Growing up, both of my parents were physicians. I remember being about 4 years old when I went with my dad on a house call in the middle of winter riding in the snowplow through deep snow to get there. So, I inherited a measure of tenacity.
I knew early in life that I wanted a career that would be important. After first studying physics in college, I decided that the life and death issues facing physicians would be more motivating. This realization led me to an MD-PhD program at the University of Pennsylvania.
During my MD-PhD training, before I had decided on a research focus, one of my best friends died. He had systemic lupus erythematosus and was being cared for by the best doctors in the country. I recall thinking that no one understood his disease and that maybe I could figure out its causes.
Despite all of the complexities and vagaries of life, I believe this quest — which is now more than four decades old — has been a success. Our group leads the effort to build the circumstantial evidence that systemic lupus erythematosus is actually caused by the Epstein-Barr virus. This virus causes most of mononucleosis cases and infects nearly all of us by the time we are adults.
The lessons that we are learning for lupus turn out to be crucial for a whole host of other diseases. If we are able to leverage our success with this one disease, then we can benefit the millions of people affected by many other serious and life-threatening conditions.
I am humbled and honored to hold the title of David Glass Endowed Chair in Pediatrics, which recognizes the work of a former Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center rheumatology division director. Dr. Glass was a serious scientist and a wonderful human being and friend. He gave the rest of us an extraordinary example of the intellectual life of a profoundly compassionate scholar.
Professor, UC Department of Pediatrics