Research Associate Professor, Hubert Department of Global Health
Secondary Faculty Appointment, Emory School of Medicine’s Division of Infectious Diseases
Faculty Physician, Grady Memorial Hospital
“Public health was framed in my mind as a form of community service, where you could combine academics and research."
Sophia Hussen was drawn to HIV research because of its biomedical and social complexities. It aligned well with her overlapping interests in public health and medicine, as well as social justice and community involvement.
“I like bridging different fields and bringing them together,” says Hussen.
A summer internship at The Carter Center while she was attending undergraduate studies at Harvard piqued her interest in public health. After earning her Master of Public Health from the University of Michigan in 2002, Hussen went on to pursue her medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 2006. Following her residency in Philly, she came to Emory in 2010 to complete her fellowship and became a faculty member a few years later.
“I was always thinking about how to tie public health and medicine together,” she says. “Public health was framed in my mind as a form of community service, where you could combine academics and research. I went to med school for that one-on-one practice with people, and eventually intended to circle back to working with communities.”
Hussen’s main research focus is HIV among adolescents and young adults in the U.S. Because they are disproportionally impacted by HIV, she primarily works with gay and bisexual Black men. Her goal is to improve HIV care outcomes for this population, as well as their overall wellbeing including mental health.
“I want to not only document problems but, more importantly, create creative and effective solutions,” she says.
To design these solutions, Hussen taps into the HIV community in Atlanta. She meets twice per month with a youth advisory board comprised of young, gay Black men.
“Because of their feedback, I feel the research we produce is created by the community for the community, and we’re here to enable it,” she says.
At Rollins, Hussen enjoys teaching two courses. One is an interactive, seminar-style course, AIDS: Global Public Health Implications. She explains that each student picks a country to follow over the semester and learns about all aspects, spanning from the biomedical to policy. The other is International Infectious Diseases, where she and another faculty member discuss a “disease of the week,” such as Ebola, rabies and COVID-19.
“I’m fortunate that I get to teach what I’m really excited about," she says. "I love being able to share the knowledge I’ve gained [about HIV and infectious diseases] with students, hearing their diverse perspectives, working with them on thesis projects, and guiding them through the process of research projects.”
Hussen continues to wear her doctor hat, too. She is a faculty physician at Grady Memorial Hospital, where she cares for people living with HIV, and teaches medical residents and students at Emory’s School of Medicine.