Written by Stefan Tuomanen

Orihuela articleThe department of Microbiology is proud to announce Dr. Carlos J. Orihuela’s promotion to full professor as of October 1st.

Dr. Orihuela enthusiastically joined UAB in 2015 as a tenured associate professor whose research is focused on the many host-pathogen interactions associated with invasive Streptococcus pneumoniae infections. Drawn to UAB as a result of a career-long respect for the University’s innumerable contributions to this area of study, Dr. Orihuela has thus far been highly successful in both his scientific and educational endeavors.

Dr. Orihuela has continued UAB’s long and prestigious history of research on S. pneumoniae. In particular, Dr. Orihuela and his research team have made significant progress in understanding the negative consequences of invasive pneumococcal disease on a patient’s heart. Orihuela says, “a great deal of bad things happen to a patient’s heart during and after pneumonia” and this is forcing him into a “different way of thinking about successful treatment.” Over the past two years, Dr. Orihuela has focused on determining whether stopping cardiomyocytes from undergoing necroptosis, a form of programmed inflammatory cell death, can protect against the cardiac damages caused by S. pneumoniae. His findings suggest that it can, and drugs that do so are perhaps an adjunct therapy to preserve long-term cardiac contractility in the face of serious bacterial infections. Dr. Orihuela’s work in this area was recently awarded Transformation Grant Status from the American Heart Association (AHA), one of only three such awards given nationally each year. Moving forward, his lab will explore how advanced age impacts the ability of cardiac macrophages to protect the heart during severe infection and the role of necroptosis in actually protecting these cells during colonization by S. pneumoniae.

Dr. Orihuela has a deep-rooted sense of responsibility and commitment to see others around him do well. “I view my job as a service position” he said when asked about his role in the department. Since his arrival at UAB, Dr. Orihuela has been involved in revamping Microbiology’s bacteriology-associated curriculum, and has served on multiple committees within the department including the Shared Equipment Committee and Faculty Mentoring Committee. At the institutional level, Dr. Orihuela serves on the Institutional Biosafety Committee. Furthermore, Dr. Orihuela is a permanent member of the NIH study section on Human Interactions with Bacterial Pathogens. For these accomplishments and contributions, Dr. Orihuela was recently appointed as Vice-Chair for Faculty Development in Microbiology. He hopes to continue to provide meaningful and positive contributions to the department in the future.

Dr. Orihuela is grateful to his previous mentors and colleagues throughout his academic career for teaching him the values of being a successful scientist and educator. He hopes to take the kindness and support he has been given and provide the same to his students and peers. Please join us in congratulating Dr. Orihuela on his appointment to professorship and in wishing him lasting success in the Department.