Research Notes

Lab Chat With Dr. Jonathan Ross

Lab Chat With Dr. Jonathan Ross

Jonathan Ross, M.D., is a primary-care physician who focuses on HIV/AIDS. He works to improve access to HIV care in Rwanda and in immigrant communities in the United States. Dr. Ross was born in Israel and raised in Westchester County, New York. After studying medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College, he completed a residency in primary care and social medicine at Montefiore. He joined the Einstein faculty in 2017, where he is an assistant professor of medicine. Dr. Ross recently completed a master’s degree through Einstein’s Clinical Research Training Program (CRTP).
Dr. Jonathan Ross recently wrote a JAMA article about COVID-19's impact on immigrant communities. (Photo by Jason Torres)

What sparked your interest in global health?

After college, I served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Mozambique, where I taught high school biology. Living in another society and witnessing its enormous health challenges inspired me to consider a career in public health.

Why did you choose medicine over other possible options?

After returning from the Peace Corps, I worked in community and public health research in New York City. But I worried that a purely public health career would limit my involvement “on the ground.” I was advised that medical school would open doors for all sorts of clinical work as well as research.

What attracted you to Einstein and Montefiore?

I did a fourth-year medical school elective at Einstein called “Research-Based Health Activism,” which really resonated with me. After that, I decided that Montefiore’s social medicine residency would be a great fit for my career goals.

How did your work circle back to Africa?

I needed to write a mock grant for the CRTP, so I modeled it after the research of my mentor, Kathy Anastos, M.D., who works on HIV in Central Africa. My proposal was to study ways to ensure that people with HIV in Rwanda initiate and remain on antiretroviral therapy under the country’s HIV treatment guidelines. The NIH [National Institutes of Health] funded my proposal in 2017.

You coauthored a “Viewpoint” article in JAMA on the heavy burden of COVID-19 on Bronx immigrants. Were you surprised at the toll on this community?

How quickly the pandemic took hold was a surprise—but its impact on immigrant communities was not, given the numerous barriers they face in accessing care, such as lack of insurance and fear of immigration enforcement. It didn’t help that the federal government’s new “Public Charge” rule—under which immigrants who obtain public benefits can be denied green cards or visa extensions—went into effect just as the pandemic hit.

Has your clinical role changed during the pandemic?

I’ve mostly been practicing primary care via telemedicine, but I worked on a COVID-19 ward for a few weeks. The initial uncertainty about how best to care for these patients was a tremendous challenge, to say the least—and worrying about getting infected and infecting my family was scary.

Do you have any hobbies?

I love biking. When I can, I bike to work at Montefiore’s Wakefield Ambulatory Care Center. I also love playing guitar but haven’t played much in recent months with all the extra challenges of the pandemic.

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