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TB Notes Newsletter

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No. 2, 2010


Heather Alexander, PhD, left IRPB and DTBE on April 9 for a new position as TB/OI Unit Lead for the International Laboratory Branch, Global AIDS Program. In her new position, Heather will continue to collaborate with IRPB and other partners to assess the Cepheid Xpert MTB/RIF nucleic acid amplification test as part of a diagnostic procedure for intensified TB case finding among HIV-infected individuals in Kenya. 

Heather completed her PhD in molecular microbiology in 2004 at Emory University with a dissertation focused on Neisseria meningitidis pathogenesis.  After graduate school, she joined the HHS Emerging Leaders Program (ELP), and first came to IRPB in January 2005 through one of her ELP rotations. IRPB was fortunate in that her professional interests coincided with IRPB’s activities of evaluating and implementing modern technologies to improve TB diagnostics. Heather joined IRPB’s staff in 2005 as an ORISE and CDC Foundation Fellow; later she became a Senior Service Fellow, and eventually was hired as a full-time employee.

During her 5 years in IRPB, Heather has contributed to and led several projects focused on TB diagnostics. She played a major role in compiling the evidence for the WHO guidelines on use of liquid culture for TB diagnosis in low-resource settings. In collaboration with FIND and other partners, she led a demonstration project to implement and evaluate the MGIT 960 system in four countries (Russia, the Philippines, Nepal, and Uzbekistan). In another collaboration, Heather worked with the Tropical Disease Foundation in Manila to implement and evaluate the Hain MTBDRplus line probe assay. Thanks in part to her activities, these TB programs currently use these diagnostic tests in their routine daily practice.

In addition, she has been working with MLB to compare results of the MTBDRplus and MTBDRsl line probe assays with drug-susceptibility test results from over 1,000 archived MDR TB isolates here in Atlanta. She also worked with CHSRB and with DTBE’s program in Botswana in evaluating the QuantiFERON assay among HIV-infected persons in that country. She also led the development and pilot testing of a StarLIMS-based electronic laboratory information system for TB reference laboratories in Russia. It has been a pleasure and privilege to work with Heather, and we wish her all the best in her new position!

Brian Baker, MD, will be the new EIS Officer for the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and Outbreak Investigations Branch (SEOIB), starting in July.  Brian is a graduate of the University of California-Berkeley and the University of California-San Francisco School of Medicine.  He extended medical school to work at the Institute for OneWorld Health, helping plan a control program for visceral leishmaniasis in India.  He also spent 6 months living in Tanzania, working for the Axios Foundation on HIV prevention efforts.  He currently lives in New York City, where he is completing his final year of Emergency Medicine training at New York University and Bellevue Hospitals.

Joseph (Sean) Cavanaugh, MD, has accepted a position as a Commissioned Corp Medical Officer in IRPB.  Sean will officially join the Branch immediately following completion of the Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) program this summer. Sean finished medical school at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, New York, and completed his internship and residency at the New York University Internal Medicine/Primary Care Program.  He worked for a year as a chief resident for the program, with duties at the Manhattan VA NY Medical Center and Bellevue Hospital.  In 2001, he was hired as a staff member at the Manhattan VA NY Medical Center and as an associate program director for the Internal Medicine residency program.  His duties included inpatient and outpatient care, supervising medical students and residents, and developing the training curriculum for medical residents.  Also beginning in 2001, he worked part-time providing primary and urgent care at Odyssey House, an inpatient drug rehabilitation facility in New York City.  In 2008, Sean left New York City to join the EIS at CDC and was assigned to IRPB, DTBE.  During the past 2 years, he has helped develop protocols for intensive case-finding in Africa, TB-HIV surveillance in the prison system in Botswana, and assessing the association between TB and diabetes in the Western Pacific.

