David S. Stephens, MD

David Stephens

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. Since 2013, he has served as Chair of the Emory School of Medicine's Department of Medicine and is also the Stephen W. Schwarzmann Distinguished Professor of Medicine.

Dr. Stephens is also 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 served as the Chief of Medicine for Emory Healthcare and as a member of the medical staff of the Atlanta VA Medical Center and Grady Memorial Hospital Atlanta.

Dr. Stephens joined Emory University and 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 co-founded (1988-present) the Atlanta Active Surveillance Project (now the Georgia Emerging Infections Program), a population-based surveillance and clinical research program. He has been a major contributor to the creation and development of the NIH-funded Emory Vaccine Center, the Emory Center for AIDS Research (CFAR), 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, 2022) by NIH. He now co-leads (2019-present) the NIH (NIAID) funded Infectious Diseases Clinical Research Consortium (IDCRC), linking the nation's network of Vaccine Trials and Evaluation Units (VTEUs). Emory's Infectious Diseases Programs ranks 5th nationally and 10th in the world (US News and World Report).

Dr. Stephens has led research initiatives in the School of Medicine (Executive Associate Dean 2005–2008) and as the WHSC Vice President of Research (2008–present). Researchers in Emory's WHSC received $847 million from extramural funding agencies in FY21, or 95 percent of the University total, including more than $508 million from the NIH. Examples of successful research initiatives in WHSC include the Synergy Awards program, Emory's GRA Eminent Scholars program, development of health services research-Health Innovation Program and Emory Health Services Research Center, the Emory Biomedical Catalyst Program, the Regenerative Medicine and Engineering (REM) program with Ga Tech and UGA, the Emory-Children's Pediatrics Center, the Emory-wide Taskforce for the Basic Sciences Initiatives, and the Queensland Emory Development (QED) Alliance. In addition, construction of new research space in WHSC has enabled research growth including 180,000 sq ft HSRB-1 (2012) and of the 350,000 sq ft biomedical research building-HSRB-2, to open in November 2022. Since Jan 2020, Emory and WHSC have been global leaders in COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) research, including vaccine development, therapeutics, and novel diagnostics.

While earning an MD 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 strategies for the vaccines to prevent it, especially disease caused by em>Neisseria meningitidis and Streptococcus pneumoniae. He has contributed to more than 350 publications in infectious diseases, molecular pathogenesis, epidemiology, vaccinology, and immunology, and is engaged with the WHO global road map to defeat meningitis by 2030.

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, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the National Academy of Inventors. 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 and a liaison member of the Health and Human Services National Vaccine Advisory Committee, and he served as Senior Scientific Consultant to the CDC Meningitis and Special Pathogens Branch. 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. He recently (2015–2019) served as a member of the National Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), is a current member of the WHO (SAGE) Meningococcal Vaccine Working Group, the ACIP Meningococcal Vaccine Working Group, and a leader of the NIAID COVID Prevention Network (CoVPN). In 2021, he received the Atlanta Business Chronicle's Healthcare Heroes Lifetime Achievement Award.

Dr. Stephens has served as the 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). He has also been, throughout his career, engaged in education. He is a member of the Microbiology and Molecular Genetics and Immunology and Molecular Pathogenesis programs of Emory's Graduate Division of Biological and Biomedical Sciences (GDBBS). He directed the Medicine Infectious Diseases Fellowship program, and his laboratory has trained 97 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 more than 33 PhD graduate committees in microbiology and molecular genetics, immunology, and epidemiology.

See also:

Emory Department of Medicine

Infectious Diseases Clinical Research Consortium