Title:Alumni in the Field: Shireesha Dhanireddy
Based in Seattle, Shireesha Dhanireddy, M.D. (C’95, M’99), completed her internal medicine residency and infectious disease fellowship at the University of Washington. After her fellowship, she joined the Madison Clinic, the largest HIV clinic in the Pacific Northwest, where she is now medical director. She spends two-thirds of her time in patient care, and the rest working on student, resident, and peer education as well as research focused on improving health outcomes in vulnerable patients.
Through her clinical work at a county hospital, she developed an interest in the health of people who inject drugs. “Outcomes are not optimal. As providers, we could improve our approach by addressing substance use disorder in addition to their other medical issues,” says Dhanireddy.
Her current clinical research looks at the intersection of the opioid crisis, injection drug use, and infectious diseases. Dhanireddy seeks to provide wrap-around care—including patient navigation and opioid agonist therapies (medication-assisted therapies such as buprenorphine)—to help people who inject drugs to treat their drug dependence and focus on other health issues. She hopes that this packaging of interventions will help reduce some of the barriers to care still facing people with HIV and other infectious diseases in the community.
With a deep commitment to providing care for those who are marginalized, Dhanireddy reaches vulnerable patients through creative approaches.
In response to a lack of services available to unhoused women engaging in street-based sex work in the north end of Seattle, Dhanireddy partnered with the non-profit organization Aurora Commons in 2018 to create the SHE Clinic (Safe Healthy Empowered) to provide co-located primary care, including HIV prevention and sexual healthcare. Run from the back of a mobile van, the SHE Clinic offers sexually transmitted disease testing and treatment, HIV testing, opioid agonist therapy, and contraception. Shortly after the clinic began operations, a new cluster of HIV cases was diagnosed among the population it serves. The SHE Clinic has been integral in providing HIV testing and prevention services as well as coordination to connect newly diagnosed women to care.
Dhanireddy’s approach of meeting people where they are includes development of a new outpatient antibiotics program for people who inject drugs. Similarly, she introduced a new STD self-testing model for patients in the HIV clinic to allow low-barrier testing, resulting in exponential increases in testing and treatment rates.
“Today, HIV can be treated with one pill once daily. Other medical conditions, like diabetes and hypertension, are much harder to treat. When treating HIV, the aim is to minimize toxicity, focus on comorbidities, and provide a more comprehensive care model and not just focus on the specialty,” she says.
“The HIV is the easiest thing to treat; their other conditions, like diabetes and hypertension, are much harder.”Shireesha Dhanireddy, M.D. (C’95, M’99)
Dhanireddy is committed to the education of future HIV and infectious disease providers as well. She implemented an HIV training pathway in the internal medicine residency program at University of Washington, providing opportunities for residents to serve as primary care providers for people living with HIV, in an effort to increase HIV provider workforce in the region.
She also participates in a distance-learning program of the Mountain West AIDS Education and Training Center to support health care providers working in rural areas where HIV is less commonly seen. Using live video, the weekly sessions provide clinical consultations between community providers and a panel of HIV experts.
Dhanireddy names two infectious disease physicians at Georgetown who inspired her to pursue the specialty: Princy Kumar, MD (R’90), and Joe Timpone, MD (M’95, R’88).
“My training as a Georgetown medical student laid the groundwork for me to succeed during residency and fellowship,” she adds. “We had high expectations for work and ownership in the care of our patients, and being present at the bedside. It is only through being present with patients that we learn how to care for them as people with complex medical and social needs.”
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