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Rising Fourth-Year Daniel O’Neill Balances HIV Activism with Life as an M.D./M.P.H. Degree Student

By Steve Goldstein

Hurrying into a Dupont Circle sandwich shop during a break in his preceptorship at a private practice specializing in HIV patients, Daniel O’Neill wolfed down his lunch and prepared for his busy afternoon. A type 1 diabetic since he was 13, the rising fourth-year student at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS) is aware that controlling his blood sugar is the only way he can manage his extremely active schedule as an activist, HIV awareness campaigner, and M.D./M.P.H. degree student.

Daniel O'Neill
Daniel O’Neill, rising fourth-year student at GW’s SMHS

In 2011, O’Neill, 30, was one of 34 scholars, chosen from 2,000 applicants, to receive a scholarship from Point Foundation, the nation’s largest scholarship-granting organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students of merit. Jeffrey S. Akman, M.D. ’81, G.M.E. ’85, interim vice president for Health Affairs and dean of SMHS, said O’Neill “is a great example of the kind of citizen-leader that the school is proud to support.”

Daniel O’Neill plans to pursue a residency in Washington, D.C. or possibly San Francisco, where he will continue to work on HIV/AIDS and other public health issues for the benefit of the underserved and the LGBT community.

O’Neill graduated with degrees in Biology and Dance from Indiana University, where he also received a fellowship to obtain his M.B.A. in Biotechnology Enterprise. Upon moving to the area, he co-founded the HIV Prevention Working Group of the Washington, D.C. LGBT Center, as well as an organization that distributes safer-sex kits. He is a recipient of the Unsung Hero Award from Caron Treatment Centers, a nationally recognized non-profit provider of alcohol and drug addiction treatment, and won a National Health Service Corps scholarship. And in between his studies and his work with the HIV Prevention Group, he sings with the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, D.C.

O’Neill, whose father is a cardiothoracic surgeon, became interested in medicine at a young age. Later on, he came to understand the parallels between HIV and diabetes, both chronic diseases that last a lifetime.

O’Neill said that his diabetes forces him to be as regimented as possible with his busy daily schedule. It’s also inspired him to pursue a career in outpatient care, as opposed to a field like surgery, that’s subject to more unpredictable demands.

He plans to pursue a residency in Washington, D.C. or possibly San Francisco, where he will continue working on HIV/AIDS and other public health issues. Above all, he said, “I want to work with the underserved and the LGBT community.”