December 15, 2015
3 min read

A Conversation with Susanna Naggie, MD, MHS

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In this issue, HCV Next asks five questions of Susanna Naggie, MD, MHS, associate professor of medicine at Duke University School of Medicine.

Naggie is the first physician in her family, so she describes her path to infectious disease as “an adventure” in which she followed her instincts and her patients’ leads to her final destination. Along her path, Naggie encountered many patients with HIV and subsequently found her niche in infectious disease.

To this day, she values working with patients with HIV and now viral hepatitis through their introduction to and education in the disease space. Naggie wants them to live without either disease defining their parameters. To this end, she considers herself a clinician first and researcher second, with her research driven by her patients — their questions and their need for improved care. Bedside medicine, she said, is something to be treasured.

Susanna Naggie

Currently, Naggie also holds an appointment within the section of GI/Hepatology Research at the Duke Clinical Research Institute where she is principal investigator on several clinical trials of direct-acting antivirals for the treatment of HCV in HIV-infected patients and she staffs two HIV/HCV coinfection multidisciplinary clinics at Duke and the Durham VA Medical Center. She also has active roles with the International Antiviral Society-USA’s Viral Hepatitis Committee and the HCV Guidelines committee through AASLD.

What advice would you offer medical student today?

Think about what you want out of your career. I think it is often hard for students to understand how various career paths actually translate in real life. I think most people know what they want out of their career and what they want their work-life balance to be. They need to choose a path that allows them to achieve that. I always recommend that students talk to lots of faculty with a different balance of clinical, education, research and administrative responsibilities so that they understand the various approaches to a career in academics. I encourage students and trainees to think outside the box, create their own path; this is something that allows you to differentiate yourself and create your own niche. I also encourage cross disciplinary mentoring and training.

Have you ever witnessed or been part of medical history in the making? If so, please explain.

I think the paradigm shifting developments in HCV are in fact part of medical history in the making. I doubt I will ever see again in my career such dramatic changes in clinical practice; in fact, most of us never to get experience such dramatic changes in clinical practice and impact on a disease. I truly feel lucky that I entered this field when I did.

What’s up next for you?

My research focuses on developing metabolomic/proteomic and immunologic biomarkers of severe non-AIDS diseases occurring in patients with HIV/HCV with a particular focus on investigating changes in these biomarkers with treatment-induced clearance of HCV as a means to understand the impact of viral co-infections in HIV and non-AIDS-related disease pathogenesis. I have also been lucky enough to have the opportunity to work with several groups, both global and national, to expand HCV treatment access and to educate providers on the treatment of HCV in low- and middle-income countries.

What are your hobbies besides practicing medicine?

My list of hobbies changed dramatically almost 4 years ago when my twin daughters were born; now everything else is lower on the priority list. My husband and I both love biking, hiking, snowboarding and we can’t wait until we can get our girls out on the trails and the slopes. My girls make me a better person.

Who has had the greatest influence on your career?

I can’t say I have one single great influence; I am a prime example of wonderful and successful mentorship. My first great mentor was William E. Bentley, MD, a fantastic scientist in the engineering school at University of Maryland where I completed my undergraduate education and who really hooked me on a research career. From there, the list of fantastic mentors is long but worth mentioning: John G. McHutchison, MD; Charles B. Hicks, MD; Andrew J. Muir, MD, MPH; G. Ralph Corey, MD; and Keyur Patel, MD. Without mentors there is not great accomplishment.