May 28, 2015

Top leaders in infectious disease research to lecture at UAB June 4

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Four of the most world renowned scholars and influential leaders in the field of infectious disease research will come to UAB to honor the legacy of the late Distinguished Professor Charles Alford, M.D.

At noon June 4, Anne Gershon, M.D., whose pioneering studies with varicella vaccine were crucial to its licensure, will deliver the third annual Charles Alford Memorial Lecture, “Whatever Happened to Congenital Varicella?” in the Children’s Harbor Bradley Lecture Center. Gershon is a professor of pediatrics and director of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Columbia University Medical Center.

Her research, which included examining the epidemiology, diagnosis, immunology, latency, prevention and treatment of VZV, played a crucial role in the final steps of the vaccine’s licensure and broad public use.  Gershon continues to study the safety and efficacy of varicella vaccine, including the growth and pathogenesis of VZV in cell culture and latency of VZV in humans and animal models.

The Alford Memorial Lecture honors Charles Alford, M.D., longtime director in the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases. Alford, who led the division for 28 years, worked with Nobel winner Tom Weller on the vertical transmission of rubella from pregnant women to their children and became a world expert in congenital cytomegalovirus.

Richard J. Whitley, M.D., UAB Distinguished professor of Pediatrics in the School of Medicine, said faculty chose to honor Alford, who passed away in 2002, with an endowed lectureship that recognizes outstanding contributions in virology.

Other leading virologists will host group discussions in the afternoon on Thursday, June 4.

Carthy Wilfert, M.D., scientific director of the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, will present “Work with HIV in Africa” at 2 p.m. in the Benton Board Room on the sixth floor of the Lowder Building.  Wilfert designed the first study that showed decreased transmission of HIV from pregnant women to their children.  Wilfert works in Africa where she has applied successful models to reduce the transmission of HIV from mother to child, work that Whitley says has had one of the greatest impacts on child health in Africa today. Wilfert is a retired division chief of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Duke University and is a member of the prestigious Institute of Medicine.

Michael Gershon, M.D., will present “Zoster: When You Feel It In Your Gut, It May Actually Be There” at 3 p.m. in the Benton Board Room. Gershon, a professor of Pathology and Cell Biology at Columbia University, has demonstrated  for the first time that varicella virus can be latent in ganglia in the abdomen—a discovery that links abdominal pain in children with a subtle manifestation of the chicken pox virus. 

Earlier in the day, Samuel Katz, M.D., will present the Richard H. Clemons Memorial Lecture, which honors the contributions of Dick Clemons to antiviral research, to medical residents in the Bradley Lecture Center morning report. Katz, who knew Clemons, worked with Nobel laureate John Enders to develop the measles virus vaccine now used throughout the world. He is chair emeritus of Pediatrics at Duke University, a member of the Institute of Medicine, and is one of the country’s most outspoken advocates for childhood vaccinations, representing the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Infectious Diseases Society of America and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.