Max O'Donnell, MD, MPH

Associate 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 spatiotemporal analytics, we have shown that influenza outbreaks in Uganda are associated with periurban slums and distinct meteorological conditions. During Covid-19 we have provided detailed longitudinal description of Covid-19 ARDS epidemiology in New York City and Uganda, including identifying latent classes with heterogenous response to therapeutics.
  • 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 cellular enabled electronic pillbox. During Covid-19 our group has led site specific clinical trials of antiviral therapeutics, anti-Covid-19 immunoglobulin, and provided overall leadership for a randomized controlled trial of convalescent plasma. Ongoing projects include prospective sepsis and Covid-19 cohorts in Uganda, continued Covid-19 serologic work in Brazil, and clinical trials of adherence support for MDR-TB and XDR-TB in South Africa.
  • Translational Working with the Larsen 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 are 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 have executed studies using oligonucleotide probe libraries to identify emerging and vaccine preventable pathogens in patients with unexplained severe respiratory infections in Uganda. Ongoing projects include novel methods to detect TB bacteremia, Covid-19 ARDS metabolomics, and novel methods for TB drug susceptibility testing.

Selected Publications

  1. MR O'Donnell, B Grinsztejn, MJ Cummings, JE Justman, MR Lamb, et al. A randomized double-blind controlled trial of convalescent plasma in adults with severe COVID-19. J Clin Invest. 2021;131(13):e150646.
  2. Matthew J Cummings, Barnabas Bakamutumaho, Nicholas Owor, John Kayiwa, Joyce Namulondo, Timothy Byaruhanga, Moses Muwanga, Christopher Nsereko, Matthew R Baldwin, Julius J Lutwama, Max R O'Donnell Stratifying Sepsis in Uganda Using Rapid Pathogen Diagnostics and Clinical Data: A Prospective Cohort Study. Amer J Trop Med Hygiene. 2021. Jun. DOI: 10.4269/ajtmh.21-0138. PMID: 34125696.
  3. Amrita Daftary, Shinjini Mondal, Jennifer Zelnick, Gerald Friedland, Boitumelo Seepamore, Resha Boodhram, K Rivet Amico, Nesri Padayatchi, Max R O'Donnell. Dynamic needs and challenges of people with drug-resistant tuberculosis and HIV in South Africa: a qualitative study. Lancet Global Health, Volume 9, Issue 4, 2021, Pages e479-e488.
  4. O'Donnell MR, Daftary A, Frick M, Hirsch-Moverman Y, Amico KR, Senthilingam M, Wolf A, Metcalfe JZ, Isaakidis P, Davis JL, Zelnick JR, Brust JC, Naidu N, Garretson M, Bangsberg DR, Padayatchi N, Friedland G. Re-inventing adherence: toward a patient-centered model of care for drug-resistant tuberculosis and HIV. Int J Tuberc Lung Dis. 2016 Apr;20(4):430-4. PMID: 26970149 PMCID: PMC4863995.
  5. Desjardins CA, Cohen KA, Abeel T, Manson McGuire A, Munsamy V, Shea TP, Walker BJ, Bantubani N, Almeida DV, Alvarado L, Chapman SB, Mvelase NR, Duffy EY, Fitzgerald MG, Govender P, Gujja S, Hamilton S, Howarth C, Larimer JD, Maharaj K, Pearson MD, Priest ME, Zeng Q, Padayatchi N, Grosset J, Young SK, Wortman J, Mlisana KP, O'Donnell MR, Birren BW, Bishai WR, Earl AM, Pym AS. Genomic and functional analyses of Mycobacterium tuberculosis strains implicate ald in D-cycloserine resistance. Nature Genetics. 2016. PMID: 27064254 [PubMed - in process] PMCID: PMC4848111.
  6. Cohen KA, Abeel T, Manson McGuire A, Desjardins CA, Munsamy V, Shea TP, Walker BJ, Bantubani N, Almeida DV, Alvarado L, Chapman SB, Mvelase NR, Duffy EY, Fitzgerald MG, Govender P, Gujja S, Hamilton S, Howarth C, Larimer JD, Maharaj K, Pearson MD, Priest ME, Zeng Q, Padayatchi N, Grosset J, Young SK, Wortman J, Mlisana KP, O'Donnell MR, Birren BW, Bishai WR, Pym AS, Earl AM. Evolution of Extensively Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis over Four Decades: Whole Genome Sequencing and Dating Analysis of Mycobacterium tuberculosis Isolates from KwaZulu-Natal. PLoS Med. 2015 12(9):e1001880. PMID: 26418737 PMCID: PMC4587932.
  7. O'Donnell MR, Pillay M, Pillay M, Werner L, Master I, Wolf A, et al. Primary Capreomycin Resistance Is Common and Associated With Early Mortality in Patients With Extensively Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Journal of acquired immune deficiency syndromes. 2015;69(5):536-43. PMID: 25886924 PMCID: PMC4501864.
  8. O'Donnell MR, Pym A, Jain P, Munsamy V, Wolf A, Karim F, et al. A Novel Reporter Phage To Detect Tuberculosis and Rifampin Resistance in a High-HIV-Burden Population. Journal of clinical microbiology. 2015;53(7):2188-94. PMID: 25926493 PMCID: PMC4473227.
  9. Cummings MJ, Baldwin MR, Abrams D, Jacobson SD, Meyer BJ, Balough EM, Aaron JG, Claassen J, Rabbani LE, Hastie J, Hochman BR, Salazar-Schicchi J, Yip NH, Brodie D, O'Donnell MR. Epidemiology, clinical course, and outcomes of critically ill adults with COVID-19 in New York City: a prospective cohort study. Lancet. 2020;395:1763-1770.
  10. Cummings MJ, Tokarz R, Bakamutumaho B, Kayiwa J, Byaruhanga T, Owor N, Namagambo B, Wolf A, Mathema B, Lutwama JJ, Schluger NW, Lipkin WI, O'Donnell MR. Precision surveillance for viral respiratory pathogens: virome capture sequencing for the detection and genomic characterization of severe acute respiratory infection in Uganda. Clin Infect Dis. 2019; 68:1118-1125.

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