Chris Beyrer Named Director of Duke Global Health Institute

Beyrer is a leading expert on infectious disease, public health and human rights

New DGHI director Christopher Beyrer arrives from the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.
New DGHI director Christopher Beyrer arrives from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Christopher C. Beyrer, MD, MPH, an internationally recognized epidemiologist who has worked on the front lines of HIV/AIDS and COVID-19 treatment and research, will be the next director of the Duke Global Health Institute (DGHI), university officials announced Friday.

Beyrer will join Duke on August 30 from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, where he is the inaugural Desmond M. Tutu Professor of Public Health and Human Rights as well as a professor of epidemiology, nursing and medicine.

He succeeds Dennis Clements, MD, professor emeritus of pediatrics and research professor of global health, who has served as interim director since 2020.

“Chris Beyrer will be an outstanding and passionate leader of the Duke Global Health Institute,” said Provost Sally Kornbluth. “He is a researcher, a scholar, a teacher and an advocate whose work has made a difference around the world. There has never been a more important time for global health, and under Chris’s direction DGHI and Duke will continue to be a leader in research, education and service to society.”

Beyrer has extensive experience leading international collaborative research and training programs related to infectious disease epidemiology and disease prevention. At Johns Hopkins, he directs the Training Program in HIV Epidemiology and Prevention Science, serves as associate director of the Center for AIDS Research and the Center for Global Health, and is the founding director of the Center for Public Health and Human Rights.

“During this time of profound change, the Duke Global Health Institute has continued to shine a light on health and social inequities here and around the world,” said A. Eugene Washington, MD, chancellor for health affairs at Duke University and president and CEO of the Duke University Health System. “In Chris, we have an exceptional leader, outstanding administrator and a remarkable scholar of human rights and inequities across various social gradients. His background, experiences and unmitigated passion for global health make him an ideal leader to help grow and magnify the excellence and impact of the DGHI,” he added.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us all how truly interconnected we are as a global human family and how essential advances in biomedical research have been,” Beyrer said, “but also how challenged we’ve been to address fundamental questions of equity, access to health care and compassion for the underserved. It is an honor and a privilege to join the extraordinary team at the Duke Global Health Institute, which will continue to be part of the solution to these inequities. I’m confident that we can make real change happen where it matters most — in the lives of those we seek to serve.”

Trent Hall, which houses the leadership of DGHI Beyrer, who has worked on COVID-19 vaccine trials since 2020, currently serves as senior scientific liaison to the COVID-19 Vaccine Prevention Network.  He is past president of the International AIDS Society, the world’s largest body of HIV professionals and has served as advisor to the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the HIV Vaccine Trials Network, the National Institutes of Health’s Office of AIDS Research, the U.S. Military HIV Research Program, the World Bank, the World Health Organization, and the Open Society Foundations, among numerous other organizations.

“Our mission in the School of Medicine is to advance patient care, research and education locally and globally,” said Mary E. Klotman, MD, Dean, Duke University School of Medicine. “As an internationally recognized scientist and leader in human rights and public health, Dr. Beyrer will be a visionary leader for our Global Health Institute, expanding on the work already underway and opening the door to new opportunities.”

Born in Switzerland to American parents, Beyrer grew up in New York and has pursued research, studies and interests in more than 30 countries.  The author of “War in the Blood: Sex, Politics and AIDS in Southeast Asia,” he has conducted collaborative research in Thailand for 30 years.

He attended Hobart and William Smith Colleges, where he majored in history and was elected Phi Beta Kappa. He received his medical degree from SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University and holds a Master of Public Health from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Beyrer was elected to the National Academy of Medicine in 2014.

Beyrer’s appointment follows a global search led by Gillian Sanders Schmidler, professor of population health sciences and medicine and deputy director of the Duke Margolis Center for Health Policy, and a committee of Duke faculty and global health experts.

“I am very grateful to Dennis Clements for steering DGHI through the most significant public health crisis of the past century, and to the search committee for its persistence and dedication,” said Provost Kornbluth.

Beyrer is a widower. His late husband, Michael Smit, was a nurse practitioner in his native Baltimore.

Founded in 2006, the Duke Global Health Institute draws faculty from medicine and nursing, anthropology, psychology, public policy, engineering, environmental sciences and other fields to lead collaborative, interdisciplinary research and education on the most important global health issues of our time. DGHI hosts education programs for undergraduate, master’s degree, medical and doctoral students from a broad range of disciplines. In the most recent academic year, DGHI researchers led 270 research projects that received funding totaling over $75 million.