Hooked on ID with Peter Chin-Hong, MD
I know people in this field often say that they wanted to work in infectious diseases ever since they were an embryo or a small child. But that was really the case with me.
I remember I was 6 years old, growing up in the Caribbean in a rural area, running around the beach and then being anxious because I was worried that I would get hookworm. That was how my mind worked in those days, not that I was terribly anxious. However, at some point, I weighed the pros and cons of wearing flip flops or not and decided not to wear flip flops because of the risk of parasitic infection. Nevertheless, I grew up in the Caribbean, so infectious disease was all around me. It wasn’t as much the pathogens themselves, which were fascinating even to a relatively uneducated young kid; it’s really the systems that made it extremely challenging for my neighbors, my friends and my family to get the care that they wanted.
From the beginning, to me, infectious disease was always the interplay between social justice and health care. When my best friend’s dad died of HIV when we were in high school, that pretty much sealed the deal. That was probably the reason why I chose to pursue residency in internal medicine — because of this tradition of caring and comprehensive care for individuals with HIV. I wanted individuals in this field to be my mentors.
My early training didn’t disappoint. I knew some of the best teachers, physicians and overall humans worked in infectious disease, and I wanted to be part of the club. As a faculty member now looking back, I was surrounded by these giants in infectious disease. and I couldn’t have made a better choice. This field not only gives me a breadth of medical challenges every day, but it also gives me the ability to engage with parts of my brain that would be very challenging in other fields. It’s one-stop shopping, so to speak — I can be at once a scientist, clinician, social worker, clinical trialist, medical educator and a compassionate provider all at the same time.
To me, infectious disease is very personal. I look back to the influences of my family growing up in terms of the way I deliver care, and I’m grateful that infectious disease gives me this platform.
— Peter Chin-Hong, MD
Infectious Disease News Editorial Board Member
Professor of medicine
Director of the transplant infectious disease program
University of California, San Francisco