Born In: Carlisle, Pennsylvania, United States
American physician and diplomat Deborah Birx was the White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator from 2020 to 2021. A global medical expert with specializations in HIV/AIDS, cellular immunology, and vaccine research, she has also been the US Global AIDS Coordinator (April 2014-January 2021) and the US Special Representative for Global Health Diplomacy (January 2015-January 2021). She led the implementation of the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) program. She has also penned numerous research papers and a book on the Trump administration’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Her dedication to global health has won her prestigious awards, such as the Legion of Merit and the CDC’s William C. Watson, Jr. Medal of Excellence. She is also known for her award-winning work to develop laboratory facilities in Africa. A mother of 2, she is married to American attorney Paige Reffe and lives in a multi-generational family.
Also Known As: Deborah Leah Birx
Spouse/Ex-: Paige Reffe
father: Donald Birx
mother: Adele Sparks Birx
Born Country: United States
Notable Alumni: Houghton College
U.S. State: Pennsylvania
education: Pennsylvania State University, Houghton College,Lampeter-Strasburg High School
Deborah Birx was born Deborah Leah Birx, on April 4, 1956, in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, US, to mathematician and electrical engineer Donald Birx and nursing instructor Adele Sparks Birx.
Birx had developed an interest in science since a young age. She grew up in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and attended the Lampeter-Strasburg High School.
She and her brother, Danny, would often use their family shed as a makeshift science laboratory and undertake science projects on geology, astronomy, and biology. Danny (now deceased) later grew up to be a scientist with a research company. Birx’s other brother, Donald Birx, is now the president of Plymouth State University.
In her sophomore year, Birx won the third place at the Lancaster City-County Science Fair. She also appeared in a front-page story in the Lancaster New Era.
In her junior year in 1973, she participated in the International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) in San Diego, with a geology project. She later moved to Carlisle, Pennsylvania, with her family and attended Carlisle High, from where she graduated high school. In her senior year, Birx participated in the Capital Area Science Fair and won the Grand Prize.
She then joined the Hershey Medical School, Pennsylvania State University, obtaining a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry and finishing her undergraduate studies in 2 years. In 1980, she obtained a Doctor of Medicine degree from the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.
Deborah Birx spent her initial career with the US Army, as an active duty reserve officer from 1980 to 1994 and as active duty regular army personnel from 1994 to 2008, retiring as a colonel. From 1980 to 1989, she also served the Walter Reed Army Medical Center as a physician.
In 1981, she did a year-long internship. She then completed a 2-year residency in internal medicine.
From 1983 to 1986, Birx completed two clinical immunology fellowships, in allergies and diagnostics, working in Anthony Fauci's lab. Birx served as the assistant chief of the Walter Reed Allergy/Immunology Service from 1985 to 1989. While she began her career as a clinician in immunology, she later focused on HIV/AIDS vaccine research. From 1986 to 1989, she was associated with the National Institutes of Health as an investigator, with a focus on cellular immunology.
Thus, starting her association with the Department of Defense (DoD) in 1985, as a military-trained clinician in immunology, with a focus on HIV/AIDS vaccine research, she rose to the position of the Director of the US Military HIV Research Program (USMHRP) of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in 1996 and served in the position till 2005.
In her capacity, Deborah Birx lead one of the most impactful trials of the HIV vaccine in history (also known as the RV 144 or the Thai trial). This trial gave the first evidence of any vaccine’s potential effectiveness against the HIV infection.
During this time, she had also risen to the position of Colonel, thus bringing together the different army departments to increase the efficiency of the US military’s fight against HIV/AIDS, through active inter-and intra-agency co-operation. Her pathbreaking research got her the Legion of Merit Award and 2 US Meritorious Service Medals.
From 2005 to 2014, she served the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s Division of Global HIV/AIDS (DGHA), which is part of the CDC Center for Global Health, as its director. In her capacity as the DGHA director, she guided the implementation of CDC’s PEPFAR programs globally and managed a yearly budget of over $1.5 billion.
She was also in charge of the agency’s world-wide HIV/AIDS activities, such as monitoring over 1,900 staff and over 50 country and regional offices in Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, and Latin America. Her efforts in developing laboratory health services in Africa won her the African Society for Laboratory Medicine’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011.
In 2014, she was honored by CDC for her leadership in expanding the fight against HIV/AIDS, with the William C. Watson, Jr. Medal of Excellence. The same year, she was nominated by President Barack Obama to serve as the US Global AIDS Coordinator and the Ambassador-at-Large of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).
In her capacity, she managed the spending of the annual budget of the PEPFAR, which amounted to $6 billion. It was the largest national budget to fight a single disease in history. She also oversaw the US government’s involvement with the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria.
Deborah Birx also served as the US Special Representative for Global Health Diplomacy from January 2015 to January 2021. In February 2020, Vice President Pence appointed her as the White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator. In her capacity, Birx made suggestions and recommendations to Pence, making use of complex data integration to help in decision-making regarding the virus.
Birx also worked with state officials across the US to prepare state-wise guidelines. She later revealed in an interview that she was alarmed when Donald Trump had stated the possibility of injecting people with disinfectant to treat the virus.
In March 2021, she took over as the Chief Medical and Science Advisor at ActivePure Technology. In her illustrious medical career, she has focused areas such as clinical and basic immunology, vaccine research, pandemic preparedness, infectious disease, and global health.
She has also published more than 230 manuscripts in peer-reviewed journals and penned several chapters in scientific publications. In April 2022, she released her book, Silent Invasion: The Untold Story of the Trump Administration, Covid-19, and Preventing the Next Pandemic Before It's Too Late.
In 1976, while studying at Hershey Medical School, Deborah Birx married Bryan Dudley Raybuck. Raybuck was a fellow medical student she met at Houghton College. Raybuck grew up to become a cardiologist.
Birx had Raybuck had 2 daughters, Devynn and Danielle Birx-Raybuck. The couple later divorced.
Birx married renowned American attorney Paige Reffe in a secret wedding in 2019. Birx lives with her parents, her husband, and the family of one of her 2 daughters.
Although Birx and Reffe do not have children together, Reffe is stepfather to Birx's two daughters. Reffe, an expert in international and federal cases, has co-founded a law firm and has represented the Romanian, Albanian, and Slovakian governments in Washington, DC. He has specialized in bankruptcy and civil tax matters, been a partner at Cutler & Stanfield, and has served multiple US presidents, such as Carter, Reagan, and Clinton.
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