Pamina M. Gorbach, MHS, DrPH, is a Professor in the Department of Epidemiology in the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health and Division of Infectious Diseases in the David Geffen School of Medicine. Her research focuses on bio-behavioral dynamics of sexual health, with a focus on HIV transmission, acquisition and progression, especially around substance abuse.  She is a member of the CHIPTS Combination Prevention Core, the Director of the Biobehavioral Assessment Research Center, and Co-Director of Biobehavioral Epidemiology and Substance Use Program Section of the Center for AIDS Research.  While her training began in reproductive health, she was drawn to biobehavioral epidemiology during her infectious disease fellowship at the University of Washington (UW) where she discovered the value of merging behavioral, clinical, and laboratory science for global HIV prevention and control.

Pamina has deep roots in global infectious disease from when she lived in India as a child while her father studied diarrheal disease and other infectious diseases. In the mid 1990’s, while a fellow at UW, Pamina went to Cambodia as part of a team to add behavioral research to the first bio-behavioral surveillance survey of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.  There, she witnessed firsthand the devastating effects of the HIV epidemic on a population and how young female sex workers were particularly impacted. To this day, she continues to do work in Cambodia and is now the PI of the UCLA/Cambodia HIV/AIDS Training Program in Data Management and Analysis, which brings Cambodian scholars to UCLA for advance degree training in epidemiology.

Moving to Southern California in 1999, Pamina turned her focus to the growing domestic HIV epidemic, especially substance-using men who have sex with men (MSM).  She started her first cohort of MSM with acute HIV infection in 2000.  Now, with Dr. Steve Shoptaw, she heads her third cohort called the mSTUDY – a NIDA funded research platform that follows 514 HIV positive and HIV negative young and highly diverse men, many of whom are active substance users.  Behavioral, clinical, and laboratory data are collected from these men every six months at the Los Angeles LGBT Center and the UCLA Vine St Clinic. Collaborations are welcomed with scientists on and off campus engaged in new high impact HIV science that can bring fresh approaches to the mSTUDY and outside expertise to stimulate new research in line with the latest NIH HIV priorities.

Using a model of leadership from within, Pamina teamed up with Suzanne Siminski from Frontier Science in 2017 to lead a U24 consortium of the nine National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) HIV/AIDS cohorts including the mSTUDY entitled Collaborating Consortium of Cohorts Producing NIDA Opportunities (C3PNO).  The purpose of C3PNO is to manage and stimulate use of the data generated from these U01 cohorts to address high priority research on HIV/AIDS in the context of substance abuse. C3PNO fosters cutting-edge science powered by the cohorts combined sample size of over 12,000 active participants and data for over 20,000 historical participants.

Pamina is deeply committed to training the next generation of researchers in the field of HIV-related biobehavioral research.  She is presently the Co-PI of the UCLA Postdoctoral Fellowship Training Program in Global HIV Prevention Research with Dr. Judith Currier for behavioral scientists and infectious disease specialists. Pamina serves as an advisor to numerous masters and doctoral students and enjoys mentoring emerging scholars. Her work with the HIV research networks has brought her global health experience in Cambodia, Vietnam, Peru, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Brazil, Mali, Malawi, South Africa, and Ghana.

In her spare time, Pamina enjoys fun and adventurous activities with her husband, 10 year old twins, and two dogs. She is happiest when hopping over small fences with her daughter on their ponies. They say, “Barn hair don’t care!”

Each month, we’re featuring a member of our CHIPTS family and their work! To see past spotlights, check them out on the spotlights page and make sure to check back to see who we feature next!