June 14, 2022
A doctor specializing in sexual health and HIV, David Malebranche treats one patient at a time at the clinic. As an activist and writer embedded at the intersection of Black, LBGTQ+ and HIV communities, he actively uses social media to reach thousands of people. And now, having joined Gilead as Senior Director of Global HIV Medical Affairs in April, his goal is to make an impact on a much wider global scale for people living with HIV.
“My plan is to engage healthcare providers, health systems and communities on various platforms so that we can improve the lives of people affected by HIV everywhere,” he says. Specifically, David will apply his knowledge of HIV in the area of treating people around the world.
David brings with him more than 20 years as an internal medicine clinician specializing in HIV and qualitative research. After stops at Emory University and the University of Pennsylvania, he recently worked at Morehouse School of Medicine, one of the nation’s historically black colleges and universities.
Since most of his work has taken place in the United States, he says he welcomes the opportunity to develop an HIV treatment strategy at Gilead and help “bridge the gap.” with teams that have a global impact.
The divide he refers to relates to systemic issues of stigma and discrimination that continue to fuel the HIV epidemic. “We have great prevention tools, we have great treatment tools,” he says. “The only problem is that we live in a global society where there are deep health inequalities that determine whether people can access these drugs.”
Beyond Routine Care: The Healing Conversations of Sharing Your Personal Story
HIV is very personal to David. HIV has shaken her community. He has friends who have died and many are living with the virus. In 2007, he also found himself on the other end of patient care when he learned he had HIV.
David is intentionally open about his diagnosis, as it talks about much of his life and how he identifies as a loving same-sex male (SGL). “Being at the intersection of Black and SGL, I strongly believe that if you don’t tell your story, it won’t get told – or worse, someone else will tell it for you,” says David. “I don’t want anyone else to tell my story. I am the author.
For David, telling these stories is an important way to educate and let others know they are not alone.
Before going to medical school, he was an English student at Princeton University and always loved to write. When it came to writing scientific papers and giving presentations at conferences as a physician, it always came naturally to him. He uses this talent to write many long-form essays, which appear in various publications such as his recent Scientific American article, where he sheds light on how medical systems can sometimes fail the communities they intend to serve, despite advances in HIV care. And then there are the memoirs he wrote, inspired by his Haitian father, a surgeon, who died in 2020, and which had a big influence on his decision to become a doctor. The book was titled “Standing on His Shoulders: What I Learned About Race, Life, and the Great Expectations of My Haitian Superman Father.”
Using social media as a force for global health literacy
David admits that being Gen X he didn’t grow up with social media, but he knows its value and has seen it generate more public attention than any of his scientific papers.
“Social media is the global platform where people will get information. If we as scientists and health officials don’t use it, the false narratives will come out,” an issue he saw erupt during the COVID-19 pandemic and which he says continues to plague the world. HIV space.
“It’s our job as scientists to help educate and translate, also to use more simplified language so that everyone can understand it. Otherwise, we’re talking in an echo chamber.
David understands how privileged he is to be in a position where he can have a soapbox and connect with people. He knows he can tell a story that either demonstrates how well clinical providers are doing by patients, or conversely show examples of what not to do, and that can be amplified on social media. “It’s a powerful tool that we have to use to reach people,” he exclaims.
Paving the way for healthcare leaders
By continuing to share stories publicly, David realizes he can inspire the next generation of healthcare providers to do the same.
“If you don’t see people like you, then you don’t think it’s possible,” says David. “There’s so much variety right now in the ways people can make a difference in healthcare.”
In his new role at Gilead, David is paving the way for other healthcare leaders, sharing the different approaches they can use to help inform the world. From treatment and prevention to education and writing, David’s new role will always be focused on treating people living with HIV in a way that matches what he has done his entire career. .
“The only difference is that I am now approaching HIV care globally on a platform within the pharmaceutical industry.”
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