Rondalya DeShields, MSN, RN, a member of HPTN 064 and HPTN 102 study teams, is the director of the Infectious Disease Practice, Prevention, and Clinical Research Studies at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School Department of Medicine in New Jersey. She has more than 21 years of experience in HIV care, treatment, and prevention. Rondalya’s passion is to improve the lives of underserved populations with a focus on women and LGTBQ communities. She enjoys nursing and developing programs to help promote community and population health.
What attracted you to a career in HIV prevention research?
I worked for the Infectious Disease Practice - HIV Treatment for more than eight years when I began working in clinical trials. In 2008, I was recruited for the dual role as study coordinator/community liaison for HPTN 064 because of my extensive community partnerships within the Newark community throughout my career, and my desire to engage more in clinical research. My work with HPTN sparked an even greater interest to work with women behaviorally vulnerable to HIV more closely.
What aspect of your role do you enjoy the most?
I enjoy the diversity of my role to be hands-on, working with participants to educate and provide access to new treatments and working administratively with the implementation of protocols for HIV prevention research.
What would you say most motivates you to do what you do?
Although HPTN 064 was not interventional, many of our participants expressed how their outlook on life had changed due to the time spent with them during the study. Even to this day, with the other HPTN sponsored clinical trials, participants report the power of our conversations and counseling have helped them in many ways. Seeing the growth of participants continues to motivate me to do what I do.
What has been one of your proudest moments as a member of the HPTN?
My proudest moment of being a member of the HPTN was successfully publishing a journal article where I served as the first author; Building Partnerships and Stakeholder Relationships for HIV Prevention: Longitudinal Cohort Study Focuses on Community Engagement for HPTN 064.
What has been the biggest challenge working in HIV prevention research?
The biggest challenge I find working in HIV prevention research is not being able to provide/continue the services needed in the communities and people we work with on clinical trials after the trial is over.
Who has been the most significant influence in your career? Why?
Dr. Sally Hodder has been one of the most influential people in my career. Working under her mentorship, I learned clinical research, and it allowed me to identify and focus on my passion for working with women behaviorally vulnerable to HIV.
What volunteering or passion projects do you do outside of work?
I like to bring awareness to breast cancer; this is personal. One of my best friends died from breast cancer; she was diagnosed in her late 20s and died at 40 years old.
What is your guilty pleasure?
My guilty pleasure is watching reality televisions programs from the Housewives franchise.