HIV.”
Dr. Sombredero earned her medical degree from the Universidad de la Sabana School of Medicine in Bogota, Colombia. Dr. Sombredero’s fellowship will take place at the University of California in San Francisco with mentoring and clinical instruction from Monica Gandhi, MD, MPH, combined with the East Bay AIDS Center in Oakland, with mentoring from Christopher Hall, MD.
Natasha Travis, MD
Natasha Travis, MD, is so passionate about promoting patient awareness that she helped spearhead the creation of the first annual HIV Testing Day event in Milwaukee, which is now in its seventh year. “My goal is to care for each of my patients over the long term. To do this, it is imperative for me to know my patients and their health history, which means it is also imperative for my patients to know their own HIV status,” Dr. Travis said.
Through her involvement with the Cream City Medical Society, an affiliate of the National Medical Association, the nation’s largest association for African American physicians, Dr. Travis has been a strong advocate for Wisconsin’s African American, HIV-positive community. She served a term with the Wisconsin HIV Community Planning Network’s Statewide Action Planning Group, facilitating communication throughout Wisconsin to help develop statewide priorities for HIV prevention and care.
“African Americans seem to incur the most severe burden of HIV of all racial and ethnic groups in the United States,” Dr. Travis said. “This knowledge, and my experiences with the HIV community in Wisconsin, ignited my desire to become politically involved in the fight to change the HIV racial disparity and improve patient access to screening and treatment services.”
As a primary care physician, Dr. Travis hopes to utilize the knowledge she gleans from this clinical fellowship to provide enhanced primary care expertise to her patients with HIV infection.
“There is sufficient literature showing that trained HIV experts provide higher quality and more cost effective clinical care,” she said. “The Minority Clinical Fellowship will give me an opportunity to actively manage HIV patients and to receive ongoing education for care of patients with HIV.”
A graduate of Loyola University in Chicago with a degree in biology, Dr. Travis earned her medical degree from the Rush University College of Medicine. Her fellowship will take place at Emory University, the Ponce De Leon Clinic at Grady Memorial Hospital with mentoring and clinical instruction from David Malebranche, MD, and Wendy Armstrong, MD.
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