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Michael Saag      

Physician, Healthcare Activist and Prominent HIV/AIDS Researcher

Dr. Saag received a B.S. in chemistry with honors in 1977 Tulane University and earned his medical degree from the University of Louisville. During medical school, he served for three years on the Medical School Admissions Committee and received the Presley Martin Memorial Award for Excellence in Clinical Medicine. He completed his residency and infectious disease and molecular virology fellowship training at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. During his fellowship training, Dr. Saag made seminal discoveries in the genetic evolution of HIV in vivo. He evaluated isolates of virus obtained from individual patients at different periods in time and cloned and molecularly characterized these isolates to determine the degree of diversity of co-existing viral variants and to describe their evolution over time (Nature, 1988).

While working with Dr. Dismukes, Dr. Saag designed and led a multi-center national AIDS clinical trial on the management of cryptococcal meningitis. This study included 194 patients and demonstrated the role of oral azole therapy in the treatment of this disorder in HIV-infected patients (NEJM, 1992). During the last 6 months of his fellowship, Dr. Saag conceived the concept of a comprehensive HIV outpatient (1917) clinic dedicated to the provision of comprehensive patient care in conjunction with the conduct of high quality clinic trials, basic science, and clinical outcomes research. Within the clinic structure, he established a clinical trials unit, a data management center, and a Clinical Specimen Repository designed to support the activities of the newly established Center for AIDS Research at UAB. In essence, the clinic became a “hub” for the clinical, basic science, and behavioral science investigators within the Center by creating a dynamic interface between the patients and the investigators.

Since the establishment of the clinic, Dr. Saag has participated in many studies of antiretroviral therapy as well as novel treatments for opportunistic infections. He has published over 260 articles in peer reviewed journals, including the first description of the use of viral load in clinical practice (Science, 1993), the first description of the rapid dynamics of viral replication (Nature, 1995), the first guidelines for use of viral load in practice (Nature Medicine, 1996), the first proof of concept of fusion inhibition as a therapeutic option (Nature Medicine, 1998), and directed the ‘first-in- patient’ studies of 7 of the 25 antiretroviral drugs currently on the market (including indinavir, efavirenz, abacavir, and enfuvirtide).

Dr. Saag has contributed over 50 chapters to medical textbooks, has served on the Editorial Board of AIDS Research and Human Retroviruses, Co-Edited a textbook entitled AIDS Therapy (Churchill Livingston, now in its 3rd edition, and currently serves as an Editor of the Sanford Guide for Antimicrobial Agents and the Sanford HIV Guide. He recently served on the Board of Directors of the American Board of Internal Medicine (and as Chair of the Infectious Disease Subspecialty Board), has twice served as a member of the HIV Disease Committee of the Medical Knowledge Self-Assessment Program for the American College of Physicians, and has served recently on the NIH Office of AIDS Research Advisory Council. Dr. Saag currently serves on the International AIDS Society-USA Board of Directors, is President-elect of the HIV Medical Association, as a member of the HHS Guidelines Panel on Antiretroviral Therapy, and on numerous state, local, and national committees. He was elected into the American Society of Clinical Investigation in 1997.

Among his other awards, Dr. Saag has received the Myrtle Wreath Award from Hadassah, was listed as one of the top ten cited HIV researchers by Science (1996), and has been listed as one of the Best Doctors in America since 1994. He received the Outstanding Medical Research Achievement Award from the AIDS Task Force of Alabama, an Excellence in Teaching Award from the Medical Association of the State of Alabama, was named a “Health Care Hero” by the Birmingham Business Journal (2003), received a Service Award from the AIDS Survival Project in Atlanta (2003), was a 2004 honoree of the Birmingham Chapter of the National Conference on Community and Justice (NCCJ), a recipient of the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce Spirit of Birmingham Award (2005), was a recipient of the Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Award (The Arnold P. Gold Foundation), and was a recipient of the UAB Alumni Society Hettie Butler Terry Community Service Award (2007).

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