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Topics, Trends & Updates
December 2016
Announcing the 2016 Recipients 
of the Dr. Linda Laubenstein HIV Clinical Excellence Award:
James F. Braun, DO, and Samuel T. Merrick, MD
For 2016, the AIDS Institute is recognizing Drs. Samuel Merrick and James Braun for their contributions to clinical excellence in New York State. Dr. Braun divides his time to work with the Physicians' Research Network (PRN), which he founded in 1990, and the Callen-Lorde Community Health Center, where he provides clinical care to the LGBTQ community. Dr. Merrick is an Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine and Medical Director of the Center for Special Studies at New York Presbyterian-Weill Cornell Medical College (NYPH-WCMC) and serves as Chair of the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) AIDS Institute's Medical Care Criteria Committee (MCCC), which produces guidelines for the care of adults with HIV infection.
About the Dr. Linda Laubenstein HIV Clinical Excellence Award 
The NYSDOH AIDS Institute established the Dr. Linda Laubenstein HIV Clinical Excellence Award
in 1992 to highlight the contributions of clinicians whose record of service has been extraordinary and to publicly thank them for their accomplishments. The HIV Clinical Excellence Award was established in memory of Dr. Linda Laubenstein (1947-1992) to honor her pioneering work and contributions to the quality of AIDS care in the early years of the epidemic. In the 1980s, Dr. Laubenstein, a Manhattan physician, treated many of the country's first AIDS patients. Although she used a wheelchair from the age of 5 as a result of childhood polio and severe asthma, Dr. Laubenstein devoted most of her practice to her own exemplary brand of AIDS care, making house calls and emergency room visits at any hour, speaking out to urge social organizations and government to respond to the AIDS epidemic, and founding an organization to employ AIDS patients.

About Dr. James F. Braun

James F. Braun, DO, received his medical degree from the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences and completed an internship and residency in Family Medicine at the Michigan Osteopathic Medical Center in Detroit. Originally intending to practice as a primary care provider in a "small town," he ultimately settled in Greenwich Village in the early 1980s, when the AIDS epidemic was first being recognized in New York City.

Dr. Braun was a clinician in the early days of the free Community Health Project and later established a private practice in the Village. Like Dr. Laubenstein, Dr. Braun made many house calls to patients who were too sick to come to his office. He joined other early leaders in the creation of the Safer Sex Committee of New York and coauthored the Gay Men's Health Crisis publication Healthy Sex is Great Sex, which became the standard for safer sex guidelines thereafter. He served as a board member of the People With AIDS (PWA) Health Group and the Association of Physicians in AIDS Medicine (APAM), and as an Executive Committee member of the Forum for Collaborative HIV Research.

In 1990, Dr. Braun founded PRN, which will soon complete its 26th year of continuous monthly meetings, as a peer-support and education group for healthcare providers struggling to cope with the ever-changing needs of people living with HIV and AIDS. PRN is a respected educational resource for physicians seeking to learn about state-of-the-art science, clinical medicine, and policy issues on the forefront of HIV care. Through PRN, Dr. Braun is likely responsible for educating more private practitioners about HIV care than anyone else in New York State. Dr. Braun has been a key ally of the AIDS Institute Office of the Medical Director for many years, a partnership now solidified through his work with the Clinical Education Initiative (CEI).

In 2006, Dr. Braun served as vice-president on the founding board of directors for the American Conference for the Treatment of HIV (ACTHIV) and coined its name, and from 2007 on, Dr. Braun has served as vice-chair of the HIV, Hepatitis, and STI Advisory Panel for the Medical Society of the State of New York (MSSNY).
 
Dr. Braun has coauthored numerous scientific publications; as Program Director for the live meetings of PRN and Editor-in-Chief of The PRN Notebook and The PRN Notebook Online, he has spotlighted advances in the early diagnosis and management of HIV/AIDS and its complications. Since 2010, he has overseen the production of CEI's online educational video programs for CME through PRN's collaboration with the AIDS Institute. Dr. Braun remains strongly committed to increasing awareness of the management and prevention of HIV/AIDS, viral hepatitis, and their numerous complications in both general medicine as well as subspecialties. 

About Dr. Samuel T. Merrick 

Samuel T. Merrick, MD, earned his medical degree from the University of Virginia after spending 3 years as a software developer for a consulting startup. He completed his residency at The New York Hospital, serving as Assistant Chief Resident in his final year. 

In 1991, Dr. Merrick joined the Center for Special Studies (CSS) at Weill Cornell Medical College, a comprehensive, multidisciplinary adult HIV clinic established as one of the early Designated AIDS Centers. He helped expand services in 1997 with the opening of a new clinic in Chelsea.
 
Dr. Merrick was an active participant in the AmFar Community Based Clinical Trials Network in the mid- to late-1990s, but his career has focused primarily on patient care and teaching. In 2001, Dr. Merrick was named Medical Director of CSS. Since that time, he has worked to preserve and maintain the original vision of ensuring true continuity of care between outpatient and inpatient settings and full communication among care team members through daily interdisciplinary rounds. In this continuity of care model, Dr. Merrick cares for many patients he first treated in the 1990s; the daughter of two of his early patients remains in care at CSS and just delivered healthy twins.
 
Currently an Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine at NYPH-WCMC, Dr. Merrick has been teaching at the bedside and in the clinic throughout his career. He has served for almost 10 years on the AIDS Institute Quality of Care Committee and applied his programming background in working with the HIVQUAL team to enhance and streamline data retrieval from the electronic medical record to further quality goals. He has also served for 9 years on the Medical Care Criteria Committee, the last 2 years as Chair, and has been the primary contributor to significant NYSDOH AIDS Institute guidelines, including acute infection, when to initiate treatment, initial ART regimens, PEP, and PrEP. Dr. Merrick's guidance and contributions to the Clinical Guidelines Program have enhanced the quality of care for patients throughout the New York State. 
 
Over the past few years, Dr. Merrick has played an active role in developing a broad coalition of partners through the Delivery System Reform Incentive Program (DSRIP) funding process, working with colleagues to form the REACH (Ready to End AIDS and Cure Hepatitis C) Collaborative, a joint project encompassing high-prevalence areas in New York City and offering a distinct array of services to populations at risk for or diagnosed with HIV or hepatitis C. The REACH Collaborative aims to set the standard for institutional-community cooperation in ending the epidemic. 
 
Dr. Merrick is deeply grateful to the patients with whom he has worked for more than 25 years, who show him each day the true meaning of strength and perseverance.

On December 1, 2016, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced a series of groundbreaking new initiatives in the fight against AIDS, building on the state's successful blueprint to end the epidemic by the end of 2020.
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HIV Clinical Guidelines Program 
New York State Department of Health AIDS Institute
In collaboration with the Division of Infectious Diseases
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

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