Research by UM Alumnus Inspires Needle Exchange Program

July 21, 2016

To help slow the spread of infectious diseases among intravenous drug users, the M·A·C AIDS Fund has awarded the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine a $100,000 grant to operate a needle exchange program that will be the first of its kind in Florida.

The program, tentatively named the IDEA Exchange, was developed by alumnus Hansel Tookes, M.D., M.P.H. ’14, a third-year internal medicine resident at Jackson Memorial Hospital, whose research inspired the initiative. While a second-year medical student, Tookes found that the number of publicly discarded needles on the streets of Miami was eight times higher than in San Francisco, a city with twice the number of injection drug users and long-established needle exchange programs.

In a second study, he revealed the high cost to taxpayers when drug users are treated for infections resulting from the use of dirty needles — sometimes for weeks or months — as inpatients at Jackson Memorial Hospital.

Tookes was extraordinarily persistent in pursuing the initiative to translate research findings to policy and practice for more than four years.

Read more from the Miller School of Medicine.