Category Archives: Profile

Mary Fran McLane: The Woman Who Keeps It Running

Mary Fran McLane

(L to R) Tun-Hou Lee, Phyllis Kanki, Mary Fran McLane, Max Essex, Richard Marlink

By Martha Henry

Though the cafeteria was packed, there were no objections when Max Essex proclaimed, “No one in the room has worked harder at her job than Mary Fran McLane.”

On February 24th, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health honored employees who have reached milestones in service. Mary Fran has worked at Harvard for 50 years. For the last 37, she has served as Lab Manager in the Essex Lab. Continue reading

Dr. Anthony Ogwu

Anthony Ogwu
Dr. Anthony Ogwu, photo by Dave Clift

It’s hard to write a profile of someone who doesn’t complain, especially when that person encounters innumerable problems on a daily basis and has to solve them quickly and efficiently or important clinical trials will come screeching to a halt. Continue reading

Cancer & HIV: Scott Dryden-Peterson Explores the Connection

Scott Dryden-Peterson and Hermann Bussmann
Scott Dryden-Peterson and Hermann Bussmann

Since the introduction of antiretroviral treatment in the 1990s, a diagnosis of AIDS no longer means imminent death. Many people with HIV now live long, relatively healthy lives. Mortality rates, however, are still higher in people with HIV and they die younger. Researchers would like to know why. Continue reading

Victor DeGruttola

From left: Victor DeGruttola, Ravi Goyal, J.P. Onnela
From left: Victor DeGruttola, Ravi Goyal, J.P. Onnela

Ask most people, “Do you have a purpose in life?” and they’ll pause and stammer. Ask Victor DeGruttola and he answers, “To develop, apply, and use quantitative methods and quantitative thinking to defend the interest of vulnerable people.” His job as Chair of the Department of Biostatistics at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) allows him to do those things every day. Continue reading

Molly Pretorius Holme – The Necessary Questions

Molly with a cheetah in South Africa, 1999

By Martha Henry

It was in a medical anthropology class at Mt. Holyoke College that Molly Holme began asking the kind of questions that influence her work at the Harvard AIDS Initiative (HAI).

“In our culture, we take for granted scientific premises like germ theory,” said Molly in a recent interview. “You have to think about how this translates into other settings when you’re trying to initiate life-saving public health measures yet the underlying beliefs about what causes illness may be completely different from your own.” Continue reading

Kate Powis: Plan C

Kate Powis in a maternity ward in Boston

By Martha Henry

Plan A
As a young adult, Kate Powis loved to solve puzzles. Her father was a Secret Service agent and she planned to follow in his footsteps. She took college courses in criminal justice, financing her education by working as a “loss prevention” officer at a chain of department stores. She questioned shoplifters and employees caught stealing, but she didn’t enjoy the work. She often found herself in tears following an interrogation. “At the end of the day, I needed to be doing something more positive,” she said. Continue reading

Drs. Roger Shapiro & Shahin Lockman: Partners in Research & Parenting

Shahin Lockman and Roger Shapiro

By Martha Henry

There are not many couples in which both husband and wife are first authors on a paper in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine, but Drs.Roger Shapiro and Shahin Lockman are one of them. In addition to being researchers for the Harvard AIDS Initiative, both are also physicians specializing in infectious diseases. Together they have three sons, ages three, six and nine. And in spite of constant demands on their schedules, Shapiro and Lockman spend a significant amount of time mentoring young HIV/AIDS researchers.

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Profile: Rebeca Plank

Rebeca Plank with her parents in Bahia, Brazil
Rebeca Plank with her parents in Bahia, Brazil

By Martha Henry

If it hadn’t been for public health, Rebeca Plank might not have been conceived. Her parents met at a medical conference in the late 1960s.

Her father, Stephen Plank, a physician from the U.S., did his medical residency in the Panama Canal Zone. While there, he was dismayed to discover that he had to send people out from the hospital to the same conditions that had brought them there in the first place. He began to understand that while clinical medicine was important, the best way to make a lasting difference in people’s lives was to address root problems. He went back to school and earned a doctorate from the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH). Continue reading

Kelesitse Phiri: Examining Pediatric AIDS in Botswana

Kelesitste Phiri


Oddly enough, Kelesitse Phiri learned about the enormity of the AIDS epidemic in her native Botswana when she was studying at Bryn Mawr College in suburban Philadelphia. The year was 2000. That June UNAIDS released figures showing that Botswana’s adult HIV prevalence at the end of 1999 was 35.8%, the highest in the world.

“At that time, people back home didn’t talk about HIV or that somebody had died of AIDS, but more and more we were hearing about it in the global news. At school people were coming up to me and saying ‘What’s going on in your country?’” Kele, as her friends and colleagues call her, began wondering how the infection rate could be so high in her country, one of the most developed in Africa. To learn more, she enrolled in a course called “The Sociology of AIDS.”  It was a decision that changed her life. Continue reading