Who needs infectious disease docs? Everyone . . .

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Journal supplement delves into the rewards and challenges of chasing bugs no one wants to catch . . .

Of all the specialties a young physician can enter, one that offers a career of saving lives and protecting communities, supporting social justice and alleviating suffering, while following questions and finding answers across health systems, neighborhoods and nations would seem to open a world of possibilities. So why don’t more medical students choose to pursue it?

This series of articles on careers in infectious diseases examines the obstacles and deterrents to entering the field, and show that while the specialty is one on which public health, the gains of modern medicine, the future of health security, and any individual exposed to contagious illnesses depend, infectious disease physicians remain undervalued, and under-compensated. The articles in this Journal of Infectious Disease supplement highlight ways that can, and must change, but also highlights the passions and rewards that drew some physicians into the field. For example . . .

From Trained Infectious Diseases Clinician to Global Health Leader, Reflections on the Last 30 Years – With a great-grandfather who took part in wiping yellow fever out of Mexico, a career in global infectious diseases would seem to be a natural for Dr. Carlos del Rio of Emory University. It wasn’t the past that drew him into the field, however, but the present — which as he began his residency in 1983 included the beginning of the AIDS crisis that has yet to end. He describes a mentor who taught him “how to perform a Gram stain and how to care for those stigmatized by HIV/AIDS,” adding ” . . . he also taught me the importance of advocacy and speaking for those affected by and at risk for HIV.” He describes how returning to Mexico directed his career outward, as he came to see the global impact of HIV, and received funding from the Fogarty International Center for an AIDS International Training and Research Program. He describes the rewards of building capacities in other countries, but also what he has learned from those countries.

Life as an Infectious Diseases Physician Scientist: Science is Humanity’s Lifeline – How do you get from studying art history and psychology to a career as a physician scientist focused on immunology? Following one question after another, through history, and again through the challenges posed by the dawn of the AIDS era, is how Dr. Liise-Anne Prioski traveled that path, becoming convinced, in the process, that searching for answers drives human progress.

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