During my interview with Dr. Perfect, we discussed numerous topics related to his education, science/research, medicine, his kids, etc. My most memorable moments in life are the times when I give people the oppurtunity to speak freely and simply tell their story.
In school, a guidance counselor told him he could be anything he wanted to be. So he decided to become a doctor. He continued along the pre-med course in his undergradute career and revelled in the complexity and ability to help people as a doctor. Further, he continued to specialize in infectious disease in his mdecial career because he appreciated the simplicity of infectious disease: it normally requires a diagnosis and treatment. He added his conscern that this fact is changing given the surge of antibiotic-resistant bacteria but it has not affected his work immensely (his top world coscerns were also nuclear warfare and global warming). However, he would find himself falling in deep interest in a particular yeast involved in causing meningoencephalitis.
On February 14, 1978 at 11pm, Dr. Perfect recieved a severley ill patient infected with Cryptococcus neoformans. At the time, he found the situation very intriguing and decided to study the fungus thoroughly. As a result, his lab and research over the years has contributed to the understanding of meningitus and mycology. Unfortunately, he did have many conscerns about how research is conducted even today. He believes funding for research is minimal and that PhD research and MD research is too polarized. Moreover, he attributes this to the public’s and government’s attitude toward science. People don’t fully understand the importance of the “silly little experiments” that take place in the lab and how they directly affect the people. He proposed one example in relation to molecular biology. Without the establishment of basic molecular biology data and techniques, doctors/scientists would be unable to even identify the cause of an individual illness, let alone treat it.
Also in my discussion with him, he gave me advice on considering a medical degree and his personal experiences. Dr. Perfect feels that the field of medicine is a rewarding career and appreciates that he is able to help people everyday. Upon asking him how he deals with a patient he is unable to cure, he said you must first distinguish between sympathy and empathy when in medicine. Essentially, doctors have to learn to only bring empathy to work in order to protect their own mental health. He also added “There will be some deaths but everyone does that.” Hence, you have to accept the fact that you did all you could do and that it was that person’s time. Moreover, Dr.Perfect referred to the AIDS epidemic in the 80’s and know one understood what or how to address AIDS at the time. Consequently, there were several deaths that took place because of this lack of information. What also bothered him was not just that he couldn’t help these vicitms at the time but that these victims were were forced to die alone while disowned from the families because of their sexuality (AIDS epidemic affected gay men predominantly). He advised me to prepare and not worry about how I was to obtain a medical degree but discern whether or not I had a gift for it.
Overall, this is a man who can say he influenced the future in a positive manner. He helped buid a field of molecular mycology, help construct antifungals, made friends globally, developed a productive lab that publishes regularly, as well as taught and trained 60-70 students. What I admired most was how he used his position to bridge a connection between medincine and scientific research thus shortening the intellecutal divide between PhD’s and MD’s. He expands his medical degree from simply seeing patients to research and teaching. He was also able put his kids through school and see them develop to influence the world, too. Lastly, he hopes that I develop an excitement in discovery and truly experience what it is like to be in a research project this summer.