Although subspecialization training encompassing two fellowships is almost unheard of, this experience is where I began my journey in infectious disease clinical practice. As a fourth-year medical student rotating on the pediatric infectious disease service, getting the opportunity to observe the breadth of disease in the category, gain a deeper understanding of “bugs and drugs” and hone my diagnostic skills from truly gifted physicians was awe-inspiring. What impressed me most was that all of the attendings I met were both excellent diagnosticians and had excellent general practitioner skills.
This led me to become a pediatric infectious disease fellow at Baylor College of Medicine, where I had the opportunity to observe a large population of patients with primary immunodeficiencies. These patients sparked a new interest in me — never had I encountered children so susceptible to severe infections from common organisms, or infections from uncommon microbes. I became particularly close with a child with chronic granulomatous disease (CGD), who had developed Aspergillus pneumonia at age 1 1/2 years and was diagnosed with CGD soon afterward. He used to recount the pets he had at home (iguanas, turtles, a bearded dragon), and my team would cringe at the prospect of his multiple infection risks.
My experience treating patients with primary immunodeficiencies led me to realize that managing and treating unusual infections in susceptible patients was my calling, and I subsequently pursued additional fellowship training in allergy and immunology. This serendipitous journey has led to a fulfilling career in treating infectious diseases in immunocompromised patients, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Niraj C. Patel, MD, MS
Division of pediatric infectious diseases and immunology
Levine Children’s Hospital, Atrium Health
Charlotte, North Carolina