December 1, 2007

In Memoriam: Merle A. Sande, MD, FIDSA (1939-2007)
By Thomas Quinn, MD, FIDSA, and W. Michael Scheld, MD, FIDSA

One of the leading figures in our field and a former president of IDSA, Merle A. Sande, MD, passed away peacefully at his home in Seattle on Nov. 14, 2007 surrounded by loved ones. He was 68. Merle 1

Merle’s contributions to the field of infectious diseases were enormous. He published more than 300 original peer-reviewed articles, review articles, and book chapters on an extraordinarily wide range of bacterial and viral infections and their treatment. This body of work, awesome in breadth, has influenced practically every aspect of infectious diseases.

Shortly after moving to San Francisco in 1980 to become chief of medical services at the San Francisco General Hospital, Merle recognized that a large number of young, otherwise healthy gay men were presenting with unusual opportunistic infections and cancers. Merle’s early recognition of AIDS led to his prodigious efforts in the early clinical care of patients with the disease. He established the first inpatient unit in the world dedicated to the care of patients with AIDS. He and his colleagues were also responsible for establishing and articulating the principles of infection control during the early AIDS epidemic, now known as “universal precautions.” Published in The New England Journal of Medicine (1983;309:740-4), they were a major achievement during an era when fear and paranoia surrounded AIDS.

Merle lobbied heavily at the local, state, national, and international levels for increased funding for care, prevention, and research on AIDS. He established the Gladstone Institute for Virology and Immunology at the San Francisco General Hospital in the early 1990’s and was instrumental in conducting some of the earliest trials of opportunistic infections in AIDS patients in Africa.

In 2001, Merle returned to Uganda and co-founded and co-directed the Academic Alliance for AIDS Care and Prevention in Africa. This unique public-private partnership comprises faculty from Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda, and faculty from several medical institutions in North America. Collectively, they designed and were responsible for construction of the Infectious Diseases Institute (IDI), with funding from Pfizer Inc. This state-of-the-art center for HIV care, prevention, research, and training has become a regional center of excellence in east Africa.

Merle 3The Academic Alliance partnered with IDSA and HIVMA to form the AIDS Training Program, which provided an opportunity for IDSA members to train African health care workers in HIV/AIDS care in Kampala. To date, 2,000 health care providers from 26 sub-Saharan African countries have been trained in state-of-the-art HIV/AIDS care, as well as the care of other infectious diseases (e.g. tuberculosis and malaria).

Merle accepted his first faculty position at the University of Virginia in 1971, where he rapidly rose to the rank of professor of medicine and served as vice chair and acting chair of the department of medicine. Merle moved to San Francisco in 1980 to become chief of medical services at San Francisco General Hospital and vice chair of the department of medicine at UCSF. In 1996, he assumed the position of chair of the department of medicine at the University of Utah and later, in 2005, he returned to the University of Washington as professor of medicine, his final academic position. Merle 2

He served on numerous national and international committees, and editorial boards of prestigious journals in the field of infectious diseases. He also was the recipient of multiple awards, including the Alexander Flemming award for lifetime achievement—IDSA’s highest honor—and Uganda’s Presidential Distinguished Service Award for Contributions to Health Care. He edited more than twenty books, and for many years contributed to The Sanford Guide to Antimicrobial Therapy.

Merle will always be remembered as an outstanding, innovative and visionary investigator, educator, mentor, clinician, role model, and leader in our field during a remarkable career that spanned nearly four decades.

He is survived by his wife, Jenny, a sister, four children, and eight grandchildren.


 The family has requested that donations be made to:
 The Merle A. Sande Memorial Fund
 c/o Academic Alliance Foundation
 1611 North Kent St, Suite 202
 Arlington, VA 22209

 Please visit the website link below for more information: 

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