Max O'Donnell, MD, MPH

Assistant Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology


Dr. O'Donnell's research interests center around global health including tuberculosis (TB), HIV, and severe acute respiratory infections. Current research is centered in South Africa and Uganda with training/education and capacity building work in Ethiopia. Important collaborators include the Centre for AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA), KwaZulu-Natal Research Institute on TB/HIV (K-RITH), the Jacobs' and Larsen labs at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and the Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI).

Drug-resistant tuberculosis is an important global public health concern because of increasing incidence, low cure rates, and high reported mortality. Nowhere has this increased incidence generated more concern than in South Africa where interactions between TB and generalized HIV/AIDS epidemics are causing explosive increases in TB incidence and TB case-fatality rates. The most drug-resistant form of tuberculosis, extensively drug resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB), is increasingly prevalent in South Africa.

Acute respiratory infections continue to be responsible for approximately 3.9 million deaths worldwide, predominantly in children, without a substantial decrease in estimated mortality over the past 2 decades. In addition, outbreaks of emergent viral respiratory infections with pandemic potential and periodic outbreaks of severe acute respiratory infection caused by vaccine-preventable pathogens continue to threaten global health security.

Education and Training

B.A. in Liberal Arts, St. John’s College, Santa Fe, NM
Medical School:
Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, MA
Resident in Internal Medicine, Columbia University Medical Center, New York, NY
Fellow in Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, MA

Selected Honors and Awards

  • 2015 Doris Duke Clinical Scientist Development Award
  • 2015 Gerstner Scholars Award
  • 2009 International AIDS Society/Agence nationale des recherches sur le sida Young Investigators Award (Best Clinical Abstract by a Young Investigator IAS Conference 2009)
  • 2009 NIH Ruth Kirschstein Individual Post-Doctoral Fellowship (F-32)
  • 2009 American Thoracic Society Career Development Award
  • 2006 Rudin Clinical Ethics Fellow, Columbia University Medical Center
  • 2005 Yale/Johnson & Johnson Physician Scholar in International Health
  • 2003 Loeb Memorial Prize in Medicine (Tufts University)
  • 2003 Berman Travel Scholarship (Tufts University)
  • 2003 First Prize Charlton Poster Contest (Tufts University refereed contest for graduate research in medicine, biological, dental and veterinary science)
  • 2002 Tufts University College of Citizenship and Public Service (UCCPS) grant recipient
  • 1995 Thorne Scholarship Recipient
  • 1994 Thorne Scholarship Recipient

Other Experience and Professional Membership

  • 2006-Present Member, American Thoracic Society
  • 2006-Present Member, International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease


Contact Information: 
O'Donnell Laboratory
650 West 168th Street
BB 8-801
New York, NY 10032

Lab Manager: Allison Wolf
P: (212) 342-4412
F: (212) 305-8464

Research Interests

  • Epidemiology Our team has published describing widespread transmission of MDR-TB and XDR-TB among South African health care workers. Using spaciotemporal analysis we have shown that influenza outbreaks are associated with periurban slums and temporally associated with the rainy season in a large dataset of influenza cases in Uganda .
  • Clinical Our team has described clinical treatment outcomes for patients with XDR-TB and HIV co-infection. Ongoing work includes a cohort study of later generation fluoroquinolones, and clofazamine, a leprosy drug, for XDR-TB treatment. We are prospectively studying adherence to Bedaquiline and ART in drug-resistant TB/HIV treatment using a next generation electronic pillbox.
  • Translational Working with the Jacobs lab, we are involved in designing clinical studies on biomarkers to quantify response to TB treatment, predict early treatment outcome, and detect worsening of drug-resistance in real-time among XDR-TB patients on treatment. We comparing deep sequencing approaches to identify limits of detection for emergent drug-resistance in clinical isolates among patients on treatment for TB. Working with the Lipkin lab we are designing studies to use oligonucleotide probe libraries to identify emerging and vaccine preventable pathogens in patients with severe acute febrile and/or respiratory illness in Uganda.

Selected Publications

  1. Jain P, Weinrick BC, Kalivoda EJ, Yang H, Munsamy V, Vilcheze C, Weisbrod TR, Larsen MH, O'Donnell MR, Pym A, Jacobs WR. 2016. Dual-Reporter Mycobacteriophages (Phi(DRMs)-D-2) Reveal Preexisting Mycobacterium tuberculosis Persistent Cells in Human Sputum. Mbio 7.
  2. O'Donnell MR, Schluger NW. 2014. Long walk to treatment for XDR tuberculosis in South Africa. Lancet 383:1193-1194.
  3. Cummings MJ, Bakamutumaho B, Kayiwa J, Byaruhanga T, Owor N, Namagambo B, Wolf A, Wamala JF, Morse SS, Lutwama JJ, O'Donnell MR. 2016. Epidemiologic and Spatiotemporal Characterization of Influenza and Severe Acute Respiratory Infection in Uganda, 2010-2015. Annals of the American Thoracic Society 13:2159-2168.
  4. Desjardins CA, Cohen KA, Munsamy V, Abeel T, Maharaj K, Walker BJ, Shea TP, Almeida DV, Manson AL, Salazar A, Padayatchi N, O'Donnell MR, Mlisana KP, Wortman J, Birren BW, Grosset J, Earl AM, Pym AS. 2016. Genomic and functional analyses of Mycobacterium tuberculosis strains implicate ald in D-cycloserine resistance. Nature Genetics 48:544-+.
  5. O'Donnell MR, Jarand J, Loveday M, Padayatchi N, Zelnick J, Werner L, Naidoo K, Master I, Osburn G, Kvasnovsky C, Shean K, Pai M, Van der Walt M, Horsburgh CR, Dheda K. 2010. High Incidence of Hospital Admissions With Multidrug-Resistant and Extensively Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis Among South African Health Care Workers. Annals of Internal Medicine 153:516-522.

View Dr. O'Donnell's full list of publications from PubMed