It was my first week of intern year, in the medical ICU. He presented in extremis and died within 90 minutes. He was reportedly bitten by his dog 3 days prior. I remember leaving the MICU in tears, overcome with emotion, feelings of guilt and helplessness, wishing I could have changed his outcome. When his admission blood cultures later grew Capnocytophaga canimorsus, I was intrigued. I was unfamiliar with the organism at the time and yearned to learn more. Henceforth, I was “hooked on ID,” forever.
ID physicians have perfected the ability to take a physical, social, sexual, and epidemiological history while integrating key examination findings together with laboratory and radiographic clues to yield a diagnosis. Often, these diagnoses save money and can be lifesaving. I observed these skills from my ID mentors in residency and try to emulate them daily. For me, fellowship elucidated the continuing HIV/AIDS epidemic, and demographic health disparities based on socioeconomic, immigration and housing status. I developed a particular interest in HIV clinical care and plan to continue this at a large, safety-net county hospital in California.
ID physicians are irreplaceable in modern medicine. We are at the forefront of outbreak surveillance, antimicrobial development and stewardship and clinical research, to mention a few areas. We also care for the most medically complex patients and have the ability to cure them. I urge prospective trainees to follow your heart: Do not be swayed by compensation or lifestyle, and come join one of the most fulfilling specialties in medicine!
Joseph D. Cooper, MD
Infectious diseases fellow
Montefiore Medical Center and Albert Einstein College of Medicine