We’d like to introduce you to one of the newest members of the Kind Clinic family, Dr. Philip Ponce!
Dr. Ponce is our new Medical Director in San Antonio, where he will provide guidance and leadership alongside our clinic staff. He adds a vast array of knowledge to an already amazing team and we’re so excited for you all to meet him!
Get to know more about Dr. Ponce and his background in our Q&A session below.
Q & A with Dr. Ponce
1. What made you decide to study medicine and ultimately work to enhance the lives of the LGBTQIA+ community?
I was a gay teenager in the 1990’s. I saw a lot of gay men my age, or not much older, suffer and die from the terrible infections associated with advanced HIV disease. Highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) only became available in 1996, during my freshman year of college.
In addition to the physical suffering, these folks also had to deal with incredible amounts of homophobia and HIV stigma, both inside and outside of the medical arena. I wanted to be able to provide medical care for these folks, who were not much different from me, and help in some small way to change the culture of medicine to be more accepting of LGBTQIA+ people.
2. Tell us more about your experience working with People Living with HIV (PLWHIV).
From 2004 to 2005, I took a year off from medical school to work in Botswana. At that time, the epicenter of the HIV epidemic had shifted from LGBTQIA+ populations in the U.S. and western Europe, to primarily heterosexuals in sub-Saharan Africa. At the time, Botswana had an HIV seroprevalence in its adult population of close the 50%. I worked with my infectious disease mentors to help roll out an antiretroviral therapy (ART) delivery system there, and to provide care to patients at Princess Marina Hospital, the main referral hospital for the country in Gabarone.
I did my residency at the University of California, San Francisco, primarily because of their long history of providing HIV care in an LGBTQIA+ inclusive environment. The program incorporated HIV training. I also worked at Ward 86 at the San Francisco General Hospital and the East Bay AIDS center in Oakland.
I then took a job with the Kaiser Permanente system at their flagship hospital in Oakland. I did 50% general internal medicine and 50% HIV primary care. I did this for 7 years before deciding that I wanted to do a full infectious disease fellowship so that I could work more in the inpatient setting.
I did a fellowship with the combined Massachusetts General Hospital/Brigham and Women’s Hospital program in Boston. It was an amazing experience as I had the chance to work with clinicians and researchers who developed many of the HIV medications that we use daily.
After my fellowship, I moved to San Antonio to be closer to my family. I am an assistant professor of infectious diseases at UT Health San Antonio. In addition to providing HIV care at SAAF and taking care of transplant recipients with infectious complications at University Hospital, I get to teach medical students, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, residents and fellows. Having the opportunity to mold the next generation of HIV providers, and to teach/model LGBTQIA+ visibility, is definitely a highlight of my position.
3. What have been some of the standout moments of your career so far?
Getting to live and work in Africa for a year was a pretty amazing experience. Residency and fellowship were pretty amazing as well. My peers and faculty mentors were some of the best and brightest in the fields of internal medicine and infectious diseases. Having the opportunity to help shape future HIV providers in some small way is a day to day highlight.
4. Aside from your work in the HIV field, you also have experience working with transplant surgeons. Can you tell us more about that side of your career?
During my fellowship, my second year of training was focused on the sub-subspecialty of transplant infectious diseases. This allowed me to have clinical depth and breadth in the care of all immunocompromised patients, HIV-related and non-HIV related. My current role is 50% HIV care and 50% transplant care and, of late, an additional 100% COVID-19 care (but that’s another story).
5. What most excites you about joining the Kind Clinic team?
I think Kind Clinic is a model system for LGBTQIA+ inclusivity. We’re also a model for HIV neutral care via HIV prevention (PrEP, condoms, etc.) and treatment methods to attain viral load suppression.
I also really appreciate the focus on client experience, making our services user-friendly and easily accessible.
6. What do you do in your down time? What have been your go-to indulgences during quarantine?
Sadly, I have not had a lot of free time despite COVID and the “lockdown lifestyle” that we’ve all been forced to adopt. In addition to my usual roles in HIV and transplant, I’ve been the attending physician on our inpatient COVID team at least one week per month. I’m also a sub-investigator on several COVID-19 treatment trials being performed at UT Health.
I was a power lifter for years. Since I can’t go to the gym (and don’t have my own squat rack), I’ve been doing yoga and kettlebell training to stay fit.
I’m definitely not going to lose weight despite my best efforts. My dad is a great cook so he has been dropping off amazing meals for me twice a week. I also taught myself how to make buffalo chicken mac and cheese.
In my downtime, I’ve been reading lots of comics. The Marvel Unlimited app is amazing. I’ve read the entire run of Uncanny X-men from 1993, when I stopped collecting comics, to 2006 at this point.
Definitely doing a lot of pet therapy. My dog has been getting lots of extra cuddles.