Michael Iademarco, MD, has been selected as the next Chief, Mycobacteriology Laboratory Branch, DTBE.  We expect his arrival in Atlanta this summer. Since September 2006, Michael has served as the HHS Health Attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Vietnam, where he has coordinated policy for U.S. Government health-related cooperation and has been the in-country representative for the Office of the Secretary.  He holds the rank of Captain (O-6) in the Commissioned Corps, U.S. Public Health Service, and served as the Associate Director for Science, DTBE, from early 2001 until June 2006. Michael joined CDC/DTBE as a medical epidemiologist in 1998, in what at the time was our International Activity. From 1993 until 1998, he was on the faculty of Washington University School of Medicine as a physician-scientist in the Pulmonary and Critical Care Division, where he successfully secured funding from the National Institutes of Health for laboratory-based research. During that time he gained proficiency and expertise in laboratory-based sciences and research in pulmonary diseases.  While working in DTBE, Michael served on various World Health Organization (WHO) workgroups, including the Stop TB Partnership Workgroup on Vaccines, and served 7 years as a member of the WHO Western Pacific Region Office Technical Advisory Group for Tuberculosis. He holds an adjunct faculty appointment in both of Emory University’s School of Medicine and Rollins School of Public Health, and annually serves as an attending physician at the Atlanta Veterans Administration Medical Center Medical Intensive Care Unit.  Michael brings to DTBE important knowledge and a skill set which is complimentary to that of the current MLB leadership and staff.

Ekaterina (Katya) Kurbatova, MD, PhD, MPH, has accepted a position as a Medical Epidemiologist with IRPB's MDR-TB team. Dr. Kurbatova received her MD (1998) and PhD (2006) degrees from Samara State Medical University in Russia and an MPH in Epidemiology (2004) from the Emory Rollins School of Public Health. She served as a research consultant to the World Health Organization's tuberculosis program in Russia in 2006-2007.  Since 2007, her primary position has been as a Senior Coordinator of Research Projects in Emory's School of Medicine Division of Infectious Diseases.  In addition, she has coordinated four Russian sites' participation in CDC/DTBE's Preserving Effective Tuberculosis Treatment Study (PETTS), a multinational epidemiological study of multidrug-resistant (MDR) TB being carried out in nine countries (Estonia, Latvia, Peru, Philippines, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, Taiwan, and Thailand). Dr Kurbatova is the author or co-author of over 20 peer-reviewed journal publications.

Michelle Presswood, CAP (Certified Administrative Professional), has joined DTBE’s Field Services and Evaluation Branch (FSEB). She has over 15 years’ experience in the administrative field. She began working in 1994 as a clerical aide in Des Moines, Iowa, then served as the Development Operations Specialist at Oakridge Neighborhood, where she assisted the Director of Development. In 2000, she opened her own business, Presswood Creations. In 2003, she was hired as a part-time outreach worker for the City of Des Moines, where she provided case management to low-income families and elderly persons.

In March 2004, Michelle relocated to Georgia and was hired by OfficeTeam, which provides temporary clerical assistance throughout Atlanta. In October 2004, she was hired by the Housing Authority of DeKalb County (HADC) as an Administrative Assistant to the Director of Housing Choice Programs, and in 2006, she was promoted to Executive Administrative Assistant. In 2009 she left HADC and became a contractor for National Associates, Inc., working first as an Administrative Assistant to the Director of the Strategic Programs Division at the Atlanta Human Resources Center (AHRC), then in a temporary administrative assignment at CDC’s Procurement and Grants Office. Michelle is now serving as the Administrative Assistant for FSEB. Michelle has an Associate in Science degree in Human Services from Des Moines Area Community College, and in June 2009, she received her Certified Administrative Professional rating from the International Association of Administrative Professionals. Michelle enjoys traveling and spending time with her family.

