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Judith Feinberg M.D.
Dr. Judith Feinberg is using her passion for research to focus on the prevention and treatment of infections associated with injection drug use.
Feinberg, the E.B. Flink Vice Chair of Medicine for Research, came to WVU in 2015 to tackle the opioid epidemic in West Virginia. Feinberg has worked on HIV/AIDS research, care and education for decades. She is developing and implementing programs to prevent the spread of hepatitis and HIV stemming from the opioid crisis. As the Flink Vice Chair of Medicine, Feinberg’s responsibilities are to help the Department of Medicine obtain federal funding for sustainable clinical research and help faculty members develop as clinical researchers.
“My goal here is to develop a research program to deal with the problem of addiction and very specifically to deal with the intersection of infectious diseases and injection drug use, which includes HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C and overdose prevention,” Feinberg said.
Feinberg’s research has been focused on identifying people who have chronic viral infections, such as HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C, developing harm reduction programs, preventing death from overdose and improving the general well-being of people in West Virginia.
“Sadly, West Virginia is at the top of the list for all bad things,” Feinberg said. “We are really struggling here, and I really want to make a difference in that problem.”
One of Feinberg’s research projects established sites that offered curative hepatitis C therapy for people who are actively injecting. Out of 62 individuals enrolled in the program, 61 were cured, Feinberg explained.
Another study Feinberg is working on looks at how common it is for women who have chronic hepatitis C to pass that infection to their newborn babies. Her research involves following the babies to see if they become chronically infected and getting them appropriate pediatric care.
A third project is increasing the rate of testing for HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C in seven southern counties in West Virginia. These counties include Mingo, McDowell, Mercer, Wyoming, Raleigh, Logan and Boone, where the drug epidemic has the fiercest hold on the state.
“For this project we get individuals tested, get them into care, help communities develop harm reduction programs, and several syringe programs have opened up in some of these counties,” Feinberg said.
Feinberg has also created the West Virginia Hepatitis Academic Mentoring Partnership, a program that will be held around the state to train and support primary caregivers to administer care to patients.
“We could actually stop this epidemic, if we treated and cured enough people but we will never be able to do it unless family doctors and nurse practitioners can do it,” Feinberg said. “I see it as our obligation as specialists to ensure that they get that experience, training and guidance so that ultimately they can do it on their own.”