October 1, 2007


From the President
The Practicing ID Doctor

As I take the helm as one of the first private practitioners elected president of IDSA I remember my first Annual Meeting, back in 1971. I went with my chief, John Utz, MD, a well-respected and renowned mycologist who was an early leader of the Society. I stood behind him, awestruck, as he mingled with the biggest names in the field.

The meeting at that time was a purely academic affair, and few private practitioners attended. The main session was a two-hour talk on the third component of complement—important, but academic. When in the early 1980s I gave a talk to the Society about the private practice of infectious diseases—the first time the subject had been presented at IDSA—there were only a handful of us in the audience of about 1,000. Private practitioners were not represented on IDSA committees, and we had few opportunities to provide our input.

But the Society has evolved dramatically since then. Today’s IDSA includes academicians, basic and clinical researchers, public servants, military physicians, and members of the pharmaceutical and biotech industries, as well as private clinicians—in fact, more than half of IDSA members list patient care as their primary work activity.

The benefits of our diversity were on full display at this month’s 45th Annual Meeting, in San Diego. One needs to look no further than the named lectures to see the range and depth of IDSA. Louis B. Rice, MD, gave an exhilarating talk on antibiotic resistance, an issue of practical importance to infectious disease practitioner taking care of patients. Kathryn M. Edwards, MD, FIDSA, spoke eloquently on the global impact of influenza, one of our most common viral adversaries. The presentation by Thomas C. Quinn, MD, FIDSA, on lessons from Africa in HIV prevention was stimulating from a scientific, practical, and human-nature point of view. And the stimulating lecture by David Relman, MD, FIDSA, showed how we may change the way we think about microbiota and microenvironments.

The rest of the meeting continued in the same vein. With practical talks for the practicing adult and pediatric clinician, topics of international relevance, a track dedicated to HIV, and cutting-edge research, IDSA 2007 reflected our diversity while furthering our knowledge.

Our diversity fosters a symbiotic relationship among our members. Our private practitioner members rely on our academic members to stay on top of the latest research and developments in our field. Conversely, academicians increasingly are relying on lessons from private practitioners on how to stay afloat as the economics of health care and federal funding change and as funding from the National Institutes of Health becomes harder to come by. Our academic colleagues are more commonly encountering the problems with low reimbursement for cognitive services—which comprise much of what we do—that private practitioners have been struggling with for years. Office-based infusion therapy also is under attack, and low reimbursement may make it difficult for either private or academic clinics to offer this valuable service.

As one who has spent his career facing the economic difficulties of infectious diseases practice, I am honored to be president of IDSA at this challenging time. I also am honored to be elected to lead such a diverse and eminent Society.   As I was at my first IDSA Annual Meeting way back in 1971, I remain in awe of our distinguished membership. I look forward to serving you, and I welcome your feedback.

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From the President
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XDR TB: Where it Came From, Where We’re Going
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