Honoring a Trailblazer in Infectious Diseases: John G. Bartlett, M.D., FIDSA

The IDSA Foundation is sad to share the news of Dr. John Bartlett’s passing earlier this week. A trailblazer in Infectious Diseases, Dr. Bartlett contributed to so many key discoveries and mentored countless students, fellows and attending physicians. Mention the name John Bartlett, M.D. to the legions of doctors he mentored during his long and storied ID career and be prepared to hear the type of gushing praise typically reserved for rock stars and royalty.

Dr. Bartlett was a celebrity of sorts in the field of ID, and certainly to his mentees, serving as a visionary at the forefront of bio-terrorism, anaerobic infections and antibiotic resistance among many other ID concerns. His lasting legacy is surely in the care and treatment of HIV patients in the early to mid-80s, a time when many hospitals and clinics turned their backs on this emerging epidemic. He was instrumental in establishing an outpatient AIDS clinic and inpatient AIDS ward at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, fearlessly embracing the disease and, in the process, setting an example of compassion and kindness for his many mentees.

“His passion for these patients was unsurpassed,” said Rochelle Walensky, M.D., MPH, CDC Director and former mentee of Dr. Bartlett while at Johns Hopkins. “When I first met him, having seen his name on so many book binders, it felt like I was rounding with greatness. Watching him work was awe-inspiring.”

For Dr. Walensky, the biggest piece of mentorship wisdom she gleaned from Dr. Bartlett was watching him in action, particularly when it came to his interactions with HIV patients and what it really meant to be an ID doctor. “Every Christmas, he came in a Santa suit to visit with the HIV patients and everyone was treated incredibly humanely,” she said. “Watching him, I realized that’s what the field of ID required. It wasn’t just the intellect. What he did socially and emotionally was profound.”

“What struck me about him was the sheer enthusiasm with which he approached ID,” said Paul E. Sax, M.D., who met his mentor when Dr. Bartlett was a visiting professor at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “I could talk to him about emerging research and no matter the topic, he would always get this light in his eyes and say, ‘That’s fascinating!’ John was always so excited about the field. His elation was infectious. I’ve never met anyone like him.”

The IDSA Foundation is proud to honor Dr. Bartlett’s legacy and pay tribute to his exemplary contribution through the dedication of the Jean and John G. Bartlett Member Lounge generously donated by Lynne and Eliot Godofsky, M.D., FIDSA. in the new IDSA offices in Arlington, VA.

We invite you to make a special tribute gift in memory of a true ID hero and share the impact that Dr. Bartlett had on your career. Your contribution will ensure Dr. Bartlett’s work to develop professional pathways for the next generation of ID leaders continues through the IDSA Foundation’s research, mentorship and workforce development programs.