Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

AIDS Research Pioneer Moving on from Meharry

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

AIDS Research Pioneer Moving on from Meharry

Article excerpt

Dr. James E.K. Hildreth leaves Meharry Medical College to lead College of Biological Sciences at UC Davis

In 2005 when Dr. James E.K. Hildreth decided to leave the prestigious Johns Hopkins University Medical School where he was trained as a physician and later latched on to his research niche - cell activity in HIV, the virus that causes AIDS - inquiring minds followed his seemingly curious journey south to the lesser known and historically Black Me-harry Medical College in Nashville, Tenn.

Six years later, Hildreth, a pre-eminent AIDS researcher and professor who maintained a foot in Nashville's largely Black and underserved communities and another in his BioSafety Level 3 laboratory that handled live HIV, was named the new dean of the University of California, Davis College of Biological Sciences. Hildreth begins his appointment on August 1. He will oversee 124 faculty of which only 13 are Asian, two are Hispanic, and one is African-American, according to data from UC Davis.

Calling Hildreth's appointment at UC Davis "an opportunity of a lifetime," Dr. Charles P. Mouton, dean of the School of Medicine at Meharry, spoke of the researcher's contributions to the college and to the community.

"Dr. Hildreth's contributions extend far beyond his day-to-day roles and responsibilities. He is valued as a true leader and mentor, dedicated to the mission of meeting the health care needs of the underserved and underrepresented."

Mouton named Fernando Villalta, Ph.D., interim director of the Center for HIV/AIDS Health Disparities Research, which Hildreth founded.

Villalta, currently a professor and chairman of Meharry's Department of Microbiology and Immunology, has worked at the college for 25 years. He has made the pursuit of eradicating Chagas disease, a potentially lethal parasitic infection that affects between 8 million and 11 million people, mostly in Latin America, his life's work.

The Tennessean , Nashville's largest daily newspaper, along with readers who voted, named Hildreth and his research team "Tennessean of the Year" in 2008. They cited Hildreth's work on AIDS and health disparities: "Dr. Hildreth has not only made the lives of Tennesseans better with his research, but he's made the lives of people around the world better. His work will very likely lead to AIDS becoming a disease we talk about in the past tense. …

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