Dr. Maria Lahuerta is an epidemiologist and public health specialist with more than 14 years of experience in research on infectious diseases, program evaluation and surveillance. Dr. Lahuerta found her way to public health while traveling and supporting health projects in South America. She pursued a PhD in molecular virology in Barcelona, doing sample collection and field work for a study evaluating the impact of malaria on mother-to-child HIV transmission in Mozambique. She realized that she would prefer to work with people on a larger scale doing applied public health, and she obtained a full scholarship to get an MPH at Columbia.
At the Mailman School Dr. Lahuerta started working at ICAP, and she has been part of the technical team there ever since, rising to her current role as deputy Director of the Strategic Information (SI) Unit. Supporting many of ICAP’s projects in sub-Saharan Africa, Central Asia and the Americas, Dr. Lahuerta oversees the design and implementation of data systems to monitor ongoing programs and evaluate their impact.
She leads HIV surveillance activities among key populations, including female sex workers, men who have sex with men, transgender women and people who inject drugs. These surveys are essential to monitor the HIV epidemic and obtain key data to improve prevention and treatment services for key populations. Dr. Lahuerta also leads implementation science research studies and evaluations that help evidenced-based interventions become part of routine services. For example, she led a mixed-methods evaluation of intermittent preventive treatment among infants, a new intervention to prevent malaria among infants in Sierra Leone. She also supports several studies to optimize the delivery of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to prevent HIV infections in sub-Saharan Africa. To bolster the global response to public health threats during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond, Dr. Lahuerta leads global health security activities in the Democratic Republic of Congo to strengthen the country’s capacity to prevent, detect, and respond quickly to infectious disease threats.
Dr. Lahuerta is also an active member of the Epidemiology Department, co-teaching its course on infectious diseases and mentoring students, and supporting admissions. As part of the school’s 2035 planning team, she is thinking about the public health challenges that lie ahead and the new research and surveillance methodologies, informatics, and implementation strategies that will contribute to a healthier future for populations worldwide.