CFAR Member Highlight: Charles Burns, MD

Dr. Charles Burns is an infectious disease specialist and Assistant Professor in the School of Medicine. Originally from the Chicago area, Dr. Burns first came to Duke in 2018 as an infectious disease fellow. His interest in this specialty began during a year off between college and medical school, when he worked on vaccine and HIV research. Describing what interests him about HIV research, he says “It’s not only a medical disease. It’s also a social disease, and there’s a lot of factors that are at play.”

During his fellowship, Dr. Burns participated in Duke’s Interdisciplinary Research Training Program in AIDS, which he credits for helping to launch his career in HIV research. His current focus is on improving the HIV continuum of care through retention in care and HIV prevention. His introduction to the Duke CFAR came by way of Drs. Lance Okeke and Mehri McKellar, both of whom Dr. Burns worked with as a fellow. He credits them for “looping [him] in” to Scientific Working Groups – specifically, the Biomedical Prevention SWG – where he connected with members of the SBS Core. He went on to work with Dr. McKellar and SBS Core Director Dr. Amy Corneli on their Duke CFAR Special Project Award, studying feasibility of pharmacist-provided PrEP in South Carolina.

In addition to this work, Dr. Burns has received CFAR funding of his own. He was awarded a CFAR microgrant to study PrEP in urgent care settings, interviewing current and former PrEP users, as well as urgent care providers, to assess the feasibility of PrEP access expansion efforts in the Southern U.S. More recently, Dr. Burns received a CFAR Pilot Grant for H3RT, a HIV care re-engagement intervention that has so far been “highly successful” in getting people living with HIV back into care.

Dr. Burns sees his research as an extension of one of the goals he has as a provider: developing connections with patients. When asked what excites him most about his research, he says, “You’re letting the participants guide the research. It’s not us from the medical field coming and saying ‘Hey, we think this is a good idea. Let’s do this.’ It’s going out to the actual communities and saying, ‘How can we make this work for you?’ … I get to do a lot of what I like to do being a medical doctor, of talking to patients and figuring how exactly how I can better serve my patients as a provider.” He notes the help of the SBS Core in “all aspects” of his research – from assistance with study design and aims to collaborating with the QualCore for data collection and analysis.

This is Dr. Burns’ first year on faculty at Duke, and he describes how CFAR has supported him in this new role, too: “I’m really appreciative of their help. They’ve really supported me…and they’ve helped me with having protected time to continue these projects. I’m really looking forward to working with everyone and helping out in whatever way I can and getting involved in a lot more projects.”