Demetre Daskalakis was named the White House national monkeypox response deputy coordinator in August, serving under FEMA’s Robert Fenton. The doctor has recently gained attention for a less-expected reason: his pentagram tattoos, which some right-wingers have put forth as evidence of a “satanist” identity. Here’s what you need to know about the decidedly un-stodgy public-health expert:
1. He’s got serious credentials.
Daskalakis also serves as director of the CDC division of HIV prevention, and previously he oversaw infectious diseases for the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, where he helped lead the city’s Covid response.
2. He’s been called a satanist in several right-wing social media posts.
Some conservative posts have called attention to his pentagram tattoo and penchant for donning harnesses that have a similar star shape. Daskalakis says that he is not a satanist. “I wish I were that interesting,” he recently told Politico.
3. He grew up in Virginia.
He’s wanted to become a doctor since he was a kid. Daskalakis attended a Greek Orthodox church in DC and has a Jesus tattoo on his stomach (further contradicting the satanism allegations).
4. He’s known for his connection to communities he aims to serve.
Daskalakis also received a Masters in public health and trained as an HIV doctor. He’s openly gay and been a long-standing advocate for LGBTQIA health. In New York, he was known for going into sex clubs to provide STI testing and education. In his work on monkeypox, Daskalakis has continued to maintain a focus on HIV prevention. In a recent paper, he describes a syndemic, where HIV, STIs, and monkeypox may be found as co-infections in some people. He argues that systems of care should not be isolated.
5. He moved back to DC a few weeks ago.
Daskalakis, along with monkeypox response coordinator Robert Fenton, helped push Biden to declare monkeypox a public health emergency. Going forward, Daskalakis aims to keep up monkeypox vaccine supply, distribute vaccines equitably, and encourage people to get vaccinated.