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ByTom MillerThe Secret Life of Scientists and EngineersThe Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers

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Click here for Ian’s profile.

Ian Lipkin describes himself as a “microbe hunter,” because he’s studied and worked on numerous infectious diseases over his many years in the lab (and not just the virus he created for “Contagion”). But while Ian always knew that he wanted to do research, in his younger days he also practiced medicine.

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And in the early 1980’s, before one horrific disease even had the name that we know it by now, Ian worked with patients whose condition filled some other doctors with such fear that they wouldn’t even treat them:

Young Dr. Lipkin

“When I was a neurology resident at University of California, San Francisco, I was running a clinic that was devoted to taking care of people who had Gay-Related Immune Deficiency Disease (GRIDD), as it was then called, which we now know to be a precursor to HIV/AIDS. And I had this open clinic, people could come, there was no charge for doing so. And I received a message from a man in Dale, Colorado, who thought he had multiple sclerosis.”

When the man came to Ian’s clinic, it turned out that he didn’t have multiple sclerosis, but he was, in fact, deteriorating right before Ian’s eyes:

“What he had kept changing. So he would begin to lose sensation and then strength in the fingers and hands and one side of his face and another. I went off to go to the bathroom, and by the time I came back he was different again. He was changing so rapidly that he was at risk for respiratory failure or something of that nature.”