Sandy Price is the recipient of the DTBE Director’s Recognition Award for the second quarter of 2010. Sandy is being recognized for her outstanding commitment and work during the provision of technical assistance to all reporting areas as they transitioned from the TIMS software to the different PHIN/NEDSS-compliant options — such as the eRVCT, the NBS TB PAM, and the PHIN TB message — that are needed for the exchange of TB surveillance data among these diverse interoperable electronic systems.  In addition, she closely monitored and tracked the progress of the 2009 provisional case count by providing regular feedback to DTBE senior staff and the state TB community, and by maintaining appropriate and effective communication links with DTBE staff who were directly or indirectly involved in this transition, particularly the DTBE Program Consultants regarding resource needs and management of problems. Sandy is recognized for maintaining ongoing formal and informal relationships with key core project constituencies in order to leverage a broad spectrum of CDC and state-based IT resources, for promoting confidence in project efforts, and for advancing ongoing project goals.  All this work became critical to DTBE’s ability to analyze surveillance data in time for the annual preliminary report in the MMWR issue commemorating World TB Day 2010. Very importantly, this background work also enabled us to identify early in 2010 the significant decrease in reported 2009 TB cases. We are grateful to Sandy for her hard work and excellent performance, and congratulate her for receiving the Director’s Recognition Award.

Paul Regan has been selected for the public health advisor position in Richmond, Virginia; his report date is July 4, 2010.  His duties will include providing assistance with the technical aspects of TB prevention and control, contact investigations, and a variety of TB control program and administrative activities for the state.  Paul is currently assigned to the Mississippi State Dept. of Health as Director of the Hinds County TB Clinic in Jackson, MS.  In this capacity, Paul handles various administrative and managerial duties including staff development, program development, budgets, contracts, and special projects.  While in Mississippi, Paul was selected for the International Experience and Technical Assistance (IETA) Program.  This program is competitively offered through the Office of Global Health (OGH) and gave Paul the opportunity to travel to South Africa and provide technical assistance to the Global AIDS Program (GAP) in remote locations throughout South Africa.

Prior to Mississippi, Paul was assigned to the Florida Bureau of TB and Refugee Health in Tallahassee, Florida.  While there, he was responsible for coordinating statewide interjurisdictional transfers of TB patients. He also served as Area Manager of Areas 1 and 2A, Area Coordinator for Area 5, and Continuity of Operations Program (COOP) coordinator for the Bureau.

Paul began his CDC DTBE career in the Alabama Dept. of Health where he supported local staff and performed disease intervention activities in an eight-county area.  He had division-level projects which included export, analysis, and presentation of epidemiologic data from each of Alabama's 11 public health areas.  Paul also assisted with an Epi-Aide in Bayou La Batre.

During his career with DTBE, Paul has volunteered for several temporary duty (TDY) assignments.  In addition to his TDY assignments in Bayou Le Batre, Alabama, and in South Africa, he also served in New Orleans, Louisiana (post-Katrina); Fort Wayne, Indiana; Kosciusko County, Indiana; and Providence, Rhode Island.

Before coming to DTBE, Paul worked for the New Orleans Office of Public Health in the TB control program as a Disease Intervention Specialist II.  His assignments included conducting contact investigations, performing case management, and conducting TB health and education seminars.  Prior to that, Paul worked for the Louisiana Department of Corrections, Felony Probation and Parole Division as a Special Agent serving on the Tactical Response Team.

Taraz Samandari, MD, PhD, has been selected as the new Program Strengthening and Epidemiology Team Leader for IRPB.  Dr. Samandari returned to Atlanta in mid-2009 after a 6-year tour in Botswana, where he directed CDC’s TB-HIV Research Division (BOTUSA). He headed a 40-person team in the conduct of a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial which determined that, in addition to antiretroviral therapy, continuous isoniazid prophylaxis is far superior to standard 6-month prophylaxis in reducing the risk of TB in tuberculin skin test-positive HIV-infected persons. Additionally, he participated in a variety of operational research activities and served in an advisory capacity to Botswana’s Ministry of Health. Prior to joining IRPB in 2003, he served as an EIS Officer with CDC’s Division of Viral Hepatitis. Prior to joining CDC, Taraz was an Assistant Professor in internal medicine and infectious diseases at the University of Maryland’s School of Medicine. During that time he analyzed the human cellular immune response to vaccines.


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