At the end of 2015, we bid farewell to Dr. Ron Valdiserri, who retired from an exemplary career in Federal service. Over many years, Ron played key roles in the Federal responses to HIV and viral hepatitis, most recently as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health, Infectious Diseases, and the Director of the HHS Office of HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Policy (OHAIDP).
Career Spanned Service in 3 Federal Agencies
Ron’s Federal service spanned more than 27 years and included leadership positions at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and HHS. As Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health, Infectious Diseases for the past five and a half years, Ron provided scientific and policy advice to the Assistant Secretary for Health and they worked together to ensure coordinated approaches across HHS to address infectious diseases of national public health significance, particularly HIV and viral hepatitis, as well as blood and tissue safety. Prior to joining HHS, he served as the VA’s Chief Consultant for Public Health, providing oversight to national programs serving more than 23,000 veterans living with HIV and nearly 150,000 veterans living with chronic hepatitis C virus infection. His office was instrumental in implementing revised Federal regulations to routinize HIV screening in VA medical facilities. Before his tenure at VA, Dr. Valdiserri served at CDC for 18 years, including 10 years as the Deputy Director of CDC’s National Center for HIV, STD, and TB Prevention where he played a key role in the development of policies and programs to prevent and control HIV, sexually transmitted diseases, and tuberculosis.
Fostering Collaboration to Achieve Goals of National HIV/AIDS Strategy
Over the years, we both had the opportunity to work closely with Ron, particularly on implementation of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy. He brought both passion and precision to his work, providing his federal colleagues with a structure to enhance collaboration across programs. Partly due to his advocacy, different parts of the government worked together in new ways to implement the Strategy, including engaging in new forms of information sharing, forming joint planning committees, and even issuing a first-ever joint funding announcement. Thanks to Ron, it is now easier for Federal partners in our areas to work together and enhance each other’s activities.
Throughout our many discussions about complex issues of need, time, money, policies, and programs, Ron often returned our focus to how the work we do impacts those living with or most at risk for HIV and how we can best address the challenges they face in their daily lives and improve outcomes.
Champion for Improving Our Viral Hepatitis Response
Ron also helped develop, implement, monitor, and renew the Action Plan for the Prevention, Care, and Treatment of Viral Hepatitis—a critically important guide for our efforts to combat a widespread, and often underappreciated infection that affects millions of Americans. He recognized the public health importance of viral hepatitis and the opportunities and complexities that new treatments for hepatitis C presented to the nation. As he had done with HIV, he urged us to examine what our respective agencies and offices were doing and what we could be doing better, including identifying ways that we could work collaboratively to leverage the limited resources available for our response to viral hepatitis. Certainly the acceleration of our response to viral hepatitis is among his important legacies.
Continuing to Share His Expertise
We have been fortunate to call Ron our colleague for so many years. As he begins a new chapter in his professional life, he will return to medical academia, where his career first began. Ron will be sharing his experience and passion with the next generation of public health leaders as a Senior Research Associate and Distinguished Scholar at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, where he will undoubtedly bring his usual dedication, focus, and high level of accomplishment.
We salute Ron’s leadership and many contributions to strengthening our nation’s responses to HIV and viral hepatitis, and we wish him all the best as he continues this work in his new position.
Laura Cheever, MD, ScM, is Associate Administrator, HIV/AIDS Bureau, Health Resources and Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Jonathan Mermin, M.D., M.P.H., Director, National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This article first appeared on AIDS.gov February 11, 2016