Jason P. Burnham
Hernán Cortés and Pánfilo de Narváez brought smallpox to the Americas in 1520. Due to a lack of immunity, the native population was decimated, and Tenochtitlan fell to the Spanish in 1521. This was the subject of my fourth-grade history fair project and the beginning of my love for infectious diseases. I followed it up the next year by learning about the race for a polio vaccine. In high school, my physics teacher, Dr. Cunningham, suggested I read The Coming Plague by Laurie Garrett and the fascination continued — Ebola, Machupo, Marburg and others. I decided to go into medicine after my excellent college mentor and friend, Dr. Martín Gonzalez, suggested it as a career path toward infectious diseases fellowship. It was great advice and I love being an ID physician. I chose this career because of the allure of discovery and understanding how pathogens and people interact. I am fortunate to study just that for multidrug-resistant bacterial infections. I have excellent mentors helping me push the ID envelope: Jennie Kwon, Hilary Babcock, Margaret Olsen, Marin Kollef, Graham Colditz, Stephanie Fritz and others. Every day is a new challenge, and contrary to mid-20th century arrogance about the acquiescence of infections to modern medicine, infectious diseases are not subjugated by human egotism. ID physicians will always have important and exciting work to do.
– Jason P. Burnham, MD
Instructor in medicine
Division of infectious diseases
Washington University School of Medicine