David S. Stephens, MD

Vice President for Research

Woodruff Health Sciences Center


Department of Medicine


David S. Stephens, MD, is Vice President for Research in the Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center (WHSC), a position in which he oversees the WHSC research enterprise and leads planning activities that enhance research programs and collaborations throughout the WHSC and Emory University. He is also the Chair of the Department of Medicine and the Stephen W. Schwarzmann Distinguished Professor of Medicine.

Dr. Stephens joined the Department of Medicine faculty in 1982 and was named Director of the Division of Infectious Diseases in 1992. He served in that role until 2013 and led the development of very successful programs in infectious diseases, epidemiology and microbial pathogenesis. He has been a major contributor to the creation and development of the NIH-funded Emory Vaccine Center, the Emory Center for AIDS Research and the Serious Communicable Diseases Unit (SCDU) at Emory. He was the founding principal investigator for Atlanta's Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA), a multi-institutional research and clinical trials partnership funded (2007) and refunded (2012, 2017) by NIH. He now is the principal investigator of the NIAID-funded Infectious Diseases Clinical Research Consortium (IDCRC) leading the nation’s vaccine trials and evaluation units (VTEUs).

Dr. Stephens has led research initiatives in the School of Medicine (Executive Associate Dean 2005-2008) and as the Vice President of Research (2008-present). Researchers at Emory University received $689.1 million from external funding agencies in fiscal year 2019. This marks the tenth consecutive year that extramural research funding has exceeded $500 million. Researchers in Emory's WHSC received $642 million in FY19, or 93 percent of the University total, including more than $350 million from the NIH. Examples of successful research initiatives in WHSC include the Synergy Awards program, Emory’s GRA Eminent Scholar program, development of health services research-Health Innovation Program and Emory Health Services Research Center, the Emory Biomedical Catalyst Program, the regenerative medicine (REM) program with Ga Tech and UGA, the Emory-Children’s Pediatrics Center, the Emory-wide Taskforce for the Basic Sciences Initiatives, the Queensland Emory Development (QED) Alliance and the launch of the 340,000 sq ft biomedical research building-HSRB-2. Since Jan 2020, Emory and WHSC have been global leaders in COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) research, including vaccine development, therapeutics and novel diagnostics.

Dr. Stephens is professor of medicine and microbiology and immunology in the School of Medicine and professor of epidemiology at Emory's Rollins School of Public Health. He is chair of the Research Advisory Council in the WHSC and a member of the Executive Committee on the WHSC Leadership Team.

After receiving his MD degree from Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Dr. Stephens conducted research at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). He completed his clinical training in internal medicine and infectious diseases and a research fellowship in microbial pathogenesis at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. His laboratory is an international leader in efforts to define the molecular basis for the virulence of bacterial meningitis and vaccines to prevent it, especially disease caused by Neisseria meningitidis and Streptococcus pneumoniae. He has contributed to more than 330 publications in infectious diseases, molecular pathogenesis, epidemiology, vaccinology and immunology.

Dr. Stephens is a member of the Association of American Physicians and the American Academy of Microbiology and is a Fellow of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, the American College of Physicians, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He has served on NIH, Veterans Affairs, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) review panels. He was chair of the FDA National Vaccine Advisory Committee, a liaison member of the Health and Human Services National Vaccine Advisory Committee and is standing Senior Scientific Consultant to the CDC Meningitis and Special Pathogens Branch. He recently served as a member of the National Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), is a member of the WHO (SAGE) Meningococcal Vaccine Working Group, and a leader of the NIAID COVID Prevention Network (CoVPN).

In 1988, Dr. Stephens co-founded the Atlanta Active Surveillance Project (now the Georgia Emerging Infections Program), a population-based surveillance and clinical research program. In 2001, he led CDC's clinical emergency response team in defining clinical issues in prophylaxis, diagnosis and treatment of B. anthracis infections and has contributed to efforts to combat other infectious diseases threats such as epidemic meningitis, SARS, Ebola, and recently COVID-19.

Dr. Stephens has served as the site principal investigator (PI) for multiple NIH RO1 and other federal grants including the NIH-sponsored Southeastern Regional Center of Excellence for Emerging Infections and Biodefense, the CDC-supported Southeastern Center for Emerging Biologic Threats, and the NIH-funded Exploratory Center for Interdisciplinary Research in Vaccinology. He founded and directed the Emory University NIH K30 Clinical Research Curriculum Award (now a component of the CTSA) and previously served as the interim chair and executive vice chair of the Department of Medicine at Emory. He now is the principal investigator of the NIAID-funded Infectious Diseases Clinical Research Consortium leading the nation’s vaccine trials and evaluation units (VTEUs).

The infectious diseases program he directed has graduated more than 150 fellows, and his laboratory has trained 96 infectious diseases fellows, postdoctoral fellows, medical students and undergraduates in bacterial pathogenesis. He has served as the thesis advisor for eleven PhD, MS or MPH degree candidates and has served on over 33 PhD graduate committees in microbiology and molecular genetics, immunology and epidemiology.

See also: 

Emory Department of Medicine

Infectious Diseases Clinical Research Consortium