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Spotting emerging diseases, identifying how they spread, testing therapies and solutions—Yvonne “Bonnie” Maldonado, MD, does all of it at once, in real time. It’s a rare skill that has touched the lives of millions of kids around the world.

Early this year, as COVID-19 moved into the Bay Area, it was clear that Maldonado—a pediatrician and chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases in the Department of Pediatrics at Stanford University School of Medicine—was the right person to lead Stanford’s response to the epidemic. Her eyes were already on China, and she knew what she was seeing.

Her prior work on mother-to-child transmis­sion of HIV in sub-Saharan Africa is credited with preventing hundreds of thousands of babies from acquiring HIV. Her efforts have helped set global guidelines for the use of vaccinations for polio, measles, meningitis, and influenza.

This deep experience enabled Maldonado to be a clear and powerful voice helping to slow person-to-person spread of COVID-19 and to protect the public. Maldonado co-directs Stanford’s COVID-19 clinical trials research unit, and she is directly involved in several of the 40 scientific investiga­tions underway or proposed. She and her colleagues are trying to determine how long infected people shed or transmit the virus to others both while they have symptoms and after symptoms subside. They are scaling up a study of an antiviral drug, favipiravir, to see whether it might help to reduce symptoms and viral shedding.

Another study—a collaboration with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation—has recently concluded that self-administered, home-based COVID-19 tests are just as accurate as the invasive kind given in hospitals. The promise of this work is potentially groundbreaking. Not only do self-administered tests minimize exposure for patients and health care providers, they also could help solve the urgent need to increase testing capacity to slow the spread of the virus.

“Through decades of work combating global infectious diseases, Bonnie Maldonado has saved hundreds of thousands of lives,” says Lloyd Minor, MD, the Carl and Elizabeth Naumann Dean of the School of Medicine. “That’s not hyperbole. It’s fact. Her leadership of Stanford’s response to COVID-19 proves very powerfully what her expertise means to us here in the Bay Area.”

Beyond Stanford, she is helping to advise Gov. Gavin Newsom on the state’s response to the virus. She is consulting on plans for when and how to get kids safely back in school. And her insights are sought out by local and national media reporting on the disease.

In all of her work, she knows that her greatest successes are quiet ones: children who don’t get sick.

This article originally appeared in the Summer 2020 issue of Packard Children’s News.