When a person is a well-established leader in their field, it's easy to forget that, once upon a time, that was not the case. There was a point in that person's life when they hadn't yet made a name for themselves; when they were still figuring out what direction they wanted their life and work to take.
Tonia Poteat, Ph.D., PA-C, M.P.H, has been one of the HIV care community's most-respected providers, researchers, and teachers for over a decade. Poteat is among the most prominent HIV health professionals tackling issues regarding LGBTQ care and health disparities, with a particular focus on transgender health.
Now an assistant professor of social medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Poteat spent two years during the Obama administration with the Office of the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator as a senior technical advisor focusing on key populations. After she left the office in 2014, she was an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health for four years before shifting to the University of North Carolina in 2018.
Looking back on Poteat's professional arc, it can appear as though her path toward a leadership role in HIV care was always clear. But as she explained in a recent interview as part of our in-depth video profile, there have been plenty of twists -- and for a long time, she had little idea where she would end up.
Here, in her own words, are a few brief snapshots of key milestones in the late 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s that ended up being formative parts of Poteat's evolution into a leading HIV care provider, scientist, and mentor with a powerful focus on LGBTQ needs.
The following transcript excerpts have been edited for length and clarity.