In this issue, HCV Next asks five questions of Henry Masur, MD, chief of the critical care medicine department at the NIH Clinical Center and professor of medicine at George Washington University.
Masur’s academic career began with an undergraduate degree from Dartmouth College and a medical degree from Cornell University Medical College. He then moved onto New York Hospital for his internship and Johns Hopkins Hospital for his residency in internal medicine, before returning to Cornell as an instructor in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
The NIH recruited Masur to start a critical care medicine department and to work with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to develop an HIV/AIDS program. By 1989, he received the appointment of chief of the critical care medicine department there. Under his direction, the department has been a leader in fields such as lung biology, sepsis and sickle cell disease, in addition to HIV/AIDS.
Masur has written and edited a number of publications, including the NIH/CDC/HIV Medicine Association of the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) Guidelines for Prevention and Treatment of Opportunistic Infections in HIV-Infected Adults and Adolescents. He also is a past president of the Infectious Disease Society of America. Among his list of honors are the International Association of Physicians in AIDS Care (IAPAC) “Heroes in Medicine” award and the John Phillips Memorial Award from the American College of Physicians.
Who has had the greatest influence on your career?
Early in my career I worked in a parasitology laboratory at Cornell directed by Thomas Jones, MD. There were bright investigators looking at a wide variety of pathogens. The environment provided different perspectives that broadened everyone’s horizons, and focused on strong science. Later in my career, Joseph E. Parrillo, MD, introduced me to critical care medicine, which I was able to combine with infectious disease to create a new perspective on clinical medicine and clinical investigation. Lastly, at NIH, H. Clifford Lane, MD, and Anthony S. Fauci, MD, are always interested in facing new challenges with bold science. These groups shaped my career.
What was the defining moment that led you to your field?
The recognition that an obscure intracellular parasite — pneumocystis — that I was studying was appearing in a new, never-before-described population: patients with AIDS. This changed my career. Pneumocystis turned out not to be a parasite, not to be intracellular and not to be obscure. This new population led to 3 decades of dealing with the AIDS pandemic.
What area of research in hepatology most interests you right now and why?
I am most interested in the determinants of response to direct-acting drugs for hepatitis C virus: Why some patients can be cured with short courses of drugs, while other patients need longer courses and more potent drug combinations.
Have you ever been fortunate enough to witness or to been part of medical history in the making?
The last 30 years has been a wonderful time to explore science and clinical medicine. So many emerging infections have appeared to challenge our diagnostic, therapeutic and preventive skills: pandemic influenza, AIDS, West Nile disease, anthrax, Lyme disease, HCV, Ebola virus, and so on. There are always new challenges.
What’s up next for you?
A major challenge is applying the advances of the last decades to the populations that most need them, domestically and globally. Thus, health systems research is a growing interest, with special focus on Washington, D.C.