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UM School of Medicine’s Institute of Human Virology Recruits Top HIV/AIDS Epidemiologist Shenghan Lai Along with Team of Researchers

August 31, 2020 | Nora Samaranayake

Shenghan Lai is joined by his wife, Dr. Hong Lai, an Associate Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health

Robert C. Gallo, MD, the Homer & Martha Gudelsky Distinguished Professor in Medicine, Co-founder and Director of the Institute of Human Virology (IHV) at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM), and Man E. Charurat, PhD, MHS, Professor of Medicine, Director of the Division of Epidemiology & Prevention and CIHEB Global Director at the IHV, announced today that Shenghan Lai, MD, MPH and Hong Lai, PhD, MPH, in addition to three staff members, and two more to add, have joined the Institute of Human Virology. The faculty began their positions on April 1 with Professor and Associate Professor academic appointments in the UMSOM’s Department of Epidemiology & Public Health.

Dr. Shenghan Lai was most recently Professor of Pathology, Radiology Epidemiology and Medicine at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine (JHM).  He began his research in HIV/AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) in the late 1980s. His research interests include epidemiology, drug abuse, HIV/AIDS, STIs, prevention and intervention, cardiac imaging, preventive cardiology, medical consequences of HIV infection, and international health.

Dr. Hong Lai was most recently Associate Professor of Radiology at JHM.  Since 2002, she has been the lead epidemiologist on five National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded studies investigating HIV/cocaine-associated comorbidities. These include coronary calcification, left ventricular regional dysfunction, the presence and development of coronary stenosis, coronary plaque progression and cognitive decline.

“We are pleased to have Dr. Shenghan Lai and Dr. Hong Lai join the Institute,” said Dr. Gallo, who is also Co-Founder and International Chairman of the Scientific Leadership Board of the Global Virus Network (GVN). “Together, they will add depth to our Division of Epidemiology and Prevention and provide opportunities for cross-collaborations within the Institute.”

“The research team led by Dr. Lai has accomplished a lot, especially for Baltimore City,” said Dr. Charurat.  “We are excited to have them continue scientific advancements here.”

Dr. Shenghan Lai has been heavily involved in epidemiology and prevention of HIV infection in countries with greater HIV prevalence for more than 10 years. He has focused on high-risk groups such as intravenous drug users, sex workers, and men who engage in sex with other men. Dr. Lai is recognized as a leading epidemiology researcher in the infectious disease epidemiology, and world renowned for his research on the effects of HIV infection and cocaine use on sub-clinical cardiovascular disease. He is the principal investigator of several NIH-supported studies, focusing on HIV natural history and cardiovascular complications of HIV and drug abuse. Dr. Lai received his degrees from Peking Union Medical College in Beijing, China, and the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland. He has more than 250 peer-reviewed publications and numerous book chapters. 

“The Institute, led by Dr. Gallo, has a long history of serving the medically underserved African American population in Baltimore,” said Dr. Shenghan Lai. “We look forward to further exploring why HIV or other factors influence comorbidities among one of the poorest communities in this country.  Our highest priority is to use science as a weapon to fight against health disparities and IHV is the best place for us to achieve our goals.” 

Dr. Hong Lai is the lead author of several publications demonstrating that the use of cocaine promotes subclinical coronary atherosclerosis in users with HIV infection.  Further, she identified that reduced cocaine use with a cash-based incentive intervention was significantly associated with a lowered endothelin-1, endothelial marker, and reduced coronary plaque burden in chronic cocaine users with existing coronary plaques.

“In addition to growing our cardiovascular research, we look forward to expanding our studies in two new areas.,” said Dr. Hong Lai.  “These include improving our understanding of how HIV, drug abuse - especially opioid - and other factors exacerbate cognitive decline among underserved population in Baltimore and reducing health disparities among Baltimore’s African American population.

With more than 100 publications, Dr. Hong Lai’s key contribution to science includes the first report that vitamin D deficiency is associated with hidden heart disease among underserved African Americans with HIV infection.

“These new faculty members will provide crucial expertise in HIV to help us strengthen our departmental programs in infection control and in health disparities and population health,” said ‌‌Jay Magaziner, PhD, MSHyg, Professor and Chair of the Department Epidemiology & Public Health.

University of Maryland School of Medicine Dean E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBA, who is University Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs and the John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor, added, “I want to extend a warm welcome to these new faculty members, and I am eager to see the cross pollination that will take place as they share their expertise and enter into important research collaborations that will advance the field of HIV epidemiology,” he said.

About the Institute of Human Virology

Formed in 1996 as a partnership between the State of Maryland, the City of Baltimore, the University System of Maryland and the University of Maryland Medical System, IHV is an institute of the University of Maryland School of Medicine and is home to some of the most globally-recognized and world-renowned experts in all of virology. The IHV combines the disciplines of basic research, epidemiology and clinical research in a concerted effort to speed the discovery of diagnostics and therapeutics for a wide variety of chronic and deadly viral and immune disorders - most notably, HIV the virus that causes AIDS. For more information, www.ihv.org and follow us on Twitter @IHVmaryland.

About the University of Maryland School of Medicine

The University of Maryland School of Medicine was chartered in 1807 and is the first public medical school in the United States and continues today as an innovative leader in accelerating innovation and discovery in medicine. The School of Medicine is the founding school of the University of Maryland and is an integral part of the 11-campus University System of Maryland.  Located on the University of Maryland’s Baltimore campus, the School of Medicine works closely with the University of Maryland Medical Center to provide a research-intensive, academic and clinically based education.  With 43 academic departments, centers and institutes and a faculty of more than 3,000 physicians and research scientists plus more than $400 million in extramural funding, the School is regarded as one of the leading biomedical research institutions in the U.S. with top-tier faculty and programs in cancer, brain science, surgery and transplantation, trauma and emergency medicine, vaccine development and human genomics, among other centers of excellence.  The School is not only concerned with the health of the citizens of Maryland and the nation, but also has a global vision, with research and treatment facilities in more than 30 countries around the world.  For more information, visit www.medschool.umaryland.edu.

Contact

Institute of Human Virology
Nora Samaranayake
Director of Marketing and Public Relations
(410) 706-8614 (phone)
(410) 706-1952 (fax)
nsamaranayake@ihv.umaryland.edu

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