Temple’s Section of Infectious Diseases has evolved greatly since its founding in 1969. Originally staffed by a single physician, the Section has grown to nine faculty members and six fellows. Each is committed to upholding the ideals on which the Section rests – superb teaching, excellent clinical care, and the advancement of science.
In this Q&A, current and former faculty members and fellows share their thoughts on the Section’s 50-year history and the field of Infectious Diseases as a whole:
You are retired now but have the longest history with the Section. What was it like in the early days?
Bennett Lorber, MD, Professor Emeritus and former Section Chief (1983 – 2006):
“The Section was still relatively new when I finished my residency at Temple in 1971. At the time, I asked Bob Swenson, who was the founding Section Chief and a very bright guy, if I could do a fellowship with him. He said yes. There was no match or accreditation back then. The Chair of Medicine approved it and Bob said ‘great.’ In the early days we only covered Temple University Hospital and the consult numbers were very small relative to what the Section handles now, maybe only 25 to 30 consults a month at the time.”
What are the strengths of the Section, historically and today?
Rafik Samuel, MD, Section Chief:
“The cornerstones of the Section have always been education and patient care. I’m proud that we’re often thought of as the best educators in the institution. That’s a reputation we have had for decades, and the many teaching awards our faculty members have won back it up. We’re also known as good clinicians. We’ll often be asked to consult on a patient because the medical team isn’t sure what is going on with that person. For example, the patient has a fever and the team doesn’t know why. We’re great at figuring these things out. It’s also a strength that we have many long-time faculty members. I’ve been here for 20 years and I’m still one of the ‘new guys!”
How has the Section evolved over the years?
Thomas Fekete, MD, MACP, Chair, Department of Medicine, and former Section Chief (2006 – 2017):
“When I interviewed for a position at Temple in 1984, the Section was housed in a modest little office attached to a bunch of labs in the Old Medical School Building. It was hideous, but everyone was very happy and engaged. The Section was extremely student-focused and already had a great reputation for its educational program. It was a friendly, family-like atmosphere but one that had rigorous standards and a very high level of professionalism. Those themes have carried on to this day, even as the Section has added more faculty members and taken on more responsibilities.”
What sets Infectious Disease physicians apart from other specialists?
Heather Clauss, MD, Senior Associate Dean of Faculty Affairs and Director of the Infectious Diseases Fellowship Program:
“We are the ‘doctor’s doctor,’ meaning when another doctor may not be sure if an infection could be contributing to what is happening with their patient, they often call us. Think of us as medical detectives. We do a lot of digging, ask a lot of questions, and dive deeply into a patient’s personal history. Unlike specialties such as surgery, we are not procedure oriented. Our procedure is the chart biopsy along with a detailed medical history and physical exam. We want to know how a patient’s life fits into their medical presentation.”
Talk about the faculty members activities outside the Section.
“We’re very involved in professional societies, locally, regionally and nationally, as members and leaders. Dr. Lorber served as President of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia and I hold that position today. In addition, I have served on the Board of the Infectious Diseases Society of America and I am currently Chair of the Board of the Foundation of the IDSA. Dr. Lorber was President of the Anaerobe Society of the Americas for several years. Many faculty members have presented their research and led lectures/panels at the national level as well. These presentations have encompassed most of the subspecialties of Infectious Diseases including: General ID, Transplant ID, Antibiotic Stewardship, Infection Control, and HIV medicine.”