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Amy Justice, MD, PhD

C.N.H. Long Professor of Medicine (General Medicine) and Professor of Public Health (Health Policy)

With treatments constantly improving and patients living longer, HIV is now considered a chronic disease, and affects people in all walks of life, including many elderly. However, this wasn’t always the case. Amy Justice, MD, PhD, CNH Long Professor of Medicine and of Public Health began conceptualizing HIV as a chronic disease in 1997, when combination antiretroviral therapy began to take off. This was fully ten years before many in the field adopted the same way of thinking.

As it was clear those with HIV would be living longer, Justice realized the importance of studying the impact of the disease on patients as they aged. That same year, Justice began the now renowned Veterans Aging Cohort Study (VACS). In the past 20+ years, VACS has followed more than 60,000 HIV-positive veterans who are matched to 120,000 HIV-negative veterans to determine how HIV, which, like many chronic diseases that take their toll on all systems of the body, affects medical and psychiatric health simultaneously. There are several smaller studies nested within the larger sample that include survey data, a tissue repository, and more in-depth evaluation of pulmonary and cardiac disease. Through the study, Justice has chronicled the shifting outcomes of chronic HIV infection, and seeks to use the disease as a model for better understanding chronic disease of all varieties.

VACS received funded as a consortium by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. The consortium will have a particular focus on how alcohol and substance abuse affects the health of people living with HIV for the long term.

Dr. Justice draws upon her extensive experience analyzing large and complex observational dataset in her role as lead advisor to the Clinical Research Leadership Committee. This group is charged with shaping policy and resolving research issues identified in the context of health care delivery. Justice works with the committee to ensure that informatics services are research- and user-friendly.

As a mentor, Dr. Justice finds that the mentor/mentee relationship is a mutually beneficial one. While she imparts guidance to them, her mentees she says, “see holes in arguments that may no longer be obvious when you’ve been working with something for a long time. It certainly keeps you on your toes.”