Lynda Emel

Dr. Lynda Emel is the HPTN Statistical and Data Management Center's (SDMC) associate director at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle. Her interests and expertise include effective data collection and management, clinical trial design and operations, research regulations, behavioral research methodology, and research ethics. Dr. Emel has more than 35 years of experience in clinical trial operations and data management and has worked in HIV prevention research since 1997. 

What attracted you to a career in HIV prevention research?

While serving in the Peace Corps in Senegal and living in a tiny rural village, I became interested in public health issues. When a position opened at what was then the HIVNET Statistical Center (which later became SCHARP), I jumped at the chance to work in HIV prevention research. Work on HIVNET and HPTN studies allowed me to combine my knowledge of data management and clinical trials with my interest in international public health. 

What aspect of your role do you enjoy the most?

I support HPTN leadership and protocol teams with my knowledge and experience in HIV prevention clinical trials, operations, and data management while still having opportunities to solve data management puzzles and geek out on science.

What has been one of your proudest moments as a member of the HPTN?

Having been involved in clinical trials that profoundly changed international HIV prevention policy, such as the perinatal study HIVNET 012, the first HIV prevention trial I worked on, which demonstrated that a single dose of nevirapine for the mother and a single dose for the infant could prevent as much as 40 percent of infant HIV infections in the time before treatment was available to all HIV positive pregnant women. In addition, HPTN 052, proved the concept of treatment as prevention and led to the acceptance of U=U.

Who has been the biggest influence in your career? Why?

I have learned so much from so many, but our statistical leadership, especially Deborah Donnell, the current principal investigator (PI) of the HPTN SDMC, and Tom Fleming, the past PI. They have guided HIV prevention research towards rigorous, ethical, and practical clinical trial designs.

What inspires you?

The investigators and staff at the clinical research sites inspire me greatly. They are the folks doing the challenging work of engaging the communities affected by HIV, enrolling and retaining study participants, and collecting accurate data we rely on to answer the research questions. Every site staff member, from the drivers to the site investigators, is vital to the HPTN mission.

What volunteer or passion projects do you do outside of work?

I volunteer with Birds Connect Seattle (formerly Seattle Audubon) on citizen science projects and with a team that collects produce at my local farmers market that might otherwise go to waste and donates it to our neighborhood food bank.