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Top Manitoba Infectious Diseases specialist also amateur herpetologist

By MYRON LOVE Dr. Yoav Keynan is a man who wears many hats.  The Israeli-born clinical scientist who specializes as the scientific director of the National Collaborating Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCCID) at the University of Manitoba; he is an associate professor in the university’s Max Rady College of Medicine (the Departments of Internal Medicine, Medical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases and Community Health Sciences); he is an infectious diseases consultant in the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority and the Manitoba HIV Program Ad Honorem professor at Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana in Medellin, Colombia, clinician-scientist.

And, as if that were not quite enough to keep him fully occupied, he is also an amateur herpetologist – a passion he shares with fellow reptile husbandry enthusiasts across Canada.

Keynan says that he collects snakes of the genus Pituophis – a group of nonvenomous snakes native to North America.    “We have reptile expos in Manitoba once or twice a year,” he reports.  “Mainly though I keep in touch with fellow reptile husbandry enthusiasts online.

“Reptiles are low maintenance pets.”

Keynan recalls that he first became interested in snakes when he was nine-years-old growing up in the small community of Omer, which is near Beersheva in the Negev. And it was in Beersheva – at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev where he began his medical journey in the late 1980s.

Following graduation in 1994, the newly minted doctor did an internship at the Meir Medical Center in Kfar Saba and completed his residency in 2004 at the Carmel Medical Centre in Haifa. 

That same year, he received his certification in Internal Medicine.

Keynan came to Winnipeg in 2005 to work with the late Dr. Frank Plummer at the National Microbiology Laboratory. Plummer had an international reputation in research pertaining to the treatment of HIV.  The Israeli researcher was also fortunate to be able to train with Dr. Keith Fowke, earning his Ph.D. in 2014 in the area of Infectious Diseases/Medical Microbiology and Viral Immunology.

“What I find intriguing about internal medicine and infectious diseases,” Keynan observes, “is the complexity of the medical issues.  The discipline requires good problem-solving skills.  As well, infectious diseases is a field of study which you can never fully master because viruses and bacteria are continually changing.   There is always something new to learn and something that you have never seen before.”

According to his University of Manitoba webpage, Keynan’s  research “focuses on immune and genetic determinants of immune activation and the role they play in HIV acquisition, progression and end-organ dysfunction. The laboratory is using a multidisciplinary approach to the study of pulmonary infections among HIV infected individuals, combining epidemiology, clinical aspects as well as study of the microbiome and the interaction with host immune responses”

As the HIV specialist can report, the treatment options for HIV patients today are such that. for many patients, one pill a day is enough to keep the virus sexually non-transmissible. New infections disproportionately  affect people experiencing structural barriers and who have social determinants that adversely impact health.

For the past seven years, Keynan also points out, he and his team of researchers into the treatment of HIV have been collaborating with colleagues in the Colombian city of Medellin.  He describes Colombia as a “beautiful country with a complex history”.

“The researchers we are working with are amazing,” he says.  “We have enjoyed a very productive collaboration.”

Other areas of research for Keynan revolve around early markers of tuberculosis acquisition and determinants of susceptibility – also in collaboration with colleagues in Medellin – and the potential for new as well as repurposed drugs for the treatment of Covid-19.

Keynan has been recognized in recent years for his research efforts and teaching, receiving a Doctors Manitoba Scholastic Award  and two Manitoba Medical Students’ Association (MMSA) teaching awards: Med II Best teaching in small group setting, and  the Canadian Foundation for Infectious Diseases/ AMMI, Dr. John M. Embil Mentorship Award in Infectious Diseases.

Within our Jewish community, Dr. Keynan has served  – appropriately – on the board of the local branch of the Canadian Friends of Ben-Gurion University.

Dr. Keyman is the father of two daughters – Adi and Rotem – and he is happy to report that the two Gray Academy grads are both currently enrolled in the Faculty of Science at the University of Winnipeg. 

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