DSTDP Leadership Announcements

Dear Partners in Prevention,

As we round out 2023 in the Division of STD Prevention, we are experiencing a time of bittersweet transitions. I’m writing today to share a few of those.

First, as many of you know, I have stepped in to act as acting Division Director while a new Director is recruited following Dr. Leandro Mena’s departure. Over the last several weeks, we had the opportunity to internally celebrate this next chapter with Dr. Mena, reflect on his time with the Division since joining in 2021, and, of course, plan for the next chapter within the Division.

As part of that planning, we are also thinking about the upcoming retirement of Dr. Raul Romaguera, who will leave DSTDP in mid-January after decades of federal service. To that end, I am thrilled to introduce you to Dr. Puja Seth, who will join the Division in early-January as our new Deputy Division Director upon Dr. Romaguera’s retirement. We are grateful they will have a brief period of overlap as we work through this transition.

Photo of Seth

Dr. Seth is joining us from the Division of Population Health in the National Center for Chronic Disease and Health Promotion, where she served as the Healthy Aging Branch Chief and oversaw the Alzheimer’s Disease and Arthritis Programs as well as led the development of a Healthy Aging Strategic Framework. Prior to that, she served as the Epidemiology Surveillance Team Lead and Branch Chief in the Division of Overdose Prevention from 2016 to 2022, where she oversaw the development of two national overdose surveillance systems and the surveillance strategies for CDC’s Overdose Data to Action Program, a $1.2 billion program. Puja is far from a stranger to DSTDP. In fact, the Division played an important role in the early days of her CDC career. In 2009, she began as a Fellow in DSTDP and then went on to work on international and domestic HIV programs, research, and evaluation activities for almost the next six years. During this time, she held positions in the Division of Global HIV/AIDS and TB and the Division of HIV Prevention. Her areas of expertise included HIV testing and HIV service delivery to persons living with HIV, program evaluation, conducting multi-country randomized controlled trials, and providing technical assistance to states and countries.

It’s impossible to celebrate this new addition to DSTDP without acknowledging the hole that Raul’s retirement will leave.

He has provided significant leadership and guidance to DSTDP for nearly two decades and, to the field for much longer than that. On a personal front, I can attest to the steady hand Raul has offered our Division, especially in recent years, as we have faced back-to-back emergency responses, countless changes in our field, and leadership shifts within the Division. From a content perspective, he’s offered too many contributions to count, but I am incredibly grateful for his contributions helping DSTDP build important bridges with our colleagues in HIV prevention as we move into a true syndemic approach to STI prevention.

We look forward to celebrating his retirement over the next few of weeks and I encourage you to reach out to him with any well-wishes you have.

At this time, we are also excited to welcome DSTDP’s new Associate Director for Health Equity, Dr. Yamir Salabarría-Peña. Dr. Salabarría-Peña is taking over following Jo Valentine’s retirement earlier this year.

Photo of Pena

Dr. Salabarría-Peña is joining us from the Division of HIV Prevention, where her work as a senior health scientist focused on social determinants of health research, multisite evaluations, and implementation research. Building on her participation in several health equity-focused demonstration projects (PrIDE, Conéctate, Telemedicine, and Implementation Science Consortium) and identification of drivers of HIV disparities, her most recent contribution to the field is Project Confianza, which intends to identify pathways leading to medical mistrust and develop multilevel interventions to help address this determinant in Hispanic/Latino gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men. Additionally, Dr. Salabarría-Peña contributed to the 2021 NCHHSTP Equity Initiative Implementation Plan, and PEPFAR Evaluation Standards of Practice, and has emphasized community partnerships and timely use of data in her work, including publications. Dr. Salabarría-Peña joined CDC in 2002, but her important work in public health began a full decade before that. She spent 10 years working with Hispanic/Latino immigrants and LGBTQ+ communities in Los Angeles, CA focusing on community mobilization and women reproductive rights.

Before we move into the next chapter of our health equity work, I also want to acknowledge the important contributions of Dr. Salabarría-Peña’s predecessor, Jo Valentine. Until her retirement in September, Jo served the field of STI prevention faithfully for almost 20 years as the Associate Director for Health Equity. She was a trusted voice within our senior leadership team here in the Division. She worked tirelessly to ensure we saw, acknowledged, and addressed important equity gaps in our prevention approach. She was a fierce advocate for those experiencing health inequity. During her time in DSTDP, she built a Health Equity Team that works diligently to reduce STI disparities among racial/ethnic and sexual minorities in the United States and to promote health equity. We have missed Jo since her departure but look forward to working with Yamir to advance our health equity imperatives.

Last, but not least, I wanted to share with you some temporary adjustments within our clinical chains that we have made to accommodate my acting role. To ensure continuity in leadership during this time, Dr. Lindley Barbee will serve as the acting Chief Medical Officer, while Laura Quilter will serve as the team lead of DSTDP’s Clinical Team.

As we wrap up 2023, it’s my privilege to thank you on behalf of the entire Division for your continued collaboration with us through this year. We undoubtedly face continued challenges, but we’ve also accomplished so much this year.

Thank you and we wish you a warm holiday season with your family and friends.

Laura Hinkle Bachmann, MD, MPH, FIDSA, FACP
Acting Director, Division of STD Prevention
National Center for HIV, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention