MacArthur Fellows Program

Wafaa El-Sadr

Infectious Disease Physician | Class of 2008

Introducing multi-pronged treatment strategies for some of the most pressing pandemics of our time — HIV/AIDS and TB — diseases that often afflict people with the least access to quality health care.

Infectious Disease Physician
International Center for AIDS Care and Treatment Programs, Columbia University / Mailman School of Public Health
New York, New York
58 at time of award
Published January 27, 2008

About Wafaa's Work

Wafaa El-Sadr is an infectious disease specialist who has developed a multi-pronged approach to treating some of the most pressing pandemics of our time — HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis (TB) — diseases that disproportionately afflict people with the least access to quality health care. El-Sadr regularly applies her clinical and public health expertise to quantitative studies of pharmacologic treatment protocols to identify, for example, alternative medications for patients who are unable to tolerate a preferred therapy. She also has led investigations of preventive measures, such as early trials of anti-microbial gels that may inhibit HIV transmission, as well as behavioral factors related to treatment, such as when and how impoverished patients seek help. Rather than focusing on proximal pathological processes, El-Sadr develops treatment strategies by considering such factors as access to health care, education, social status, and economic stressors. With patient compliance in long-term TB treatment being especially problematic, she has demonstrated multiple benefits of recruiting homeless TB patients to serve as monitors of directly observed antibiotic treatment of other patients. El-Sadr is also recognized internationally for her leadership in preventing maternal-child HIV transmission. Though perinatal retroviral inhibitors reduce infant risk of contracting AIDS, she has shown that aggressive drug therapy throughout pregnancy and beyond is vital to preserving the integrity of the family, thereby maximizing the long-term health prospects of the child. Through her work developing effective treatment programs in impoverished and immigrant communities in Harlem, as well as in many countries in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, El-Sadr sets ever-improved standards for health care delivery for patients facing devastating disease under severe economic hardship.


Wafaa El-Sadr received an M.D. (1974) from Cairo University, an M.P.H. (1991) from Columbia University, and an M.P.A. (1996) from Harvard University. She is the director of the International Center for AIDS Care and Treatment Programs (ICAP) and the Center for Infectious Disease Epidemiologic Research at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, as well as chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Harlem Hospital Center.

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