New UA Chief of Infectious Diseases Has Long History of Novel Research into HIV, AIDS Prevention

The University of Colorado – Denver’s Dr. Elizabeth Connick will succeed Dr. Stephen Klotz in April as chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases, bringing a broad research portfolio on HIV and AIDS prevention to the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson.

Dr. Liz ConnickRenowned human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) researcher Elizabeth Connick, MD, a professor of medicine at the University of Colorado – Denver, has been named chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson. She will join the UA faculty in April.

“We’re very excited to have such an accomplished physician-scientist join us as a colleague and leader in such a critical medical subspecialty,” said Monica Kraft, MD, chair of the UA Department of Medicine and the Robert and Irene Flinn Endowed Professor of Medicine.

“Dr. Connick’s basic immunology studies and clinical trials into immune therapies  to help us understand HIV and how to better prevent infection and AIDS, as well as her outreach work to promote improved awareness among younger generations via engagement programs, have been crucial to the struggle to limit the impact and find a cure for this devastating disease,” Dr. Kraft said.

“I’m fortunate to join a well-run division with excellent clinician-educators,” Dr. Connick said. “I look forward to working with Banner – University Medical Center leadership to further develop the infectious disease consultation services and other programs that enhance patient safety, such as antimicrobial stewardship. I also anticipate building a stronger research program in the division by recruiting more physician-scientists and integrating a research component into the infectious disease fellowship.”

Dr. Monica KraftDr. Connick’s research, much of it funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), targets HIV immunopathogenesis — disease development involving an immune response or related component. She has been involved in clinical trials, as well as laboratory-based translational research studies of HIV-1 infection, for more than 20 years, including studies of acute HIV infection, immune reconstitution, cardiovascular disease and HIV pathogenesis among women. More recently, she has focused on strategies to develop a cure for HIV infection.

“My specific expertise,” Dr. Connick said, “is in studies of HIV pathogenesis in lymphoid tissues, where the majority of HIV replication and CD4+ T cell destruction occurs. I currently have funding to investigate mechanisms underlying HIV’s evasion of cytotoxic T cell responses in lymphoid tissues, and am co-principal investigator of a study into the impact of exercise on endothelial cell dysfunction in HIV-infected individuals.”

She is principal investigator on three current NIH grants totaling nearly $4 million, including one with long-time collaborator Pamela Skinner, PhD, of the University of Minnesota. She also recently received nearly $3.3 million in NIH funding for another project on which she is co-principal investigator with Christopher DeSouza, PhD, of UC Boulder. Throughout her career, Dr. Connick has received research funding totaling nearly $14.2 million as principal investigator, $43.5 million as co-investigator and $121.5 million in other roles.

Dr. Connick graduated from Harvard Medical School in 1988, then completed an internship and internal medicine residency at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in New York and an infectious disease fellowship at the University of Colorado. She currently is medical director at the UC Boulder Clinical and Translational Research Center and chair of the Radiopharmaceutical Oversight Committee, the Radioactive Drug Research Committee and the Human Use Committee on Ionizing Radiation at UC Denver. She holds joint appointments as an adjunct professor in the UC Department of Integrative Physiology and the UC Department of Immunology and Microbiology. She also is an attending physician at the University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora, Colo.

The Division of Infectious Diseases is one of 13 divisions in the UA Department of Medicine, the largest department in the UA College of Medicine – Tucson with more than 100 faculty physicians and 100 resident and fellow physicianDr. Steve Klotzs in training.

Dr. Connick replaces Stephen A. Klotz, MD, who has led the division since 2008, first as interim chief when Eskild A. Petersen, MD, retired, and then as chief when he was appointed to the position in 2009. The Petersen Clinics at Banner – UMC Tucson, funded by a $1.5-million-a-year U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration grant to the UA under the federal Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, are named for Dr. Petersen. Dr. Klotz plans to continue doing clinics as principal investigator for the Ryan White program and  in a research capacity, noting work being done in his division on frailty and HIV, kissing bugs and Chagas disease, and binding of certain ameloid P components in fungi, such as those related to candidiasis infections.

For an in-depth version of this release with more on Dr. Connick’s research, her national committee work, and the programs she’ll oversee in the UA Division of Infectious Diseases, click here.

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