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Lynn E. Taylor, MD, Receives Prestigious 2013 Rhode Island Foundation Innovation Fellowship

4/18/2013
Taylor Lynn  Lynn E. Taylor, MD  

Lynn E. Taylor, MD, an HIV and viral hepatitis specialist, primary care physician and director of the HIV/Viral Hepatitis Coinfection Program at The Miriam Hospital, is one of two recipients of the 2013 Rhode Island Innovation Fellowship, an annual program in its second year designed to stimulate solutions by Rhode Islanders to Rhode Island challenges. She is the first physician to be selected.

Made possible through the generosity and vision of philanthropists Letitia and John Carter, the Fellowship provides two individuals with up to $300,000 over three years to develop, test, and implement innovative ideas that have the potential to dramatically improve any area of life in Rhode Island.

Taylor’s project, Rhode Island Defeats Hep C, aims to make Rhode Island the first state to eradicate the Hepatitis C virus infection (HCV). Taylor calls HCV a “time bomb in Rhode Island” and says the epidemic will peak in the state over the next two decades unless dramatic action is taken. With the medical community now on the verge of a radical, “game-changing” shift in HCV therapy, Taylor says the cure rate can potentially be 100 percent. The key to achieving that cure rate in Rhode Island is to scale up the delivery system, which is currently lacking in the state, as it is around the country.

Taylor proposed a comprehensive plan that includes several steps: awareness, rapid testing, linkage to care, building infrastructure for a sustainable model and evaluation. The first piece, awareness, involves a poster contest judged by world-renowned RI artist Shepard Fairey, along with a limited edition personal wearable item, such as a pin, bracelet or keychain, to create awareness and support of this silent epidemic

“At no other time in history have we had such opportunity to eradicate this harmful, costly epidemic,” said Taylor. “Rhode Island has the optimal size epidemiologically, cooperation between stakeholders, scientific acumen, and medical establishments that make it possible to be the first state to defeat HCV. With this fellowship, we can save money and lives in Rhode Island, bring in additional resources, and lead the nation in curtailing this epidemic.”

An estimated five million people in the U.S. have chronic HCV infection, a liver disease that may result in long-term health problems, including liver scarring, liver failure and liver cancer. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 12,000 people die every year from hepatitis C-related liver disease, and 1 in 30 baby boomers (those born between 1945-1965) is infected – most unknowingly.

In HIV-infected persons, the liver damage is often more significant and may happen more quickly. HCV itself is an indication to introduce antiviral medications for HIV early in the course of HIV disease in order to slow HCV disease progression.

Established in 2001, the HIV/Viral Hepatitis Coinfection Program, part of The Miriam Hospital’s Immunology Center, serves patients living with HIV infection. The goals of the clinic include preventing new viral hepatitis infections; educating patients about viral hepatitis; promptly diagnosing viral hepatitis; evaluating liver disease; treating viral hepatitis with medications; providing hepatitis A virus (HAV) and hepatitis B virus (HBV) vaccinations; screening for other forms of liver disease, as well as for liver cancer; and serving as a springboard for viral Hepatitis-related research.