Cohen Steps Down as Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases

After 30 years as Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases, Myron “Mike” Cohen, MD, the Yeargan-Bate Eminent Professor of Medicine, Microbiology and Immunology, and Epidemiology, will step down from his post. He will continue in his many other roles as professor, researcher and physician, directing the Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases (IGHID), and also serving as Associate Vice Chancellor for Global Health.

Cohen Steps Down as Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases click to enlarge Myron "Mike" Cohen, MD

“Under Mike’s leadership, the UNC infectious diseases community has been indubitably marked by world-class research and training programs, and his own research pioneered HIV prevention treatment,” said Ronald Falk, MD, chair of the Department of Medicine. “He is gifted at recruiting talented and passionate faculty who have revved the research engine for global health.”

When Cohen was appointed chief in 1989, there were only 10 faculty physicians working in the Division of Infectious Diseases. Today, there are more than 50, touching multiple countries on several continents, addressing the most important infectious diseases that affect global health. Under Cohen’s leadership, the division has become the primary provider for HIV care in North Carolina, forming unique collaborations with state leaders, local health departments, and the Department of Corrections. UNC trainees at all levels depend on the Division of Infectious Diseases for their learning experiences in Asia, Latin America and Africa, especially in Malawi, which serves as the flagship site for all UNC global health. The division currently has 14 federal and private training grants, and many faculty have joint appointments across the campus. 

“I have had the great privilege of leading the Division of Infectious Diseases; and through it all, I have been struck by the can-do attitude, the generosity and the good sense of our ID family members,” said Cohen. “Because of the talented faculty, my job has really been easy, and it has been great fun.”

For Cohen, stepping down will give him more time to focus on the UNC Institute for Global Health & Infectious Diseases. He is also the Co-PI of the NIH HIV Prevention Trials Network (HPTN), currently in the middle of several large clinical trials, and he is Co-PI of a multi-national trial studying a new antibody to prevent HIV infection.

“HIV surfaced the year I started at UNC and has dominated every aspect of my career,” Cohen said. “My research team focused on HIV prevention. We worked for two decades to demonstrate that treatment with antiretroviral agents prevents HIV transmission. I am proud that we were able to prove this to be true, and that the results we generated helped to change HIV-management worldwide.”    

Altogether, UNC infectious diseases and global health research represents a substantial part of the UNC portfolio, which ranked fifth in federal funding last year. UNC’s work in HIV, malaria, STIs, and many bacterial diseases has changed medical care and public health policy. UNC was central in the development of combination antiretroviral therapy for HIV and continues to expand and explore new areas including emerging pathogens and emerging microbial resistance.

“The Division of Infectious Diseases is in great shape,” Cohen said. “We have never had more talented faculty and fellows. We have never worked on more important topics. We have never had a better relationship across the campus and the state. We have never had a more exciting time to be a part of the ID community.”

Joseph Eron, MD, will assume the role of chief of infectious diseases.

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