Zelalem Temesgen, MD
“Milestones in the HIV epidemic coincide with milestones in my medical career,” says Dr. Temesgen of Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Temesgen notes that the first reports of HIV infection came out during his first year of medical school; the first antiretroviral drug, zidovudine, was introduced as he was finishing medical school. As a resident in internal medicine, as a sub specialty trainee in infectious diseases, and during his additional training in HIV medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, Temesgen was involved in the care of HIV-infected patients and witnessed first hand the devastation of HIV infection in what we now call the pre-HAART era. Temesgen came on staff at Mayo Clinic in 1996 during the introduction of HAART and other significant advances in our understanding of HIV and witnessed the subsequent dramatic changes in the epidemic.
The ability to help and care for patients living with a disease that is not only clinically highly complex but also presents often daunting economic and social challenges has brought Temesgen satisfaction on a number of different levels. First, it reinforces his preferred view of his profession as an altruistic, ethical, and moral enterprise with a fundamental commitment to the welfare of those who need it. Second, the need for public advocacy on behalf of HIV patients as well as the profession of HIV care brings a dimension to Temesgen’s work that is unfortunately too often forgotten and not commonly practiced in medicine. This dimension is the responsibility that HIV care providers have to advocate for social justice and advance the notion of a basic human right to health and dignity. Third, the extraordinarily complex nature of the HIV disease process and its complications and treatment provides intellectual stimulation.
Dr. Temesgen refers to his AAHIVM Membership and involvement in the American Academy of HIV Medicine as being the “icing on the cake”. Says Temesgen, “I have both enjoyed and learned from my involvement a great deal. The opportunity to interact with HIV care providers that share the same passion and commitment as I do has been very satisfying. The collegial and productive interactions and relationship I have with fellow members of the Board of Directors and the commitment we share to steer this great organization to fulfill its primary mission of raising the standard of HIV care through education and advocacy make my continued involvement in the Academy both a privilege and a pleasure.”