During the 8 Bridges Hudson River Swim in New York, retired UNC School of Medicine Professor Charlie van der Horst, MD, went missing Friday afternoon June 14 and is confirmed to have died during the marathon event. He was 67.
“We are all deeply saddened by Charlie’s death,” said Myron Cohen, MD, director of the UNC Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases. “He was a remarkable leader in research and treatment of people with HIV/AIDS in North Carolina and around the world, and a friend and mentor to so many at UNC and the surrounding community. Our thoughts and sincerest condolences are with Charlie’s family and friends worldwide.”
Dr. van der Horst was a dedicated teacher, caregiver, researcher, mentor, and advocate for more than 30 years at the UNC School of Medicine. He launched and led HIV research and care activities at UNC at a time that required great courage and integrity. Most recently, he treated patients at the Open Door Clinic of Urban Ministries of Wake County in Raleigh.
“Charlie was an incredible force for good,” said David Wohl, MD, professor of medicine in the division of infectious diseases at UNC Chapel Hill. “Many of us, myself included, would not be where we are today without Charlie’s guidance and support. He lived large and I, for one, will remember him and smile.”
Dr. van der Horst began treating HIV patients in the 1980s, before the virus had a name. He was known for his compassionate care and passionate advocacy for his patients.
Among his many roles and contributions, Dr. van der Horst directed the HIV/AIDS Clinical Trials Unit at UNC and made it a world-class research site. He was instrumental in expanding HIV research well beyond North Carolina, leading the Fogarty Fellowship program, and was an official mentor to many – directing the ID fellowship.
“Charlie also led by his example of dedication to science, service, and justice – inspiring many to action on each of these fronts,” Wohl said. “No one reached out sooner, was more willing to listen, or to help when there was a need.”
Funeral services were held at Beth El Synagogue in Durham, NC. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests friends and colleagues consider making a donation in Charlie’s honor to the progressive cause of your choice.