A few years ago, Harita Shah, MD, joined the University of Chicago Medicine for her first faculty position as an assistant professor of medicine. She was committed to leading community-based participatory research (CBPR) to increase access to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) among Latina/x/o sexual and gender minorities in Cook County, IL. Dr. Shah connected with the Third Coast CFAR soon after starting her faculty career and was thus quickly able to build cross-institutional partnerships with health disparities researchers and community partners.

“I am grateful to the TC CFAR since they fostered my research connections in Chicago as soon as I began my faculty career. When I started at the University of Chicago in 2020, I was looking to build community partnerships and apply my skills in social marketing to improve access to HIV prevention for marginalized Latina/x/o communities.”

Harita Shah, MD

Dr. Shah witnessed firsthand the healthcare disparities that diverse Latino communities face when she became a primary care physician.

“Prior to my work in Chicago, I was a resident and primary care physician in East Baltimore during a time when there was an influx of Spanish-speaking immigrants and refugees from Central American countries experiencing unrest. As a Spanish-speaking provider, I saw many barriers these families faced to access health care and I found fulfillment in caring for these families in my clinic,” said Dr. Shah. “My research has since focused on CBPR approaches to addressing disparities in access to HIV prevention and care for Latino/a/x individuals.”

Harita Shah
Harita Shah, MD

During her medical school and residency training at Johns Hopkins University, Dr. Shah directed a social marketing campaign to increase access to HIV testing and PrEP for Latino immigrants. She found that social marketing provided an avenue to reach individuals not currently engaged in the health care system, and this was most effective when paired with affordable community-based HIV services.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the TC CFAR’s Developmental Core connected Dr. Shah with Gregory Phillips II, PhD, at Northwestern University, who has been one of her mentors ever since. He introduced her to Pedro Serrano MPH, CPH, who heads the Chicago Queer Latinx (CQL) Collaborative, a group of LGBTQ+ Latina/x/o leaders from HIV-focused community-based organizations.

Given their shared interest and complementary skillsets, Dr. Shah, Phillips, and Serrano collaborated and received an Ending the HIV Epidemic (EHE) supplement award to create a community-engaged PrEP social marketing campaign for Latinos in Cook County. They have co-led multiple grants and projects, including an EHE planning award, aimed at addressing social determinants of health that impact HIV prevention among Latina/x/o sexual and gender minorities in Cook County.

In 2023, Dr. Shah presented her team’s research from the PrEPárate campaign at the TC CFAR’s HIV Research Symposium and the CFAR Annual National Meeting.

Dr. Shah is a TC CFAR pilot awardee and is currently pursuing a K23 award with additional mentorship from John Schneider, MD, and Alida Bouris, PhD, at the University of Chicago.