I entered medical school at Washington University with no preconceptions regarding my future plans. However, my decision to pursue a career in Pediatric Infectious Disease became obvious because of the mentors I encountered on my first day of Pediatrics as a junior medical student…..the intern was Dr. Bill Shearer (later to become a world famous immunologist and physician for “David, the Bubble Boy”), the Pediatric ID fellow was Dr. Larry Pickering (later to have a career as Editor of the Red Book for many decades and an national leader in the field of Pediatric Infectious Disease), and the young Pediatric ID Attending attending was Dr. Ralph Feigin (later Chairman of Pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine and a brilliant, inspirational leader with a photographic memory).
The patient I was asked to “work up” and present to Dr. Feigin was a young baby with Haemophilus influenza type b meningitis, thus setting the stage for my early career work with animal models of bacterial meningitis and studies of bacterial vaccines to prevent bacterial meningitis in human infants.
My early career goals were to train with experts in Pediatric Infectious Diseases and to care for children with a wide variety of complex diseases. I believed I achieved that goal through my internship and residency training at Children’s Medical Center in Dallas, followed by two years of research at NIH working on H. Flu vaccines with Dr. John Robbins, and then completing a combined Pediatric/Adult ID fellowship in Boston with Dr. Arnie Smith and many other pediatric and adult ID mentors.
A very important aspect of my career has been the experience of interacting with ID leaders from around the country and around the world. The opportunity to serve on various CDC committees, including the ACIP, and to be a member of the Red Book committee of the AAP have been exciting and challenging times to interact with experts. I have loved each and every educational experience provided by the IDSA and continue to attend their national meetings every year. I also enjoy my interactions with my Pediatric colleagues in PIDS, including educational and research collaborations.
I believe the future of ID is an exciting adventure. New diseases emerge continuously, national and international public health challenges arise almost weekly as our world view continues to expand. The opportunity to describe new diseases, develop new therapies for old diseases and develop vaccines to prevent both new and old diseases is a challenge that will remain for many years to come.
The most rewarding aspect of my career has been the joy of working with colleagues from around the country and around the world to advance the future of Pediatric Infectious Diseases. I have had the privilege of working with young patients and their families at outstanding Children’s Hospitals in St. Louis, Dallas, Boston, and Denver. I also had the opportunity to spend one year on sabbatical in Helsinki Finland working on animal models of H. Influenza type b meningitis. I have loved the combination of clinical care, research and teaching that is provided by an academic career.
Thanks to mentors like Drs. Ralph Feigin, Larry Pickering, George McCracken, John Nelson, John Robbins, Arnie Smith, Myron Levin, Pirjo Makela, Marian Melish, and, most importantly Jim Todd, I have been able to pursue my interests in Bacterial vaccines and to experience the challenge of working on a “mystery” disease, Kawasaki Syndrome, that has emerged as a new diagnostic and therapeutic challenge for Pediatric ID specialists. Children’s Hospital Colorado cared for 100 children a year with invasive Haemophilus influenza type B disease in the 1970’s and 80’s. That number is now close to zero at our institution, but we now diagnose 70-80 children a year with Kawasaki Syndrome and new, emerging infectious diseases such as acute flaccid myelitis are increasingly being recognized nationwide.