|Barbara Van Der Pol, PhD
Dr. Van Der Pol is the Director of the STD Laboratory at the University of Alabama. She has been involved in laboratory-based epidemiologic and behavioral research in the field of sexually transmitted infections (STI) and HIV for more than 30 years. Her research program focuses on using improved diagnostic strategies and an understanding of healthcare utilization behaviors to increase access to STI testing in populations with high prevalence of disease. She has extensive experience with development and evaluation of molecular diagnostic assays and is internationally recognized as an expert in this field. She participated in writing the CDC STD Diagnostic Laboratory Guidelines and the WHO STD/HIV Laboratory Diagnostics Manual. Dr. Van Der Pol has also evaluated novel methods for STI detection and developed molecular diagnostic assays for the identification of organisms for which no FDA-approved assays exists. Her laboratory developed and evaluated a molecular assay for the detection of Trichomonas vaginalis DNA 12 years before such an assay would become commercially available. She also assessed the feasibility of using self-obtained vaginal swabs collected in non-clinical settings for detection of Chlamydia trachomatis and Neisseria gonorrhoeae. This is now the CDC recommended optimal sample type for diagnosis of these infections. More recently she demonstrated the feasibility of patient collected rectal samples, again in a non-clinical setting, for use with chlamydia and gonorrhea testing. In addition to her work in the US, Dr. Van Der Pol has spent 2 decades working in sub-Saharan Africa providing technology transfer, capacity building and quality improvement training. She is currently serving as a consultant to the CDC for laboratory strengthening efforts in the Caribbean region.