U.S. President Barack Obama appointed Boston University School of Social Work alumnus Douglas Brooks as the director of the Office of National AIDS Policy on Monday, where Brooks and his team will work to limit the spread of HIV/AIDS and to ensure equal access to treatment for victims of the fatal conditions.
“For me, there is no doubt that serving this President, with whom my values are greatly aligned, is both amazing and humbling,” said Brooks, who lives with HIV. “To then also be able to serve in an area that is professionally and personally significant to me is, yes, a dream come true.”
Brooks and his associates will help implement the National HIV/AIDS Strategy and the HIV Care Continuum initiative, cooperating with the White House National Security Council, the State Department’s Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator and international organizations to advance America’s response to the global pandemic and integrate it with efforts around the world.
Brooks said his experiences at SSW, where he received his master’s in social work in 2002, helped secure his position at the White House.
“It was at BU that my natural gifts met with professional training,” Brooks said. “Faculty taught — and modeled — an understanding of the essential need to approach each micro and macro issue through the lens of the interrelated and interdependent systems that people encounter on a daily basis.”
Brooks said the foundation he gained at BU has proved essential to his professional career, including his work with the Justice Research Institute, AIDS United and the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS.
“He gained a lot of experience in the local, state and federal government sectors,” said SSW Dean Gail Steketee. “That’s essential for playing a role in Washington, where he’s going to need to respond to the needs of a large constituency across the country.”
Steketee said Brooks made a strong impression on faculty during his time at BU.
“We’re very, very proud of Douglas for all the work that he has done up until now, and looking forward to having someone of his caliber at the helm of a critically important organization on a topic that is a thorny and difficult one,” she said. “HIV/AIDS is a very challenging problem, and there are many causes and many consequences.”
Brooks began at the JRI as a social work intern before advancing to the role of senior vice president for community, health, and public policy.
“Each step along the way, I’ve worked and served with brilliant, compassionate and dedicated people,” Brooks said. “At JRI, I was allowed to grow and learn — and I think — make meaningful contributions to the organization and the health and human services field.”
Brooks also served as the first chair of AIDS United, an organization created from the merger of National AIDS Fund and AIDS Action in 2010. He said he helped move the organization closer to achieve its mission of ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the United States.
“It’s some of the exact same work that we must now do to achieve the goals of the NHAS,” he said.
As a member of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, Brooks said he gained a working knowledge of the barriers and facilitators integral to creating an AIDS-free generation.
“The PACHA experience was invaluable for deepening my understanding of how the federal government works and how it does not work,” he said.
Steketee said Brooks’ PACHA work has likely introduced him to the individuals he will work with in Washington and prepared him for his work with ONAP.
“What Douglas brings to this is his fundamental understanding of the community and what the community needs,” she said. “Now he will play that out at the national level.”
Brooks has proved committed to the needs of local and larger communities, consistently providing much-needed services throughout his professional career, Steketee said.
“It’s absolutely delightful to have our graduates playing critically important roles in the federal government,” she said, “to guide policies and practices that are going to have such a big impact nationwide.”