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Book Review

Book Review

Adventures of a Female Medical Detective: In Pursuit of Smallpox and AIDS

By Mary Guinan, PhD, MD with Anne D. Mather

AMWA Past President, Dr. Mary Guinan, has penned a wonderful memoir capturing the highlights of her long and successful career as a woman physician, public health leader, and researcher at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Dr. Guinan was part of the field effort leading to the global eradication of smallpox and a key researcher on the CDC team when the first outbreaks of AIDS occurred in the 1980’s. Told with honesty, humor, and wit, this memoir offers a rare glimpse into the exciting work carried out by public health researchers and agents in the field. This is a fascinating read – a definite page turner for physicians and students alike. AMWA members will have the opportunity to get early release copies of the book at the AMWA meeting in Miami where Dr. Guinan will be speaking.

“In 1974, a young doctor arrived at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with one goal in mind: to help eradicate smallpox. The only woman physician in her class in the Epidemic Intelligence Service, a two-year epidemiology training program, Mary Guinan soon was selected to join India’s Smallpox Eradication Program, which searched out and isolated patients with the disease. By May of 1975, the World Health Organization declared Uttar Pradash smallpox-free.

During her barrier-crossing career, Dr. Guinan met arms-seeking Afghan insurgents in Pakistan and got caught in the cross fire between religious groups in Lebanon. She treated some of the first AIDS patients and served as an expert witness in defense of a pharmacist who was denied employment for having HIV–leading to a landmark decision that still protects HIV patients from workplace discrimination. Randy Shilts’s best-selling book on the epidemic, And the Band Played On, features her AIDS work.

In Adventures of a Female Medical Detective, Guinan weaves together twelve vivid stories of her life in medicine, describing her individual experiences in controlling outbreaks, researching new diseases, and caring for patients with untreatable infections. She offers readers a feisty, engaging, and uniquely female perspective from a time when very few women worked in the field. Occasionally heartbreaking, sometimes hilarious, Guinan’s account of her pathbreaking career will inspire public health students and future medical medical detectives–and give all readers insight into that part of the government exclusively devoted to protecting their health.

Mary Guinan, PhD, MD was the founding dean of the School of Community Health Sciences at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and is now professor emerita. She was the first woman to serve as the chief scientific advisor to the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Anne D. Mather was the managing editor of the CDC newsletter, the MMWR, during the years when smallpox was eradicated and AIDS was discovered.”  –Johns Hopkins University Press

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