Meet the Last Gift Team

Leadership Team

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Davey Smith, M.D., M.A.S.

Dr. Davey Smith is the lead investigator for the Last Gift study. He is currently the Head of the Division of Infectious Diseases and Global Public Health at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). In addition, Dr. Smith serves as the co-director of UCSD’s Center for AIDS Research (CFAR).

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Sara Gianella Weibel, M.D.

Dr. Sara Gianella Weibel is an Associate Professor at UCSD, specializing in HIV and translational virology. She has held positions of leadership within the UCSD CFAR as director of the Translational Virology Core as well as the HIV Neurobehavioral Research Center (HNRC) as the Co-Director of the Neuro Virology and Biology Core.

For the Last Gift Study, Dr. Gianella oversees all procedures related to recruitment, outreach, participant enrollment, and follow up. She is involved in the development of the rapid research autopsy procedures and the creation of lab-based techniques to process blood and tissues in an effort to characterize HIV reservoirs.

Susan J. Little, M.D.

 

Dr. Susan Little is a Professor in the Department of Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases, at UCSD, and is Co-Director of the UCSD AntiViral Research Center. She has an extensive background in HIV clinical research including studies in the area of vaccines, treatment, prevention, aging, and cure.

Dr. Little has worked closely with the Last Gift team to develop the study protocol and coordinate the care and management of study volunteers. She is committed to the importance of the Last Gift project and the invaluable contribution that these dedicated study volunteers provide.

Susanna Concha-Garcia, B.A.

Susanna Concha-Garcia is the the Senior Community Outreach Supervisor for the UCSD HIV Neurobehavioral Research Center (HNRC). She is also the Community Outreach Supervisor for the Last Gift study. She plays a major role in leading recruitment and enrollment for the study, and serves as the main point of contact for all current and potential participants.

 

 

Robert Deiss, M.D.

Robert Deiss is an Associate Physician at the Owen Clinic at UC San Diego and serves as the Leadership Trainee for the SD CFAR International and Clinical Investigation Cores. He is a board-certified infectious disease specialist who specializes in treating people living with HIV. Prior to joining the Owen Clinic, Dr. Deiss was a research and staff physician at the Naval Medical Center San Diego, where he led studies on neurocognitive impairment and cardiovascular disease among people living with HIV.

More recently, he spent a year in Mozambique through Doctors Without Borders, primarily treating patients with advanced HIV and related diseases, including tuberculosis, cryptococcal meningitis and Kaposi’s sarcoma. His current research interests include the intersection of HIV and substance abuse and sexual risk behavior.

Patricia (Katie) Riggs, DO

Dr. Riggs is a board certified internal medicine physician and current UCSD infectious disease fellow. During fellowship, Dr. Riggs is pursuing a clinical focus on patients with HIV and research focused on the neuropsychiatric effects of viral infections and associated immune dysregulation. For the Last Gift study she conducts participant visits, data collection and analysis. She is thankful to have the opportunity to participate in this very important study and honored to work with our amazing participants.

Elizabeth Hastie, M.D.

Elizabeth (Lizzy) Hastie is a Chief Medical Resident for the UCSD Internal Medicine program and will be starting her Infectious Diseases fellowship at UCSD in July 2022. She is excited to be joining the Last Gift team and is looking forward to developing her role throughout fellowship.

Jingjing Hu, M.D.

Jingjing Hu is assistant clinical professor in the Department of Pathology. She is sub specialized in head/neck pathology, gastrointestinal pathology and cytopathology. She has strong research interest in head/neck cancers and HIV area. She has extensive background in autopsy and has worked closely with the Last Gift team to optimize the autopsy procedures.

Karine Dubé, DrPH, MPhil

Karine Dubé is an Assistant Professor in the Gillings School of Global Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She oversees the ethics and social sciences aspects of the Last Gift study. Dr. Dube develops essential surveys and questionnaires for participants, and works actively to answer important ethical questions not only for the Last Gift study, but also for the HIV community as a whole.

Antoine Chaillon, M.D., Ph.D.

Dr. Antoine Chaillon is Assistant Professor of Medicine at UCSD’s Department of Medicine with specialized training in bioinformatics. He is an infectious diseases physician by training with a strong background in bioinformatics, molecular virology, and next generation sequencing data analyses. He is co-director of the San Diego CFAR Translational Virology Core (Director Dr. Gianella) and leader of the Computational Biology Unit.

He has extensive experience in sequence analysis, phylogenetics and viral evolution, and he was successful in applying these techniques to characterize HIV persistence, dynamics, and dispersal within and across individuals with a particular focus on persistence in the central nervous system (CNS). Using these methods, he has published extensively on this topic.

Dr. Chaillon also works closely with Drs. D. M. Smith at UCSD to develop and utilize the latest techniques to maximize the accuracy of deep sequencing data analyses. He is also co-investigator of the Last Gift cohort.

Steven Hendrickx R.N., B.S.N.

Steven Hendrickx is the Clinical Nurse Supervisor at the UCSD AntiViral Research Center. His past clinical work experience includes ICU, OR, and ER. Once participants are enrolled in the Last Gift study, Steve is responsible for completing the majority of the study visits and data collection.

Kushagra Mathur, B.S.

Kushagra Mathur is pursuing a medical degree at the UC San Diego School of Medicine. He is the lead student researcher for the Last Gift Study. He spends his time making participant visits, working in outreach, and creating recruitment material. Kushagra created the Last Gift introductory video featuring the very first Last Gift patient, Anthony Bennett.

Cheryl Dullano, B.S., M.B.A.

Cheryl Dullano is a Clinical Research Coordinator at UCSD’s AntiViral Research Center. She brings years of experience in recruiting research study participants, as well as collecting data for HIV-related clinical trials. Cheryl is a key member of the Last Gift team and is committed to the mission of the study and the legacy its participants will undoubtedly leave on the world.

Lab Technicians & Tissue Processing Team

From left to right: Magali Porrachia, Brendon Woodworth, Caroline (Karole) Ignacio

The laboratory team ensures the rapid autopsy procedure runs smoothly. Trained heavily in lab techniques, they are responsible for maintaining the integrity of biological samples. They have worked together for years – allowing for a cohesive team dynamic.

Community Representatives 

Jeff Taylor

A 35+ year HIV & AIDS survivor, Jeff has served as a community advisory to many research groups including with the UCSD AntiViral Research Center Community Advisory Board and the Community Scientific Subcommittee of the AIDS Clinical Trials Group. He also serves on the AIDS Treatment Activists Coalition’s Drug Development Committee, which meets regularly with pharmaceutical companies and the FDA on HIV drug development issues.

Locally, Jeff produces a monthly education series on treatment issues for HIV patients & providers, and is director of the HIV + Aging Research Project-Palm Springs, which studies aging with HIV.

Andy Kaytes

Andy has been involved in HIV treatment and research advocacy since the mid-1990s. He co-chairs the UCSD AntiViral Research Center CAB, and actively serves on numerous advisory boards, and is a member of the Community Scientific Subcommittee of the AIDS Clinical Trials Group. He is on the Board of Directors and the Drug Development Committee of the AIDS Treatment Activists Coalition meeting regularly with pharmaceutical companies and the FDA on HIV drug development issues. Much of Andy’s focus is on HIV Cure/Remission, Neurological effects of HIV, long-acting antiviral medications, and novel drug delivery devices. He also facilitates a long-running weekly support group providing treatment education and social support. Fun fact: Andy is the designer of the Last Gift logo, which symbolizes how each study participant is a piece of a larger puzzle to end the HIV epidemic.