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Several pictures of doctors who are featured on the Local Legends web site

MEET LOCAL LEGEND: Lisa Kaplowitz, M.D.

Picture of Lisa Kaplowitz
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Lisa Kaplowitz, M.D.

“For me the most important reward is to know you made a difference in your community, that you contributed something and helped others.”


John Warner



Lisa Kaplowitz grew up in a family of doctors, both her father and grandfather were physicians, but she started out in college studying mathematics. "After two and a half years of high-level mathematics I had one of those soul-searching moments. How will this help me reach out and have an impact? If I stay with mathematics, how will I spend my life and make a difference." She switched majors and began studying to be a physician, a decision that led to a career full of outreach and leadership-first on the forefront in the battle against HIV/AIDS, and now as a leader in emergency preparedness in Virginia.

As the first Deputy Commissioner for Emergency Preparedness and Response in Virginia, Lisa Kaplowitz established a new statewide program that developed emergency response plans for bioterrorism and other public health emergencies.

"I'm proud of the work I did on HIV/AIDS for 20 years," she said. "Now I have a chance to build something new in emergency response and public health."

Lisa Kaplowitz began her career with a residency in Internal Medicine (1976) and a fellowship in Infectious Diseases (1978), both at the University of North Carolina. It was during her time in North Carolina that the first cases of AIDS were diagnosed. When she moved to Richmond, VA in the early 1980s, more AIDS patients began to show up. Trained in infectious diseases, Lisa Kaplowitz entered into the earliest battles against this new and baffling illness.

"At that time, nobody in Richmond was dealing with HIV/AIDS. When the first 10 patients with the illness are referred to you, you become the expert." It was the beginning of a 20 year commitment that led her to become a forceful advocate for AIDS policy and prevention.

Nominated by Senator John Warner (R-VA), Lisa Kaplowitz joined the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Health system in 1982, and in 1983 came to the Richmond Department of Public Health as Medical Director of the Sexually Transmitted Disease Clinic. She helped develop the first state-funded HIV/AIDS testing site and several HIV/AIDS clinics. As the first Director of the HIV/AIDS Center at VCU, she led in establishing new health care and public health programs and directed the program for 20 years.

She was a health policy fellow in the United States Senate in 1996-1997, and went on to receive her Masters in Health Administration in 2002. She received the Dean's Award for Community Service at VCU in 1992, was named Woman of the Year at VCU in 1995, and in 1999 received the Leadership Metro Richmond Community Vision Award. She was inducted into the Virginia Women's Hall of Fame in 1992.

Lisa Kaplowitz is widely published with numerous abstracts, papers, and commentaries, many related to HIV infection and prevention.

A colleague wrote of her recently, "She is a gentle, caring person who teaches by the example of her own dedication and commitment."



Established the AIDS Program of the Medical College of Virginia Hospitals, eventually appointed the first Director of the HIV/AIDS Center of Virginia Commonwealth University in 1993.


Appointed (by the Governor) to the AIDS Legislative Subcommittee of the Virginia General Assembly, which was responsible for developing all HIV/AIDS related legislation in Virginia over the subsequent 10 years.


Selected for Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Policy Fellowship, Institute of Medicine, Washington, D.C. Focus on Medicare, Medicaid, Children's Health, and End of Life Care in the Office of Senator John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia.


Awarded Masters of Science in Health Administration, Virginia Commonwealth University


Becomes Deputy Commissioner for Emergency Preparedness and Response, Virginia Department of Health




University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine, Chicago, Illinois


Internal Medicine

Sub Specialty

Infectious Diseases