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By Ginger Hall Carnes
A new assistant professor of infectious disease in the Department of Medicine grew up traveling the world as the daughter of a United Nations diplomat.
As Waridibo “Wari” Allison, M.D., Ph.D., witnessed first-hand what people endured, especially in resource-limited countries, she identified her career passion—public health.
Born in Nigeria, Dr. Allison earned her bachelor’s degree in Scotland, received her M.D. in London, and earned her Ph.D. in Australia.
Dr. Allison moved to the United States in 2010 to study in New York City, where she remains affiliated with New York University’s Department of Population Health as an adjunct assistant professor.
Her research reflects her world view. Because her father talked about the refugees he helped and took her to refugee camps, she became very aware of the distinction between those who have and those who do not. “I personally believe health care is a basic human right. It’s no surprise that I’ve been drawn to an area of research that focuses on screening, diagnosis and access to care for disadvantaged population groups, whether that disadvantage is geographic, racial, cultural or economical,” Dr. Allison said.
Specifically she is studying HIV, Hepatitis C and Human Papillomavirus (HPV). People need to be screened and diagnosed so they can be linked to treatment and the protective vaccines that are available for viral hepatitis and HPV, but those without access to health care may not get that intervention, she said.
In a few short months in San Antonio, Dr. Allison has been named medical director of the San Antonio AIDS Foundation Care Clinic. “I love having one foot in the community and one foot at the university,” she added.
HIV, which was so devastating decades ago, now is considered a chronic disease like diabetes or hypertension, observed Dr. Allison. “I tell my newly diagnosed patients: ‘If you take your medication, your life expectancy is almost the same as someone who hasn’t got HIV.’ But we still have work to do because there are population groups who still have high rates of new HIV infections.”
Dr. Allison spent nearly a year researching where to continue her career. She chose UT Health San Antonio’s Department of Medicine because of “the culturally and economically diverse population we serve, the supportive collegial environment, and access to great resources.”
Although seasoned researchers compete for grant funding, UT Health is funding Dr. Allison. “Institutional financial support is critically important for early career researchers like myself,” Dr. Allison emphasized. “The Department of Medicine is to be commended for its commitment of financial support of early career researchers until we get established funding.”