Onyema Ogbuagu, MBBCh, is an infectious diseases specialist who cares for patients who are affected by or at risk for HIV/AIDS, and directs Yale AIDS Program HIV clinical trials research. He also provides care for COVID-19 patients and leads Yale’s clinical studies around COVID-19.
Dr. Ogbuagu was drawn to infectious diseases by the intellectual challenges, but he quickly started to appreciate the rewards he experienced in patient care. “I trained in Nigeria, where you see lot of disease and suffering and late presentations, and you are working in a resource-limited space where you feel that if things were better, people would survive,” he says. He found similar issues in the United States, where HIV often affects people who struggle socioeconomically, and are stigmatized and neglected in society. “You get that deep desire to make a difference, save lives, make suffering better, and heal people, and you can offer services to a vulnerable population,” he says.
One of a doctor’s most important roles is to reassure patients, Dr. Ogbuagu says, and information often helps. “For HIV, we are able to tell people now that treatments have evolved to the point where most people with the virus have a normal life expectancy—all you need to do is take your medicine to keep the virus at bay. For COVID, I remind patients that the majority of people have good outcomes, even among the elderly, so that is in their favor.” He adds that patients at Yale who enroll in clinical trials have the advantage of access to potentially effective therapies before they are FDA-approved.
In addition to his work at Yale, Dr. Ogbuagu contributes to creating sustainable patient care, supporting training, and furthering research activities and patient services in Liberia and Rwanda. “I’ve trained a whole generation of physicians in Rwanda, and the first infectious disease fellow ever in Liberia. I think we are making some steps in the right direction,” he says.